In an online chat yesterday, Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales responded to complaints about a remark in his vividly critical May 11 review of Need to Know's premiere that co-host Alison Stewart "looked as though she would have been much more comfortable in [Bill] Clinton's lap" during an interview with the former president. Shales said that he only meant that Stewart seemed too cozy with Clinton. "I perhaps should have said that cohost Jon Meacham looked as though he wanted to broadcast from Clinton's lap, too. They were both too soft on Bill, but then he brings that out in journalists — of both sexes. . . " (Video of whole interview.) On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann named Shales "the World Person in the World," leading Rupert Murdoch's New York Post to point out that Stewart's husband is a top MSNBC exec. Stewart herself told TVNewser that Shales' remark was a "crude, crass and sexist ... suggestive insinuation."
Shales' review was more than suggestive about the show's first episode. He called it "a monstrosity."
Viewers quoted by PBS ombudsman Michael Getler last week were mostly disappointed, especially those comparing Need to Know with the previous occupant of the time slot, Bill Moyers, who retired in April. Marty Kaplan commented on Huffington Post:"Need to Know positions itself as an antidote to the poisonous advocacy of cable news. What it succumbs to instead is the on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand pathology that makes mainstream news so impotent."