NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd apologized Monday after the show aired a short video Sunday of black prison inmates discussing their histories of gun violence, days after a white man with reported supremacist ties allegedly gunned down nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Noticeably, the clip did not contain any white inmates.
"We’ve heard you. We clearly got it wrong and we are sorry," Todd said in a Facebook post after a wave of fury over the clip.
Todd on Sunday had asked that viewers watch the video through a "colorblind" lens, but many pundits couldn't help but notice the extreme lack of diversity among the convicted criminals.
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, who appeared on the show to give his thoughts on the video, was the first to point out the lack of diversity.
"I thought that was a very powerful piece," Robinson said. "One small thing I would mention, because I haven't seen the whole piece, is there wasn't a terribly diverse set of people who were talking."
Going on to reference the shooting that took place Wednesday at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Robinson said, "Right now, we're talking about a horrific crime committed by a white man. We're talking about the search for two escaped murderers who are white men. So, we should point out that this is not just an African-American problem."
Todd denied that it ever was.
"No, and it wasn't intended to be that way," he said.
But that didn't satisfy a wave of online critics, who almost immediately swarmed social media to chastise the questionable clip. Jack Mirkinson, a writer for Salon, was just one of the many critics who chimed in:
...[O]ne of the most tone-deaf responses to Dylann Roof’s murderous spree that you are likely to see. The video would have been questionable on any day—telling people to watch a video only focused on black men through a “colorblind” lens is almost too absurd to be real—but in the wake of the Charleston attack, its awfulness reached peaks of operatic intensity.
And the New Republic editor Jamil Smith offered his two cents:
Nothing is without context, @chucktodd. Airing a substandard segment at possibly the worst time was a terrible decision, put mildly.— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) June 21, 2015
So did ex-CNN broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker Soledad O'Brien:
Talk show host Montel Williams also tweeted his thoughts:
The backlash was so severe that Todd addressed the video later in the program and published a piece Sunday afternoon on NBCNews.com, still defending the network's decision to air it before Monday's reversal.
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. 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 original decision to air this segment was made before Wednesday's massacre. However, the staff and I had an internal debate about whether to show it at all this week. When we discussed putting it off, that conversation centered around race and perception - not the conversation we wanted the segment to invoke.
We decided against delaying the segment because we wanted to show multiple sides of what gun violence does in this country. We thought the issue of gun violence in our culture and society was an important conversation to continue -- too important to put off for another week. The consequences of gun violence should not be hidden.
As I say to all audiences, Meet the Press should make all viewers uncomfortable at some point or we are not doing our job. I hope folks view the gun video as a part of the conversation we should all be having and not the totality of it.
This story has been updated with Todd's apology.
(H/T: Huffington Post)
Follow Jon Street (@JonStreet) on Twitter