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“The president of Ukraine is here tonight with us. The only ground rules were no questions,” ABC News anchor Tom Llamas quipped to a room of more than 1,000 journalists on Tuesday — just hours after news broke that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had launched a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, largely due to a whistleblower’s alleged revelation that Trump may have asked said Ukrainian president to help undermine Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
The joke certainly wasn’t the last reference to the Trump administration at the 40th annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards. The most notable commentary came from NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell when she accepted the National Academy’s lifetime achievement award.
“In my experience during more than four decades covering the White House and Congress and national security during seven administrations, politics was invariably and appropriately adversarial, but this is different,” said Mitchell. “Now, we are called ‘the enemy of the people.’ Our credibility as journalists is deliberately targeted as part of a re-election strategy. Today, time-honored norms are ignored. Press secretaries and senior officials deliver ‘alternative facts.’ Traditions such as White House briefings, State Department expanded-travel pools and formal news conferences are replaced by shouted exchanges on the South Lawn, often drowned out by the whirling rotor blades of Marine One.”
She continued, urging her peers to stay resilient: “If we are going to be taken seriously as referees in this highly polarized environment — and may I add, that on this night of all nights, it is only going to get more polarized — then we need to do it without glee or angst. These are difficult times. The pace and velocity of breaking news can sometimes feel relentless. So while it is incredibly gratifying to be recognized by all of you, by my peers tonight, I like to think that I have only traveled a certain distance along this incredible journey. There are still a lot of roads to explore, a lot of people to interview, a lot of stories to be told. The race is not yet done.”
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Mitchell discussed the impeachment inquiry she alluded to in her speech.
“I just think it’s very interesting that what has moved more people in [Pelosi’s] caucus, and perhaps Republicans at some point as well, is a serious national security allegation. We don’t know what’s to be proved. So we have to evaluate the facts as they emerge,” Mitchell said before noting that the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, allegedly failed to report the whistleblower’s claim about Trump and Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Any reading of the law is, that whistleblower complaint, once validated by an inspector general, is automatically supposed to be reported to the intelligence committees,” she told THR. “And that’s what is at issue here, is separation of powers.”
Mitchell received a standing ovation after her speech and, in a video, was lauded by Judy Woodruff, Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt and four former U.S. secretaries of state including Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and John Kerry.
NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker also praised Mitchell, whom she described as “a trailblazer for women” and “a fixture on the international stage of journalism, at every rope line, press conference and gaggle that has defined history over the past five decades.”
As the night wore on, a number of programs won multiple Emmys, including CBS’ 60 Minutes and CNN’s AC360. However, the big winner of the evening was HBO, which led with 10 trophies. Five of those went to Vice News Tonight, which is currently being revived on Viceland after HBO chose not to renew the show.
PBS, despite topping this year’s nominations with a whopping 47 mentions, ultimately came in second place with nine Emmy wins. CBS earned six, followed by CNN’s three. Every other winning network or publication took home either one or two awards.
Fox News, which got its first-ever News and Documentary Emmy nomination this year, was not among them. Chris Wallace’s face-off with Russian President Vladimir Putin competed in the outstanding live interview category, but was beat out by Christiane Amanpour’s sit-down with Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Dateline NBC‘s “Bringing Down Bill Cosby: Andrea Constand Speaks” also picked up an interview Emmy. As part of the program, correspondent Kate Snow helped Constand, the first woman to pursue sexual assault charges against the entertainer, break her 13-year silence.
“She trusted us to tell her story the right way,” Snow told THR. “I’m so grateful to her.”
Throughout the “long process” that led to the interview, Snow explained that she had to navigate lawyers and an ongoing trial. But in the end, Constand was not only able to tell her story — Cosby was also convicted.
“He’s in prison right now,” Snow said, adding that she repeatedly tried to interview Cosby and still wants to. “But I think what’s next is the lessons learned from this. That’s what Andrea would say. She wants to inspire the next generation to speak up. … She’s a really interesting, amazing person who hasn’t had a whole lot of publicity [and] doesn’t want a whole lot of publicity, but the work she’s doing, trying to help others, is really inspiring.”
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