Last week, Meet the Press anchor David Gregory hosted a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on the subject of "college completion and the American future." According to reports, during the audience Q&A, a spectator accused Gregory of letting politicians deflect his questions and ignore important issues such as "the need for taxes," among others. The man told Gregory that "during the election season, you're letting politicians get away with softball answers and you're not really forcing the conversations." At this point, Gregory replied, "I don't know which program you're watching because every week--I'm not going to get in a debate with you--I ask about taxes, I ask about how you pay for taxes."
If you've been watching "Meet the Press" in recent months, you'd know that Gregory is right. Of all the anchors of the Sunday morning talk shows, Gregory is the most relentless and aggressive when it comes to interviewing public officials. He doesn't back down when his interviewees try to weasel out of answering his heard-hitting questions. Gregory pays attention to the answers - and non-answers - returned to him, making sure that he follows up or rephrases his question when necessary. His counterparts don't stick to the subject nearly as much.
On the subject of tax cuts, for instance, on October 10, Gregory asked Chicago Senate candidates Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias the following:
MR. GREGORY: ...when the debt was about one-third of what it was today. Congressman, how can we afford to make permanent tax extensions now with the Bush tax cuts in this climate?
After Kirk broadened the question to discuss the state of the U.S. economy, Gregory brought the topic back to specifics about tax cuts when he asked "But the question, but the question, Mr. Giannoulias, should tax cuts be paid for?" This is just one example of the tenacity that Gregory brings to his interviews, making sure that the discussion stays focused on the issues at hand. He simply won't allow his interviewees to use their time on "Press" to hit their talking points and to avoid accidentally taking an unpopular stance with their backs to the wall. And he muscles representatives from both sides.
Most recently, Gregory pushed Michael Steele when speaking with him last week about campaign spending; he did the same when talking to David Axelrod about unemployment in September; and didn't back down when White House official Carol Browner was briefing him about the BP oil spill in August.
Also in August, Gregory spoke to Sen. Mitch McConnell about the common perception that Obama is a Muslim. This is where that conversation went:
SEN. McCONNELL: Well, look, I think the faith that most Americans are questioning is the president's faith in the government to generate jobs. We've had an 18-month effort here on the part of this administration to prime the pump, borrow money, spend money hiring new federal government employees, sending money down to states so they don't have to lay off state employees. People are looking around and saying, "Where's the job?"
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEN. McCONNELL: The president's faith in the government to stimulate the economy is what people are questioning.
MR. GREGORY: That, that, that's certainly a side step to, to this particular question. Again...
It's clear to anyone who has actually been paying attention to the Sunday talk shows that David Gregory is innocent of the charges lobbed against him at that panel. Although there may be some TV reporters who do gloss over a topic and allow their interview subjects to get away with non-answers, Gregory is surely not one of them. Before making such allegations - that probably stem from preconceived notions of reporter bias or unreliability that has little to do with Gregory - people should do their homework first. Not everyone is an enemy these days.
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