NBC News anchor Lester Holt received praise from liberal media figures after saying reporters don’t need to hear both sides of a story before determining the “truth.”
“I think it’s become clear that fairness is overrated … the idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in,” Holt said on Tuesday night while accepting an award at the 45th Murrow Symposium.
“That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention,” Holt continued. “Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda, in fact, it’s just the opposite.”
Holt then said “providing an open platform for misinformation, for anyone to come say whatever they want, especially when issues of public health and safety are at stake, can be quite dangerous,” before declaring the duty of reporters is to be “fair to the truth.”
Holt’s comments conjure up memories of CNN’s Don Lemon dismissing Trump supporters during a January rant about alleged election interference. Lemon mocked GOP lawmakers’ claims that they opposed President Biden’s Electoral College victory on behalf of millions of Trump voters and their concerns about claims of voter fraud and irregularities.
“So stop staying that we must respect Trump supporters who believe bulls— because it’s bulls— that you’ve been feeding them! The president and you, you’ve been feeding them the BS and now that they believe it, again, another self-fulfilling prophecy and feedback loop,” Lemon said.
Critics of Holt’s approach saw his comments as essentially a dog whistle to liberal reporters who see themselves as the arbiters of truth and, therefore, can cover the news from a one-sided perspective with the approval of NBC’s top anchor.
Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson didn’t think Holt’s remarks apply to the modern world where outspoken liberals are often working as journalists.
“In a better world in which the mainstream major media had a history of fairness and non-partisanship, Holt’s point that journalism inherently involves filtering information might make sense. This is not such a better world, this is a world in which the mainstream major media wears its partisanship on its sleeve, manipulating the news cycle to the advantage of Democrats,” Jacobson told Fox News. “In the real world, Holt’s advice simply justifies media political bias.”
While Jacobson isn’t a fan of Holt’s comments, many liberal media watchdogs cheered him on.
Left-wing New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen felt Holt’s comments were reason to celebrate.
“When the chief anchor of one of the major networks agrees that bothsidesing everything is bad practice, critics have finally won a point and they should celebrate,” Rosen tweeted.
Rosen followed up: “Someone like Lester Holt is a center of gravity among news workers and if he thinks it’s okay not to both sides everything that can influence thought and behavior across a lot of desks.”
CNN’s left-leaning “Reliable Sources” media newsletter highlighted Holt’s remarks as a “sharp critique of bothsidesism,” a notable turn of phrase from a reporting team that almost completely reserves its criticisms for right-leaning outlets, including calls for censorship.
Media Research Center executive editor Tim Graham mocked Holt’s comments by sharing a 2017 report detailing the NBC News anchor admitting to Hillary Clinton that he “winced” when she was called dishonest.
Holt replaced Brian Williams as anchor of “NBC Nightly News” in 2015 after Williams admitted to lying about an Iraq War story he’d told for years. He was suspended without pay for six months but eventually returned as an anchor for MSNBC, NBC’s left-wing cable affiliate.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn and David Rutz contributed to this report.