Kristen Welker made her debut as the new moderator of NBC’s flagship politics show “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning. Welker, 47, who has been NBC’s chief White House correspondent since 2011, took over the desk from Chuck Todd, who hosted the show for nine years.
Welker made history as the first Black journalist to take the helm of the Sunday morning public affairs program, which has been on the air since 1947, making it the longest-running program on television. She is also only the second woman to moderate Meet The Press. The first was Martha Rountree, who moderated the show from 1947 to 1953, according to the NBC News.
Welker’s debut interview as moderator was with former President Donald Trump, who, over the past year, has been indicted on numerous charges for efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election after he lost. Critics took issue with NBC’s decision to interview Trump and give him such a platform. However, the veteran journalist addressed the criticism and fact-checked the former president during and after the interview.
Here’s what you need to know about Kristen Welker, the new moderator of Meet the Press, who is blazing trails for Black Women In The News.
Who Is Kristen Welker?
Kristen Welker was born and raised in Philadelphia. She knew in the sixth grade she wanted to be a reporter after watching Barbara Walters dance with Patrick Swayze during a 1988 interview, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
When asked about what got her interested in politics, the veteran journalist told USA Today, “I grew up in Philadelphia, the bedrock of our democracy in many ways. My mom ran for city council, so politics has always been a part of my DNA.”
She began her career at NBC News in 1997, when she interned with the Today show while attending Harvard University. She also worked for ABC stations in Providence, Rhode Island, and Redding, California, before joining NBC10 as a general assignment reporter in 2005. She then became the weekend news anchor for the station.
Welker stayed in Philadelphia for five years before accepting a temporary reporting position in NBC’s Los Angeles bureau. In 2010, she was hired as a network correspondent for NBC News in Burbank, California, where she covered national, international, and breaking news issues, as well as multiple presidential and midterm elections.
She’s been covering the White House since Dec. 2011 for the news network. Welker is based in Washington, D.C., where she lives with her husband and their two-year-old daughter.
A pivotal moment for Welker came in October 2020 when she moderated the final presidential debate between former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden. She was the first Black woman to moderate a presidential debate since Carole Simpson in 1992 and received praise for how she handled it.
“The clear winner of Thursday night’s presidential debate? Moderator Kristen Welker” and “praise for Welker around the media world was overwhelming, effusive and, as far as I can tell, unanimous” and that she “had the best night of three on stage and, perhaps, the best night of her career,” wrote the Poynter Report.
“The moderator, Kristen Welker, did a bang-up job on the largest stage of any political journalist’s career. And, for that, she got well-deserved plaudits,” according to POLITICO.
The Associated Press wrote, “NBC’s Welker sharp in the first turn as debate moderator” and noted that Kristen “helped give Americans the substantive, crackling debate over leadership that had been missing so far during the 2020 presidential campaign.”
Becoming “Meet The Press” Moderator
Welker is “a reporter at heart,” telling USA Today, “I spent ten years in local news: Redding, California, Providence, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia before I got to the network. So I am approaching this job [at Meet the Press] as moderator as a reporter; I want to make sure that we are bringing new and relevant information to our viewers every Sunday.”
“I’m also a mom, and I’m so proud of my Margot. That is arguably my greatest role in life. And I’m just someone who loves to talk about politics, and so it’s a huge responsibility and honor,” she said.
Welker took a moment during her debut on Sunday to speak to the significance of the role and to thank those who paved the way for her.
She said, “I want to take a moment to thank you, our viewers. It is an incredible honor to be sitting in this chair, and I feel the huge responsibility it carries. I also want to recognize all of the women, all of the people of color, who’ve been pathfinders to make this moment possible, as well as all of the journalists who have mentored me along the way. When my colleague Andrea Mitchell applied for her first job at a news radio station in Philadelphia in 1967, she was told the newsroom was no place for a woman. Well, she talked them into hiring her for the overnight shift. I’m here because she and other fearless women never stopped fighting for their places in the newsroom.”
New Era Of Women At The Helm In Network TV News
Women have become the faces of Sunday public affairs programs across major news networks. Welker joins ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, CBS News’ Margaret Brennan, Fox News’ Shannon Bream, and CNN’s Dana Bash as hosts of their respective Sunday shows.
“I’m honored to be among such an incredible company of women in the Sunday moderator chair,” she posted on X, formerly Twitter.
With more women moderating, Welker told USA Today, “we are going to be asking all of the questions that have always been asked on these Sunday shows, but also the questions that get talked about around the dinner table, the questions that are important to people of all stripes who live in this country. That’s part of what happens when you bring diversity to newsrooms, and so I’m excited and honored to be a part of it.”
The Debut Interview
Welker’s first guest was former President Donald Trump. His appearance on Meet the Press this Sunday is his first broadcast network interview since leaving office.
The pre-taped interview was conducted at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J. golf club on Thursday, NBC said in a news release. The show has also invited President Biden for an interview.
Welker questioned Trump on abortion, the 2020 election, and the potential of prison time. Trump asserted that if he were elected, two sides would come together on abortion, accusing Republicans of speaking “inarticulately” about the issue.
“We’re going to agree to a number of weeks or months, or however you want to define it,” Trump said. “And both sides are going to come together, and both sides — both sides and this is a big statement — will come together. And for the first time in 52 years, you’ll have an issue we can put behind us.”
Trump told Welker that he doesn’t even “think” about going to jail or the possibility of a prison sentence.
“When you say, ‘do I lose sleep?’ I sleep,” he said. “I sleep. Because I truly feel that, in the end, we’re going to win.”
Following the interview, NBC News released a fact-check of several of Trump’s comments. Welker also addressed the interview criticism in a conversation with MSNBC analyst Peter Baker at the end of her first official “Meet the Press” broadcast as the new host.
“Big picture, Peter Baker, I’m giving the final word to you. We have gotten criticism for just sitting down with former President Trump. He is the former president. He is facing four indictments. As journalists, just set the scene and backdrop why there is still news value and value from the public to hear from him,” Welker stated.
Baker said it was a “huge challenge” for American journalists.
“It cannot be that a person can run for president of the United States, be a front-runner in his party, and possibly win without ever being challenged by a tough, independent interviewer, and that’s, I think, an important part of our system,” Baker replied. “Now, it’s obviously a challenge for us because he is just going to spout out one thing after another, and fact-checking in real-time is a real hard thing. But what we’ve done here is edit it and make sure people understand…what’s real and what’s not.”
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