Chuck Todd didn’t just ruin Meet The Press. He directly helped ruin every Sunday morning show, and to a lesser extent every TV political time slot on every network, by convincing the corporate bosses that it was worth pursuing ratings by pushing “both sides” garbage at the expense of quality and honesty. Todd’s recent retirement was good news on its face. But today’s Meet The Press debut from new host Kristen Welker has unfortunately proven that Todd’s legacy is alive and well.
Welker decided to begin her tenure in the most crass and ratings-thirsty way possible, by putting criminal defendant, domestic terrorist, rapist, and classified information thief Donald Trump on the air. Given that Trump lies every time he opens his mouth, and there’s no practical way to push back against all of it, this was a poor decision to begin with. But Welker then made it far worse by barely pushing back against Trump at all.
Even when Welker did occasionally hit Trump with “tough” questions, they weren’t actually tough – and she then largely allowed Trump’s dishonest answers to those questions to stand. If anything the interview felt like the way an adult pretends to shadowbox with a child, pretending to be serious, but making sure to never come close to landing an actual blow. But Trump isn’t a child. He’s the most disgusting criminal in American history, and he’s newly seeking office to try to dodge the multiple criminal trials and prison sentences that are hanging over his head.
Actually, come to think of it, Trump is essentially a child these days in the cognitive sense. Kristen Welker could have tried asking him a question like this: “So far this week you couldn’t remember who your 2016 opponent was, you couldn’t remember giving someone a medal in 2021, and then you thought it was 1942. Are you lucid enough right now to be aware that you’re frequently presenting as senile?”
That’s the kind of question that would have been entirely appropriate, given Trump’s rapidly declining cognitive condition. It’s the kind of question that any serious interviewer would have asked. But Welker didn’t dare. Her idea of a “tough” question was along the lines of “What did you feel when you saw your mugshot?” Really? Now we’re worried about a career criminal’s feelings?
It’s tricky to interview someone when you know they’re going to make false statements in response to your every question. But every one of you reading this could have done a better and firmer job of interviewing Donald Trump today than Kristen Welker did – and she interviews people for a living. She made a choice to pull her punches.
The only question is whether Welker served Trump nothing but softballs because she thought that was what would play best in terms of ratings, or if Welker and Meet The Press had to agree to limit the topics beforehand in order to get Trump to do the interview. If such a deal was in place, the American public deserves to know. And if Welker was just softballing it for fear of alienating right wing viewers, then she’s even more disreputable than Chuck Todd and should be fired immediately.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report