Chuck Todd is defending a segment on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” that featured black prison inmates discussing their regrets over past gun violence.
While some have praised the video, many more social media users complained that it had no place in a debate about the tragic deaths of nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina at the hands of an alleged white supremacist.
As part of the NBC show’s coverage of the Charleston church massacre, Todd introduced a video featuring convicted murderers at the infamous Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York, talking about how they never meant to kill anyone when they grabbed a gun.
“The circumstances you are about to see are very different from the racist violence in Charleston,” Todd explained. “In this case, the inmates are African-American that you’re going to hear from. But their lessons remain important.”
He continued: “And we simply ask you to look at this as a color-blind issue that’s about just simply gun violence.”
After the video played, Todd turned to his panel of guests for reaction. New York Times columnist
“You got so many young men who feel psychologically weak. And then the gun is the source of power. It’s all they got,” Brooks said. “We even saw this in this Charleston’s kid’s photo of him with the guns.”
Todd then talked about gun control.
“Passing a law isn’t going to change the culture,” he insisted. But Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson disagreed.
“Passing the right law — passing a law that frankly we’re not going to pass — would take a lot of guns out of circulation, would make the gun not the normal thing one reaches for when one wants to aggrandize one’s self esteem.”
Robinson went on to say the video had no place in a conversation about the Charleston shootings.
“There wasn’t a terribly diverse set of people who were talking,” Robinson noted. “Right now, we’re talking about a horrific crime committed by a white man.”
Robinson wasn’t the only person to take issue with the segment.
Todd became a trending topic on Twitter, with many commenters blasting “Meet the Press” and NBC for airing the video at all.
“In all seriousness, @meetthepress & @chucktodd did a show today that will be used as an example of offensive, tone deaf media for years,” tweeted Dave Zirin, host of Edge of Sports Radio for SiriusXM.
Meanwhile, Jamil Smith, an editor at left-leaning magazine The New Republic tweeted: “Nothing is without context, @chucktodd. Airing a substandard segment at possibly the worst time was a terrible decision, put mildly.”
Broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien joined the debate, tweeting: “You can tell by the VERY long intro that even @chucktodd knows this makes zero sense.”
Todd addressed the criticism later in the show, and also tweeted a link to an essay he penned on NBCnews.com.
“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback about the gun video we showed on ‘Meet the Press’ today. Some were upset it only featured African-American men talking about their regrets of pulling a trigger,” the essay said. “All of the men in the piece volunteered to be a part of the video and the larger project it is a part of. But the last thing we wanted was to cloud the discussion of the topic.”
The essay went on to explain the segment was produced before the massacre at Emanuel AME church.
Watch the video below of Todd defending the segment.