By DAVID BAUDER
AP Media Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Chuck Todd said on Sunday that he’ll be leaving “Meet the Press” after a tumultuous near-decade of moderating the NBC political panel show, to be replaced in the coming months by Kristen Welker.
Todd, 51, told viewers that “I’ve watched too many friends and family let work consume them before it was too late” and that he’d promised his family he wouldn’t do that.
Todd has often been an online punching bag for critics, including Donald Trump, during a polarized time, and there were rumors that his time at the show would be short when its executive producer was reassigned at the end of last summer, but NBC gave no indication this was anything other than Todd’s decision. It’s unclear when Todd’s last show will be, but he told viewers that this would be his final summer.
“I leave feeling concerned about this moment in history but reassured by the standards we’ve set here,” Todd said. “We didn’t tolerate propagandists, and this network and program never will.”
Welker, a former chief White House correspondent, has been at NBC News in Washington since 2011 and has been Todd’s chief fill-in for the past three years. She drew praise for moderating the final presidential debate between Trump, a Republican, and Joe Biden, a Democrat, in 2020.
Her “sharp questioning of lawmakers is a masterclass in political interviews,” said Rebecca Blumenstein, NBC News president of editorial, in a memo announcing Welker’s elevation on Sunday.
Now Welker, 46, will be thrust into what promises to be another contentious presidential election cycle.
The Sunday morning political interview show has aired since 1947, led by inventor and first host Martha Rountree. Its peak came in the years that Tim Russert moderated, from 1991 until his death in 2008, with its footing less certain since then. Tom Brokaw briefly filled in after Russert’s death, and David Gregory replaced him until being forced out in favor of Todd.
Welker will be the first Black moderator of “Meet the Press” and the first woman since Rountree left in 1953.
Todd said that he was proud of expanding the “Meet the Press” brand to a daily show, which initially aired on MSNBC but was shifted to streaming, along with podcasts and newsletters, even a film festival.
“He transformed the brand into a vital modern-day franchise, expanding its footprint to an array of new mediums, and kept ‘Meet the Press’ at the forefront of political discourse,” Blumenstein said.
It didn’t stop critics from jumping on to social media when they didn’t like an interview Todd conducted. Trump even anointed Todd with one of his signature nicknames, Sleepy Eyes, and later called on NBC to fire Todd in 2020 over its airing of a CBS interview clip with his then-Attorney General William Barr. Todd later said the show had been unaware at the time of a longer soundbite of the interview that would have provided more context, and he apologized for the mistake.
Todd was roasted at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2022 by Trevor Noah, who pointed him out in the audience and said, “How are you doing? I’d ask a follow-up, but I know you don’t know what those are.”
Todd alluded to his critics in announcing his exit on Sunday.
“If you do this job seeking popularity, you are doing this job incorrectly,” he said. “I take the attacks from partisans as compliments. And I take the genuine compliments with a grain of salt when they come from partisans.”
The goal of each show, he said, is to “make you mad, make you think, shake your head in disapproval at some point and nod your head in approval at others.”
In the just-concluded television season, “Meet the Press” was third in viewers after CBS’ “Face the Nation” and ABC’s “This Week,” each of them averaging between 2.5 million and 2.9 million viewers, the Nielsen ratings company said.