Chuck Todd, former Chief White House correspondent for NBC, was named the host of the network’s Sunday morning political talk show Meet the Press earlier this summer. Before Todd was hired, however, the network tried to go in a very different direction.
NBC executives was in negotiations with Jon Stewart to be the new host, reported New York Magazine (NYM). Coveting the “loyal, young audience” Stewart has amassed at The Daily Show, sources told NYM that “NBC was prepared to offer [him] virtually ‘anything’ to bring him over.”
“They were ready to back the Brink’s truck up,” the source told the magazine.
The hire would have made sense for the network. Meet the Press, despite a small ratings bump immediately after Todd taking the reigns, has fallen back to third in the ratings behind ABC’s This Week and CBS’s Face the Nation. Bringing Stewart and his brand of “journalism” and audience would have no doubt attracted viewers who don’t normally tune in to the Sunday morning shows.
“Though not a traditional journalist, Stewart can be a devastatingly effective interrogator, and his Meet the Press might have made a worthy successor to Tim Russert’s no-bullshit interviews,” said NYM. Stewart’s interview with Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, after the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act shows his skill.
With Stephen Colbert moving to CBS to takeover The Late Show upon David Letterman’s retirement, snagging Stewart for Meet the Press would have given NBC a similar presence on the network.
Despite their efforts, Stewart, whose contract with Comedy Central goes through next year ultimately declined all offers from NBC. “He probably recognized that much of his audience wouldn’t rush to turn on their television early on a Sunday morning,” said NYM. But it would definitely be an audience the major networks would want, as studies show that Daily Show viewers are among the most informed about domestic and international political issues. (Just for the record, Fox News viewers finished last in both categories, behind people who watch no news at all.)
Watch Stewart’s interview skills as he discusses the ACA rollout with Sebelius.