‘Fairness Is Overrated’: NBC’s Lester Holt Scolds Media for Covering ‘Misinformation’

Lester Holt attends the 51st NAACP Image Awards non-televised Awards Dinner on February 21, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

On Tuesday, NBC News Anchor Lester Holt scolded the media for giving “misinformation” coverage.

During his acceptance of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism on Tuesday, Lester Holt criticized the idea of always covering both sides of a given debate. “I think it’s become clearer that fairness is overrated,” Holt said.

“Before you run off and tweet that headline, let me explain a bit. The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in,” he said. “That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention.”

Holt pointed to “recent events” to make his point, including the January 6 Capitol riots, and the popularity of coronavirus conspiracy theories. Giving such content oxygen is “not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda,” Holt said.

“Providing an open platform for misinformation for anyone to come and say whatever they want, especially when issues of public health and safety are at stake can be quite dangerous,” he continued. “Our duty is to be fair to the truth … we need to hear our leaders’ views, their policies, and reasoning. It’s really important. But we have to stand ready to push back and call out falsehoods.”

Holt did, however, recognize that calling for the change could “reenforce negative sentiment some hold about journalists,” but said the need to be “more direct in our language” shows “the volume and gravity of particular statements and claims.”

“Fact-checking is not a vendetta. We all have a stake in us getting it right,” he said.

Editor’s Note: This article originally attributed a vulgar political statement to Lester Holt which Holt did not actually say. The quotation was uttered by an animated caricature of Holt on a late-night comedy talk show. We have removed this section of the story and regret the error, with apologies to Mr. Holt.

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