It’s official: After months of ratings erosion and negative press stories predicting his demise, David Gregory is leaving NBC News and its iconic Sunday show, Meet The Press, to be replaced by NBC White House correspondent and political director Chuck Todd.
In an internal staff memo sent late Thursday afternoon, NBC News President Deborah Turness confirmed reports that the 43-year-old, prematurely gray-haired Gregory is being removed as moderator of the 69-year-old Sunday public affairs program after six years at the helm, and that the 42-year-old, goateed Todd will take over as of Sept. 7.
Gregory has been twisting in the media winds for some time now, with reports that NBC was so concerned about his role in taking the once top-rated show to third-place status, behind ABC’s This Week and CBS’s Face The Nation, that the network hired a psychological consultant to interview Gregory’s colleagues, friends and family members to help him find his voice and achieve an appealing television persona.
At the time, Turness gave the faltering host a rousing statement of support “now and into the future,” claiming that “NBC News is proud to have David in the important anchor chair of ‘Meet the Press.’”
More recently, however, after the New York Post’s Page Six column predicted that Gregory would be sacked, an NBC News spokesperson offered a tepid statement suggesting that readers take the rumors “with a grain of salt.”
The whole episode had to be painful and embarrassing for Gregory, who has been with the network for two decades. Seamless transitions apparently aren’t NBC’s thing, as demonstrated by a series of botched and humiliating personnel shifts: Jane Pauley to Deborah Norville and Ann Curry to Savannah Guthrie at the Today show, and, most spectularly, Jay Leno to Conan O’Brien and back again at The Tonight Show.
An insider at a rival network predicted Gregory’s departure will be expensive for NBC; reportedly he has one-and-half years left on a contract said to be worth $4 million a year, which could add up to a $6 million severance payout.
Todd, who didn’t return a phone call from The Daily Beast as of this writing, will give up his White House duties and also his weekday morning show, The Daily Rundown, on NBC’s sister cable network, MSNBC, Turness wrote. Veteran NBC News foreign and political correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who hosts a noon show on MSNBC, will moderate MTP this Sunday, she added.
“There is no one with a bigger passion for politics than Chuck,” Turness wrote about the Miami native, who worked for the Washington political tip sheet The Hotline before joining NBC News, and was a protégé of the late Tim Russert, who moderated MTP and led it to ratings success for 16 years.
“[Todd’s] unique ability to deliver that passion with razor sharp analysis and infectious enthusiasm makes him the perfect next generation moderator of this beloved broadcast,” Turness continued. “Chuck will ensure that Meet the Press is the beating heart of politics, the place where newsmakers come to make news, where the agenda is set.”
She added: “We have some exciting plans to evolve and update the broadcast under Chuck’s leadership that we will be sharing with you shortly.”
As for Gregory, who was spotted two weeks ago in the New York headquarters of CNN, meeting with his old boss at NBC, CNN President Jeff Zucker, Turness urged his colleagues to “join me in expressing our deepest gratitude and in wishing him the very best.”
An hour before Turness’s memo was released, Gregory himself announced his departure from the network on Twitter, telling his 1.67 million followers: “I leave NBC as I came—humbled and grateful. I love journalism and serving as moderator of MTP was the highest honor there is.”
He added: “I have great respect for my colleagues at NBC News and wish them all well. To the viewers, I say thank you.”