Evening News Anchors Talk Trump Coverage, #MeToo and Political Comedy
"We're not shocked anymore as a country," NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt said.
Nightly News anchor Lester Holt doesn't see President Trump's attacks on the big three broadcast news organizations as "helpful," but he's confident they can weather the storm.
"I don't think you can tweet away or insult away the years of integrity and trust that were built by these three organizations, so I don't think we're in danger on that level," Holt said Tuesday at a panel discussion in Las Vegas convened as part of the PromaxBDA Station Summit conference, an audio recording of which was provided to The Hollywood Reporter.
Holt was joined on the stage by David Muir, who anchors ABC World News Tonight, and Jeff Glor, anchor of the CBS Evening News.
"We are reporting to a divided America," Muir said when asked about anchoring in the age of Trump. "I think there's half of the country that's still saying, 'How did this happen?' And the other half of the country saying, 'You've got to give this guy a chance.'"
Muir called his show "the newscast for everyone," and said, "I'm trying to make everyone at home feel welcome."
Glor pushed back on a study from the right-leaning Media Research Center that purported to conclude that broadcast news coverage was anti-Trump. "If you have an agenda, you don't belong in this business," he said. "We're not trying to promote an agenda, one way or the other. We're trying to do the best news cast we can every night."
The anchors were collegial and made only subtle jabs at a competing medium, cable news. "I think the cables actually bring valuable discussion," Muir said. "I just think the danger in the cables is if you have the far left, the far right, if you only go to the place where you're going to hear your thoughts back to yourself."
The three were also asked about the weaponization of political comedy and whether the joking has gone too far. "I'm not going to judge comedy," Holt said. "I don't think it's gone too far. Comedy is comedy." But, he added, "I don't think we as journalists should be embracing the comedy."
Glor largely agreed, using Michelle Wolf's performance at this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner as an example of a comedic performance that was true to form, even if not his cup of tea. "Comedians are comedians. They're supposed to say outrageous things," he said. "Did I find it particularly funny? Not necessarily, but that's OK."
The all-male panel was asked about broadcast news coverage of sexual harassment in the industry, which hit close to home at both CBS News (Charlie Rose) and NBC News (Matt Lauer, Tom Brokaw).
Asked about his show's coverage, Holt said, "I do know that we didn't flinch. These stories, whether they were hitting close to home or hitting at a competing network, we knew that we had to cover it aggressively, and independently. As journalists, we had to work solely on getting the story right."