David Zurawik

Valerie Jarrett interview shows how low 'Meet the Press' has sunk

Believe me, I didn't go looking in my Sunday morning TV viewing for more evidence of what a journalistically bankrupt operation NBC News had become.

It's fish in a barrel these days. Turn to NBC News for almost any given broadcast, and you'll find more proof than you can use of how politicized and lost it has become.


But when I heard David Gregory promoting an interview that Cynthia McFadden did with senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett I had to watch.

And then, I had to try not to gag as Gregory introduced it by saying, "Our Cynthia McFadden was granted unique access and spent a day behind the scenes with Valerie Jarrett at the White House."


"Granted," like some gift for the gods or papal dispensation? And "unique access?" Please.

Obama surrogates and operatives were all over the morning shows trying to spin the president out of a performance so inept and dismal that it's starting to make Jimmy Carter's presidency look like FDR's first 100 days.

There was Stephanie Cutter, the former Obama advisor who now draws a paycheck from CNN and serves as a consultant to Bank of America, snarling away on CNN about how it's Congress -- not Obama -- that's the problem.

But even Cutter and CNN couldn't top NBC, "Meet the Press" and McFadden Sunday for letting themselves be used for political purposes.

It's as if they don't even try to do the basics of journalism any more at NBC.

Here are the very first words of McFadden's report:

"It's just after dawn at the White House and President Obama's senior advisor and long-time friend Valerie Jarrett is arriving for work."

Oh, "just after dawn," huh? Hearing that, you might think, "Valerie Jarrett and the Obama team must be working very hard day and night at the White House."


But if you look at the "Meet the Press" video with this post, you'll see that the digital clock on the bottom of the screen says "7:15:01 a.m." as McFadden is describing the scene as "just after dawn."

Is 7:15:01 really just after dawn?

Well, dawn is defined as the first light before sunrise.

According to the website, the latest sunrise any day during the last two weeks in Washington was at 5:45 a.m. -- 90 minutes earlier than the time on the screen. And the first light would have been before even that.

So, there are several possibilities: McFadden is a lousy reporter and got the time wrong. McFadden is hyping her story and/or Jarrett's workday and is a liar.

Or, maybe the editor putting the piece together got the time wrong. But that would mean no one at NBC News even bothers to edit and back-check reports like the one featured Sunday morning on "Meet the Press."


Wait, forget edit and back-check, no one even bothered to look at the first 10 seconds of the report and note the Journalism 101 discrepancy between image and words.

OK, I am feeling a full-blown rant coming on about the lack of effort and standards in network news, so I am going to stop right here.

Watch the video yourself. Watch the softball, kiss-up questions from McFadden, like the one asking what Jarrett thinks about people calling her the "most powerful woman in Washington."

I think it's pathetic, and you have to look no farther than a careless, compromised piece of fake journalism like this to know why "Meet the Press" has fallen from the heights it once held on Sunday morning public affairs TV.

Hey, here's an idea.

Maybe NBC News can start a weekly feature on "Meet the Press" of kiss-up interviews with Obama advisors.


And, even better, maybe they can have their $600,000-a-year, pretend correspondent Chelsea Clinton do them.

That combination certainly says NBC News to me.