Monday, September 26, 2016

Do The Right Thing, Lester

I write this as someone who was approached to work for local NBC in New York City, accepted the job and then voluntarily quit my job on the hit weekend morning show three years later.  In other words, I saw how some of the sausage is made, if you will.  NBC embraces the GOP like Pepe LePew embraces a black female kitty cat who has a white strip painted by accident down her back.  Tonight, as moderator of the Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton debates, anchorman Lester Holt has his work cut out for him.  He must not make the NBC erection for GOP figures so obvious.
He must not lob softball questions at Donald Trump as, reportedly, Matt Lauer did to the across-the-board dissatisfaction of TV columnists and late night politico-comedy talk show shots. Lauer was crucified by the critics.  Personally, I've been acquainted with Matt since we worked together on local WNBC in the early 90s. I'd seen his TV work since the 80s.  He was never, ever known for being a political news reporter.  He could expertly talk to Daniel Day-Lewis about what it was like to play Abraham Lincoln, but he was never a news journalist like other NBC figures such as Tom Brokaw and the late Tim Russert.  Matt was an odd -- and perhaps -- intentional choice to keep Trump from breaking an orange sweat.  Lester Holt must do better than Lauer.  He will.
When Donald Trump was still host of NBC's popular reality game show, THE APPRENTICE, he starting mouthing off that President Obama is not an American.  He demanded to see his birth certificate.  I am not the only black American who was offended by that.  But he continued to have his network talent job as he continued to insult the President of the United States. As I told a friend, "Remember when Kanye West was on the live telethon to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims?"  Kanye said that George W. Bush didn't like black people -- because Bush's response to the disaster which affected thousands of black people -- was so slow.  You can probably find that moment on YouTube.  I told my friend that a standard talent contract has a morals clause that you should essentially mind your manners and not embarrass your TV show.  I said to my friend that if I was hosting an NBC show like AMERICA'S GOT TALENT and if I got on a red carpet for a premiere and said, "Yo, Kanye was right.  George W. Bush does not like black people," I probably would not have still been the host of the show when it returned after a short holiday break.

But Trump insulted the President and kept his job.  He got canned after he called Mexicans "rapists" and "murderers."  Keep in mind that NBC had spent about a billion dollars to purchase Telemundo and the viewers of that Spanish-language channel were outraged by Trump.  NBC had to protect a huge investment and let Donald go for appearances' sake.

For one summertime broadcast of the NBC Nightly News anchored by Lester Holt, the entire broadcast was done from Donald Trump's office on Fifth Avenue.  WHY?!?!  His building is, at most, a 10 minute walk to the lobby of NBC.

As I've written before, when Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to run for Republican Gov. of California, a press conference had been planned. It was scrapped.  He made the announcement to Jay Leno on NBC's TONIGHT Show.  Schwarzennger was Governor of California.  He's now separated from his wife, Maria Shriver, because the news broke that he fathered a child outside of their marriage with a former domestic staff employee.  Nonetheless, he'll take over for Donald Trump as the new host of THE APPRENTICE.

Sarah Palin has been a guest host on the TODAY Show and NBC News hired two members of the Bush Family as TODAY Show contributors regardless of the fact they had neither TV nor journalism experience. They are Jenna Bush Hager and Billy Bush.  They're now getting great exposure and making a good buck.  Oh, yes.  Donald Trump was once a guest host on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.  Sarah Palin and New Jersey's Chris Christie also made appearances on the show.  Current TONIGHT Show host, Jimmy Fallon, recently had Trump on for laughs. Just two buddies having laughs.
Yes. NBC is sweet on the GOP.  But that affection needs to be kept in check for the sake of journalism tonight.

As The Washington Post wrote of Lester Holt's duties for tonight:  "Your job is not to bend over backward so you offend no one.  It's to help your fellow citizens learn as much as they can in preparing to make one of the most consequential decisions they will ever render in a voting booth."

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