Is David Gregory the new host of Meet the Press?
Who is going to host Meet the Press?
The Huffington Post threw its reputation in the ring Monday, reporting that NBC chief White House correspondent David Gregory is the man expected to take over the reins from interim host Tom Brokaw after Sunday, which is reportedly the former Nightly News anchor's final program in the big chair.
NBC sort of denied the Huffington Post report to Politico.com, saying it was not about to announce a choice -- which is not the same as saying a choice has not been made. But Politico's Mike Allen is also reporting with certainty this morning that Gregory is NBC's choice, making the 38-year-old anchor/reporter the show's 10th permanent host, succeeding the late Tim Russert.
(UPDATE: The New York Times is reporting that Gregory hasn't yet sealed a deal with the network, though NBC has told other contenders for the job that a decision has been made - hence the leak. Why they would tell other candidates the deal was done when it wasn't, is yet another mystery for the media ages. The story also quotes contenders assuming that Gregory's value as a successor to Today host Matt Lauer helped seal the deal.)
The Los Angeles Times reported last week the field had narrowed to Gregory, PBS host Gwen Ifill, correspondent Andrea Mitchell and political director Chuck Todd -- all names critics like me slung around back in June, when Russert died unexpectedly of a heart attack.
In many ways, Gregory is the most expected choice. A clear rising star at NBC, he has been parked on an MSNBC show themed around the presidential campaign for much of 2008, leaving questions about how he might maintain his visibility after the election. He is the network's best-known political reporter, mostly due to his high-profile needling of White House officials during televised briefings and his star-making turns as fill-in host on the Today show -- a gig he most recently reprised during the Thanksgiving holiday.
He's also known for an occasionally playful attitude on camera, busting a move with R&B singer Mary J. Blige on the Today show and goofing with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's Countdown.
Of course, the choice also passes up a historic opportunity to diversify the most important seat in TV political journalism, with names like Ifill and Mitchell left by the wayside. Expect NBC to offer some empty words in this direction, with more emphasis on diversifying the guests or contributors to the show. Even as America makes history with its first black president leading a diverse cabinet team, it seems network TV cannot bring itself to follow suit.
Russert turned NBC's Meet the Press perch into the most prestigious chair in Washington, serving as the top political voice at NBC News and arguably all of political journalism. Of course, he cemented that reputation by being a dogged, yet charming inquisitor, and calling correctly everything from Bill Clinton's 1992 Democratic primary win to Florida's pivotal role in the 2000 presidential election.
Even under Brokaw's musty stewardship, Meet the Press has remained the highest-rated political show on Sunday TV. Even with the administrative part of Russert's job running the network's Washington bureau handed off to former Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker, Gregory's got some big shoes to fill, for sure.