Chuck Todd, Tucker Carlson turn up rhetoric in latest cable news tussle

The feud between Fox News and MSNBC has taken a personal turn, with Fox News host Tucker Carlson accusing “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd of being aware of NBC’s decision to kill a story by Ronan Farrow detailing sexual harassment charges against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

Carlson offered no evidence in asserting that Todd, the political director of NBC News, knew about an NBC decision to not run Farrow’s story, but argued it was implausible to think that he was not aware of internal network talks surrounding the story.

“NBC gets the biggest scoop of the year and then kills it mysteriously, of course Chuck Todd knew. What does he think of that?” said Carlson, who once hosted an MSNBC program.

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Todd hosts “Meet the Press” Sundays on NBC and “MTP Daily” at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday on MSNBC.

NBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

NBC has said that Farrow’s story lacked on-the-record, on-camera sources, and that it was not ready for broadcast. It subsequently allowed the reporter to take the story to The New Yorker. Farrow ended up winning a Pulitzer Prize for the work.

NBC News Chairman Andy Lack on Monday insisted in a memo to NBC staff that the network did not obstruct Farrow’s efforts to report sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Weinstein. Farrow, however, disputed Lack’s assertion.

“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.”

NBC responded in a statement provided to The Hill by disputing Farrow's claim that his story was “cleared and deemed ‘reportable’ by legal and standards.”

“Contrary to Farrow’s claims, his story was never cleared or approved for air by NBC News Legal or Standards," the statement reads. "As is common practice, NBC lawyers met with him on several occasions to offer legal advice in connection with his reporting.

"But at no time did they render a judgment on the draft script’s readiness for air. While he was told by his editors that several elements of the draft script were technically 'reportable,' he was consistently advised that — even taken together — they were not yet sufficient to air a story alleging serial sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein without at least one victim or witness on the record. Precisely because the script was never ready for air, no one in the NBC News Standards department ever reviewed it.”

Carlson’s accusations about Todd come a day after the moderator argued in an Atlantic magazine op-ed that Carlson and other Fox hosts, along with radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and Drudge Report founder Matt Drudge, had enriched themselves by “exploiting the fears of old white people.”

Fighting between personalities on the cable news shows is nothing new, but sniping on Fox, MSNBC and CNN over one another’s coverage has stepped up in the Trump era. MSNBC and CNN programming is largely critical of Trump, while many of the hosts on Fox are supportive and protective of the president.

Carlson’s remarks, however, were particularly personal in attacking Todd’s broadcast and journalism ethics.

“Is squelching first-person accounts of sexual assault by powerful men consistent with Chuck Todd’s view of journalism? Is it ethical — did Chuck Todd ever complain about this inside the building at NBC? Why did he not quit over it? Or is it better to shut up and pretend that sexual assault did not happen in the hopes of keeping the highest paying job that he will ever have? Maybe that is the answer.”

Carlson, on his Tuesday night show, suggested that NBC sat on the Weinstein story because it was worried that the film producer would tell the world about accusations against former “Today” show host Matt LauerMatthew (Matt) Todd LauerConway to CNN's Cuomo in heated debate: 'I'll walk away' if you continue to interrupt me #MeToo era shows there's almost never only one accuser, says Hill.TV's Krystal Ball 'Tonight Show’ cancels Norm Macdonald appearance after #MeToo comments MORE, who was fired after sexual harassment allegations were brought against him in the wake of the Weinstein scandal.

“People close to the story” believe NBC was compromised by private investigators hired by Weinstein, Carlson said.

“We spoke to a number of people with direct knowledge of the story and here’s what we got: Harvey Weinstein had a long and documented history of using private investigators to learn damaging information about people who threatened him,” Carlson said. "He did that repeatedly to many people. He did it to The New York Times, for example. Did he do that to the leadership of NBC? People close to the story believe that he did. Some within the company believe that Weinstein threatened to reveal damaging information about NBC’s then-biggest star Matt Lauer.”

On Tuesday, NBC's Megyn Kelly — a former Fox News host — called on her own network to bring in an outside firm to conduct an investigation of how it handled Farrow's reporting on Weinstein, arguing it would be in the best interest of full transparency. 

“There’s the question of the faith and confidence of the public in the reporting of NBC on matters involving itself,” Kelly said on her daytime TV show, "Megyn Kelly Today." 

“For me, as a lawyer, it’s always better if you just send it outside. And then people can have more faith in it,” she said.

Kelly noted that NBC brass had no problem with the host covering the issue on her program. 

This story was updated at 1:42 p.m.