Trump to "Concast": Fire Chuck Todd over Barr interview "fraud"; NBC admits "error"

Trump to "Concast": Fire Chuck Todd over Barr interview "fraud"; NBC admits "error"

This isn’t exactly the first time that Donald Trump has called for a reporter to get fired, but he’s got a legit complaint here — and he’s not the only one, either. On yesterday’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd highlighted an exchange between William Barr and CBS’ Catherine Herridge about the Michael Flynn case, and claimed that the Attorney General had delivered a cynical answer that revealed his political motives in having the case dismissed. Unfortunately for Todd, the entire interview had been published already — and plenty of people saw the entire context of the answer.

The Daily Caller’s Greg Price stitched the two together yesterday afternoon (transcript via Jeff Dunetz):

HERRIDGE: In closing, this was a big decision in the Flynn case, to say the least. When history looks back on this decision, how do you think it will be written? What will it say about your decision making?

BARR: Well, history is written by the winner. So it largely depends on who’s writing the history.

TODD: I was struck, Peggy, by the cynicism of the answer. It’s a correct answer. But he’s the attorney general. He didn’t make the case that he was upholding the rule of law. He was almost admitting that, yeah, this is a political job.

But this was the full answer given by Barr:

BARR: Well, history is written by the winner. So it largely depends on who’s writing the history.

But I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law. It helped, it upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice.

Barr isn’t chortling with glee with the remark about the “winners.” Just the opposite: Barr’s concerned that the “winners” will misconstrue his efforts to clean up a dirty prosecution. That is why Barr emphasized what he thought a “fair history” would conclude. Slicing that part of Barr’s answer out changed Barr’s entire meaning, and it’s very very hard to conclude that was an accident. Barr’s lips were still moving in the cut, for Pete’s sake, even though NBC had silenced it — making it clear that Barr’s answer was not complete in the clip.

The problem Todd had in this case is that he didn’t control the interview. News organizations edit interviews for their own purposes, but that only works when no one has seen the full interview — and when it comes from their own organization. In this case, CBS had not only published the interview but the full transcript as well, so plenty of people knew what Barr had said. That includes CBS’ Catherine Herridge, who set the record straight herself:

Department of Justice spokesperson Kerry Kupec posted side-by-side versions of the transcript as well, and noted that this wasn’t the only liberty Todd took in mischaracterizing what Barr said:

A few hours later, NBC’s Meet the Press called uncle:

The “error,” eh? That certainly doesn’t look like an error. It’s not as if Barr went on to discuss something else, only to return to his “fair history” point later. He made that point at the same time as his small joke about history being written by the winners. It was one continuous argument. Cutting Barr off in midstream wasn’t an error, it was a deliberate choice, one apparently made by Todd. After all, Todd was the one who introduced this clip, claiming that it had specifically disturbed him:

TODD: You brought up Bill Barr. Peggy Noonan, I want you to listen to this Bill Barr answer to a question about what will history say about this. What ’til you hear this answer. Take a look.

That’s not an error at all, except in judgment to think that this would pass unnoticed. It certainly didn’t in the Oval Office, where Trump has been tweeting nonstop about it this morning:

For those unfamiliar with Trump’s Twitter vernacular, “Concast” is Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, thanks to the utter failure of anti-trust enforcement over the past 40 years or so. Generally speaking, calling for firings is a tedious waste of time, but some sort of sanction is clearly warranted here, if for nothing else than the incompetent manner in which this bias played out. It’s not supposed to be this easy to expose media cookery, and this apology from Meet the Press is woefully insufficient in relation to the malice involved. “Political job,” indeed.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023