Tim's Last Interview
Vigilance needed on campaign claims
Big issues, not smears, need to be the focus
Russert on Politics
Tim Russert is NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and host of Meet the Press. He regularly offers MSNBC.com’s readers his insight and analysis into questions about politics past, present and future.
Washington bureau chief
Msnbc: Tim, www.fightthesmears.com is a web site launched by the Barack Obama campaign to combat potentially damaging rumor about the candidate and his wife, Michelle. Is this necessary? How big of a problem is this really?
Tim Russert: It’s amazing how much the Internet has changed our lives. People get emails that make accusations without foundation and they are circulated around the country within seconds and suddenly become topics of conversations around water coolers or in lunchrooms.
I remember being in Indianapolis covering the Indiana primary and a man came up to me and said he wasn’t going to vote for Senator Obama because he was very concerned about the comments made by Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor. I said, “That’s interesting. As a reporter, I’m curious what comments particularly bothered you?” He said, “Well, I can’t think of any that come to mind, but I also read on the Internet that he’s a Muslim.” And I said, “Now wait a minute. You can’t have both. You can’t be offended by his Christian minister and then say he’s a Muslim. You’ve got to pick one.”
But that just underscores what we’re dealing with in this modern era.
Now I’m told there’s a counter organization with a very similar name that is going to be positioned and posted to spread the rumors, so that people that go to the Internet to get clarification will go to the wrong web site and get confused.
It’s a virus. You have bloggers on both sides, liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats all trying to utilize this vehicle without any kind of fact checking and without any kind of editorial control.
Msnbc: Given the way people use the Internet, do you wonder if there are going to be some things said or done during the course of this campaign that will be very unsettling?
Russert: That’s what we have to be conscious of and vigilant against, particularly at the end of the campaign as things are put out there. We’ve already had a few fake videos with different words dubbed in and people say, “This must be true because I saw it on the Internet.”
What we hope to do in this campaign is recognize there are big differences on big issues between John McCain and Barack Obama – the war in Iraq, Iran, Social Security, taxes. You don’t need to get into this other stuff. If it does surface, then I think the mainstream media has an obligation not to just instinctively put it out there without vetting it. Or, if it is something that is manufactured as a virus, report on that – who did it and why. But sometimes it’s very hard to trace it back to its original source.
Msnbc: Who do you have coming up on Meet the Press?
Russert: We’re going to talk big issues with a debate: Obama vs. McCain. Joe Biden will represent Barack Obama; Lindsey Graham will represent John McCain.
Tim Russert's NBC bio:
Tim Russert is the Managing Editor and Moderator of "Meet the Press" and political analyst for "NBC Nightly News" and the "TODAY" program. He anchors "The Tim Russert Show," a weekly interview program on MSNBC. Russert also serves as senior vice president and Washington bureau chief of NBC News.
His two books-Big Russ and Me in 2004 and Wisdom of Our Fathers in 2006-were both New York Times #1 bestsellers.
He has received forty-eight honorary doctorate degrees from American colleges and universities and has lectured at the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Reagan Presidential Libraries.
Russert took over the helm of "Meet the Press" in December 1991. Since then, MTP has become the most watched Sunday morning interview program in America and the most quoted news program in the world. Now in its 60th year, "Meet the Press" is the longest-running program in the history of television. Russert has interviewed every major figure on the American political scene.
Russert joined NBC News in 1984. In April 1985, he supervised the live broadcasts of the Today program from Rome, negotiating and arranging an appearance by Pope John Paul II, a first for American television. In 1986 and 1987 Russert led NBC News weeklong broadcasts from South America, Australia and China.
Washingtonian Magazine dubbed Tim Russert the best and most influential journalist in Washington, D. C. describing "Meet the Press" as "the most interesting and important hour on television."
In 2008, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
TV Guide selected his use of the white dry eraser board (Florida, Florida, Florida) on Election Night 2000 as one of the "100 Most Memorable TV Moments" in history. The Washington Post credits him with coining the phrase "red state" and "blue state" to explain the nation’s political divide.
In 2005, he was awarded an Emmy for his role in the coverage of the funeral of President Reagan. He is the recipient of the Golden Plate Award of the Academy of Achievement. His Election 2000 Meet the Press interviews with George W. Bush and Al Gore won the Radio and Television Correspondents’ highest honor, the Joan S. Barone Award and the Annenberg Center’s Walter Cronkite Award. Russert’s March 2000 interview of Senator John McCain shared the 2001 Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence in Television Journalism. He is also the recipient of the John Peter Zenger Award, the American Legion Journalism Award, the Veterans of Foreign Wars News Media Award, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society Journalism Award, the Allen H. Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism, the David Brinkley Award for Excellence in Communication, the Catholic Academy for Communication’s Gabriel Award, and inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
He is a trustee of the Freedom Forum’s Newseum and a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Washington Boys and Girls Club and America’s Promise –Alliance for Youth.
In 1995, the National Father’s Day Committee named him "Father of the Year", Parents magazine honored him as "Dream Dad" in 1998 and in 2001 the National Fatherhood Initiative also recognized him as Father of the Year.
Irish America magazine has named him one of the top 100 Irish Americans in the country and he was selected as a Fellow of the Commission of European Communities.
Russert was born in Buffalo, New York on May 7, 1950. He is a graduate of Canisius High School, John Carroll University and with honors from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
Before joining NBC News, Russert observed firsthand the inner workings of the executive and legislative branches of government as counselor in the New York Governor’s office in Albany in 1983 and 1984 and a special counsel in the United States Senate from 1977 to 1982.
He is admitted to the bar in New York and the District of Columbia.
Russert is married to Maureen Orth, a writer for Vanity Fair magazine. They live in Washington, D.C. They have a son, Luke.