David Gregory was just sacked as host of “Meet the Press” in public and humiliating fashion. And like so many before him, he will seek respite from the suffering of worldly scorn in the consolation of religion.
This isn’t to say that Gregory will be retreating to a cave in the desert — on the contrary, according to Politico Playbook, Washington’s online political gossip sheet, Gregory is available, through the Leading Authorities speakers bureau, “to speak to associations and companies” about “the political landscape, the White House, Congress, the 2014 elections, and what’s ahead for 2016.” (In other words, what he used to speak about on “Meet the Press” before he was fired.)
Rather, Politico Playbook brings us the news that Gregory is writing a book about “his Jewish faith.”
That Jewish faith is an important part of his Beltway persona — Gregory studies Torah with David Brooks, Jeffrey Goldberg and Martin Indyk; he attends D.C.’s Temple Micah alongside Democratic Leadership Committee founder Al From; and his life as a Jew was even profiled in The Daily Beast, where he confided that his faith helps him “to work with more compassion and empathy” and “gives me a sense of perspective.”
That sense of perspective will be useful as Gregory recovers from a rocky tenure on “Meet the Press,” which was characterized by plunging ratings, brutal reviews and a report that NBC had hired a “psychological consultant” to diagnose what ailed the show. (NBC argued that the consultant was a “brand consultant.”) Of course, one part of that perspective might be that Gregory helmed the show as ratings have faded for Sunday shows generally, and as they have become less culturally relevant amid the decline of the major networks and the rise of alternative news sources (as well as persistent criticism that the Sunday shows are more hospitable to conservatives and Republicans than liberals and Democrats). Another might be that Gregory was dealt a losing hand by stepping in after the sudden death of Tim Russert, master of the hardball interview.
Gregory’s perspective may be aided as well by the reported $4 million severance that NBC is said to be shelling out for canning him before the end of his contract.
His book on Judaism may perhaps draw quibbles from those traditionalists who will argue that he is not technically Jewish, given that he was born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. Those same quibblers will also likely argue that his three children are likewise not Jewish, given that Gregory’s wife, Beth Wilkinson, is not of the Tribe. (He will probably not encounter any such quibblers at his shul, however, which is Reform and therefore recognizes Jewish lineage through the maternal line and/or paternal line.)
Given what he has been through for the last six years on “Meet the Press,” any such quibbles would likely be the least of Gregory’s problems.
As for “Meet the Press,” it will not lack for yiddishkeit: Gregory’s replacement, Chuck Todd, also is a Reform Jew, the son of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father. Interestingly, Todd had succeeded Gregory as NBC’s White House correspondent when Gregory was promoted to the “Meet the Press” gig. Does this mean that in a few short years, Todd also will be penning a book on his Jewish faith?