Lester Holt, anchor of NBC Nightly News was given a lifetime achievement award this week. Holt accepted the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in a virtual address to Washington State University’s College of Communications. One statement in his speech is raising eyebrows, as it should. The news anchor said, “fairness is overrated” as he spoke about objective reporting.
Holt quickly warned the listeners to wait a minute and hear him out before tweeting out that quote. He knew better but he said what he said anyway. Yeah, it’s being used against him and I give zero cares about that. For context, Holt is referring to misinformation and the spreading of falsehoods in media reporting. The problem is that he comes at the problem from his side of the argument, as a liberal. He is a broadcast network new anchor and that is to be expected. Take a listen to his remarks and then we’ll continue.
Woah, before you run off and tweet that headline, let me explain a bit. The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the Sun sets in the west is a fact, any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention. And I know recent events assure that you won’t have to look far to find more current and relevant examples. I think you get my point.
Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda. In fact, just the opposite. Providing an open platform for misinformation, for anyone to come say whatever they want, especially when issues of public health and safety are at stake, can be quite dangerous.
Yes, we get his point, don’t we? Clearly, he is referencing Trump supporters and conservatives who criticize the liberal bias in the media. That liberal bias in the media pre-dated Donald Trump’s presidency, as any conservative knows, but he was the first president to candidly speak about it. Media Research Center/NewsBusters began in 1987. Full disclosure: I cover liberal media bias in primetime network television and some streamed shows for NewsBusters, in the MRC Culture division. Listening to Holt, one would think the problems began with the bad Orange Man.
Holt spoke of truth and holding the powerful accountable, yet Media Research Center’s Senior News Analyst and a Contributing Editor to NewsBusters Kyle Drennen came up with a quick list of some real softball interviews conducted by Holt recently.
> Just weeks before the 2020 election, Holt sat down for a ridiculous softball town hall with then-candidate Joe Biden, which was followed a week later by Today show host Savannah Guthrie ripping into President Trump during a similar event.
> In March of 2020, Holt had a glowing exchange with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, just days after the scandal-plagued Democrat signed an order forcing COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes, a policy responsible for thousands of deaths statewide.
> In 2019, Holt even helped one of America’s enemies push propaganda, when he asked Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Zarif if the autocratic regime would “act militarily” in order to end the “stranglehold” of U.S. economic sanctions.
> Worried about Hillary Clinton’s election chances in 2016, Holt confessed that he “winced” when a Bernie Sanders supporter called out her dishonesty during a campaign event and sympathized: “…do you get your feelings hurt sometimes?”
Is any of that Edward R. Murrow level of interviews? Murrow covered World War II as a war correspondent. Holt was playing footsie with the Iranian foreign minister. Was Murrow a liberal. Yes, but the difference is that back in the day, personal political ideology wasn’t a part of the job. Murrow reported without offering his political hot takes. That is long gone in today’s news broadcasts.
Lester Holt wants to be the judge of what is truth and what is false information. His job is to literally read the news on television yet he has given himself a lofty position here. Two events he referenced, without specifically referencing them, were the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill and the coronavirus pandemic. There were many voices on both of those events. Who is he to decide the truth on either? The riot was horrendous, to be sure, yet some who attended the Trump rally before the riot broke out didn’t partake in the violence, some didn’t even march to the Capitol steps, including Trump. Do they deserve to be heard? Did Trump’s words incite violence? As far as the pandemic goes, lots of voices have spoken about the coronavirus and what is and is not the truth about it. Do we only listen to Fauci, the liberal media’s darling who has been wrong many times, or do we listen to a variety of experts? I’ll choose a variety on most topics.
Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal coverage time “are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda,” Holt said. “In fact, it’s just the opposite.”
“Providing an open platform for misinformation for anyone to come and say whatever they want, especially when issues of public health and safety are at stake can be quite dangerous,” he said. “Our duty is to be fair to the truth … we need to hear our leaders’ views, their policies and reasoning. It’s really important. But we have to stand ready to push back and call out falsehoods.”
Did Lester Holt push back on Hillary Clinton? Andrew Cuomo? No, not even Mohammad Zarif. His idea of total objectivity is different than mine.
He acknowledged the sentiment he was expressing about any departure from total objectivity in reporting might “reenforce negative sentiment some hold about journalists.”
“That we have had to be more direct in our language in recent times only speaks to the volume and gravity of particular statements and claims,” Holt said. “Fact checking is not a vendetta. We all have a stake in us getting it right.”
It is not unusual for a story to be viewed as misinformation one day and prove to be correct the next. Think about the Hunter Biden computer story that was squashed by liberal media as a fake story simply because it would reflect badly on their presidential candidate, Joe Biden. Remember, Holt was delivering the remarks to students of journalism and communication. A network news anchor openly called for abandoning hearing both sides of a news story if the news anchor deems it to be false as he received a lifetime achievement award. That does not bode well for the next generation of journalists.