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Chuck Todd: Limbaugh, Drudge, Fox hosts 'exploiting the fears of older white people'
NBC News anchor Chuck Todd is blaming Roger Ailes for creating a hostile environment toward the media, arguing in a new op-ed that the late Fox News chairman and CEO, along with Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge and current Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, are "exploiting the fears of older white people" in an effort to gain more wealth and power.
The "Meet the Press" host also said in The Atlantic that "there's a new kind of campaign underway" to "destroy the legitimacy of the American news media" that has made reporters targets of animosity not seen since the segregated South.
"Antipathy toward the media right now has risen to a level I've never personally experienced before. The closest parallel in recent American history is the hostility to reporters in the segregated South in the 1950s and '60s," Todd wrote.
"Then, as now, that hatred was artificially stoked by people who found that it could deliver them some combination of fame, wealth, and power," he added.
"Some of the wealthiest members of the media are not reporters from mainstream outlets. Figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and the trio of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham have attained wealth and power by exploiting the fears of older white people. They are thriving financially by exploiting the very same free-press umbrella they seem determined to undermine."
Todd went on to call Ailes, who passed away in May 2017 after being ousted from Fox News in July 2016 amid sexual harassment allegations, "the godfather of the Trump presidency." He asserted the former real estate mogul and NBC reality TV star could not have been elected without Ailes, who served as a media consultant to former Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
"This was the genius of Roger Ailes. He didn't sweat the nuance; he exploited it," Todd says. "Errors of omission and commission, inadvertent inattention and willful disregard, unconscious assumptions and deliberate distortions-Ailes collapsed all of it into the single charge of bias."
"And what did we reporters do in the face of this cable onslaught that would eventually turn into a social-media virus and lead us to the election of the most fact-free presidential candidate in American history? Nothing. We did nothing, because we were trained to say nothing. Good reporters know that they have to let the chips fall where they may, and that criticism comes with the gig. We know that the loudest squealers are usually the ones we've exposed doing something untoward-and that eventually they'll get theirs."
Trust in media has been at an all-time low in Gallup polls for years, with its most recent poll, in September 2016, showing just 32 percent of Americans, including 14 percent of Republicans, trust the news media.
The same poll taken in 1976 showed 72 percent of Americans trusted the news media.
Todd's commentary comes as former NBC investigative reporter Ronan Farrow and NBC News Chairman Andy Lack publicly dispute each other regarding Farrow's Pulitzer Prize-winning story on former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Lack insisted in a memo to staff on Monday that the network did not obstruct Farrow's efforts to report sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Weinstein.
Farrow, who took the Weinstein report to The New Yorker after being "blocked" by NBC in getting it to air and print, pushed back on Lack's assertion on Twitter.
"I've avoided commenting on the specifics of NBC's role in the Weinstein story to keep the focus on the women and their allegations," Farrow said in a statement. "But executives there have now produced a memo that contains numerous false or misleading statements."