07/27/2014 08:27 pm ET Updated Sep 26, 2014

In Defense of David


Let's face it: most of us don't like David Gregory. He's the smug brat we always hated in high school. The one who acts like he's got all the answers but doesn't. The one begging for a smackdown.

No wonder so many of us are salivating at rumors that NBC may relieve the grey-haired wonder boy from his Meet the Press duties.

Much has been written on the downfall of Gregory. The sagging ratings (only outdone by those of MSNBC). The reports that NBC News had hired a "psychological consultant" to search for Gregory's (allegedly missing) human heartbeat. And now the rumors that Gregory is soon to be a goner.

Yadda yadda yadda. I get it. We hate David Gregory. America hates David Gregory.

But how quickly we forget.

Back in 2005, when I was an MSNBC anchor and NBC News correspondent, David Gregory was loved -- by America and the media. The golden boy of NBC News. No one could boogy on the Plaza, grill the vice president, and cook a fajita quite like Gregory. Few at 30 Rock doubted Gregory would eventually succeed Matt Lauer as anchor of the TODAY show.

Then destiny took over. On June 13, 2008, Tim Russert died of a heart attack. The nation grieved. NBC News scrambled. And by December, Gregory had taken over the helm of Meet the Press.

Gone were the days of Dancin' Dave and the dead-on impressions of Tom Brokaw. Serious David Gregory had landed.

And "Serious David" had big -- no, huge -- shoes to fill. Gregory wasn't just competing with Russert. He was competing with Russert's ghost.

Not only was Russert admired on both sides of the political aisle, but he was so damn likable. He was the everyday man. A devoted son, as millions know from his best-selling book, Big Russ and Me. A football fan ("Go Bills!" was his weekly send-off). And he had one heck of an Irish smile, to boot.

No "Serious David" is everything Russert wasn't. Overly self-confident. An extrovert. Some would say smug. His detractors would surely note he seems to be a (proud) card-carrying liberal, judging from his questioning of Republican lawmakers.

But we may have David Gregory all wrong.

I met him when I was filling in as the weekend White House Correspondent for NBC News back in 2005. At the time, he was the NBC News Chief White House correspondent. I didn't get to know him well. But I do remember this.

Not only was he approachable. He was helpful. I had no contacts at the White House and he went out of his way to share his. He gave me advice on how to navigate Washington and NBC News. He seemed like he genuinely wanted newbies like me to succeed. And from our conversations, I couldn't judge his political leanings. He was confusing.

And Gregory seemed likable. Yes, a normal guy (if you don't count his extraordinary height). Your average then-36 year old guy from California. (Don't let the grey hair fool you, he's young.) A typical dad, who would whip out photos of his three kids without being asked.

And that's my point. Maybe if the Real Gregory came out more -- the one I met-- we'd actually like him. At least, enough to share a cup of coffee with on Sundays.

I'm guessing he hasn't had a chance to show us the Real Gregory because he's like a lot of us. Insecure. In over our heads. Under enormous pressure from his bosses to succeed. Combine all of it and it's not exactly the ideal atmosphere to relax and be yourself.

And another thing. The next time you read a DOA report on David Gregory, remember this: America's media seems to thrive on those stories. After all, it has a strange habit of devouring its own -- glorifying network anchors and then savoring their downfall.

Just ask Katie Couric and Matt Lauer. They'll tell you. Nothing seems to entertain the American media more than watching our media stars fall. And that's a lesson David Gregory may learn all too well... too soon.