Political journalist Chuck Todd visited campus Monday to discuss the Supreme Court hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the state of the media under the Trump administration.
Todd, the political director of NBC News and host of the weekly Sunday show “Meet the Press,” discussed the current news cycle in front of a packed audience at Betts Theatre. University President Thomas LeBlanc introduced Todd at the event – titled “The Press Fights Back” – and Frank Sesno, the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, moderated the discussion.
Todd opened the event with a lengthy conversation about Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, which have recently included decades-old accusations of sexual assault from two women. He said that after the prolonged nomination fight, human nature would impart Kavanaugh with a bias against Democrats or the desire to lay low as an associate justice.
“I think now it is impossible for him to serve in a fair way,” Todd said.
Todd compared Kavanaugh to Justice Clarence Thomas, who also faced allegations of sexual assault from a former employee during his confirmation hearing in 1991. Todd said the allegations against Thomas contributed to his distinctive silent demeanor.
“If you believe you were railroaded the way he believes he was railroaded, you think it might impact your decision-making,” Todd said. “You’re telling me you go through something like this, it doesn’t embitter you in some way?”
Todd said confirming Kavanaugh would set a bad precedent, sending a message to young men that it’s OK to use the excuse “boys will be boys.”
Todd also discussed some of his most infamous television moments at the event, including his nearly two-year-old interview with Kellyanne Conway, in which the counselor to President Donald Trump coined the phrase “alternative facts.”
“It’s always a filibuster to interview her,” Todd said. “The only thing from the interview that I am upset about is I did laugh at one point.”
Todd also spoke of his August interview with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani – now Trump’s attorney – when Giuliani told Todd that “truth isn’t truth.”
“That wasn’t even a ‘got you’ – it was just that I booked Rudy Giuliani,” Todd said.
In the age of Trump, Todd said that journalists now have to decide the most important takeaways from the daily noise of the White House.
“Now, I do feel that one of our jobs is to sift,” he said. “We are the sifter for the week, sort of what matters and what didn’t. If we mess this up — if we are wrong on Trump — I don’t know if we recover.”