NBC journalist Kristen Welker started her new role hosting the network’s Meet the Press program Sunday, becoming the first Black person and second woman to host the historic show. Welker’s tenure as host of the politics and news program began with a wide-ranging, revelatory and controversial interview with former President Donald Trump.
“From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history. This is Meet the Press with Kristen Welker.” These words introduced Welker on Sunday as she signed on as the 13th moderator of Meet the Press.
Welker has enjoyed a long career with NBC, interning for the Today show in 1997 while an undergraduate at Harvard and later joining the network as a reporter in 2005. After working for local affiliate stations in her hometown, Philadelphia, and then in Burbank, California, she became a White House reporter in 2011, covering the Obama and Trump administrations. In 2019, Welker co-moderated one of the Democratic presidential debates alongside several other women journalists and moderated the final 2020 presidential debate between Trump and Joe Biden. She also became co-host of the weekend Today show in 2020. Now, she takes over Meet the Press, which began in 1947 under the moderation of co-founder Martha Rountree. Welker is the first woman to host the program since Rountree left the show in 1953 and the first non-white host in history.
The interview with Trump sparked controversy before it aired. Several critics of the former president have objected to major news networks continuing to give him a platform to spread lies and misinformation, including the “Big Lie” that he won the 2020 election. However, Welker’s interview pressed Trump and made him admit several aspects of the many criminal charges against him. When asking Trump about the efforts by him and his team to misrepresent and challenge the results of the 2020 election, Welker asked Trump, “Were you calling the shots then, Mr. President, ultimately?” Trump proclaimed, “It was my decision” to adopt the story that the election was “rigged” even as he chose to ignore many of his advisors and attorneys telling him he lost.
WATCH: Kristen Welker asks former President Trump to clarify if he was listening to his lawyers’ advice or his own instincts after he lost the 2020 election.
Trump: “It was my decision.” pic.twitter.com/ib4D5rKfqN
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) September 17, 2023
This admission seemingly undermines a potential defense for Trump, contradicting that he was acting on poor legal advice. Welker also got Trump to come close to admitting he lost the election, as he noted the closeness of the 2020 race and the additional votes he needed in crucial swing states to win the electoral votes.
Welker has a history of handling Trump and other important news assignments. In March 2020, Welker asked Trump during a presidential press conference if he took responsibility for the poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the then-president to infamously say, “I don’t take responsibility at all.” Later that year, before the presidential debate, Welker endured public and online harassment from Trump and his Republican allies. When she moderated that 2020 presidential debate between Biden and Trump, Welker was praised for being fair and tough on both candidates and particularly for not tolerating Trump’s nonsense, in contrast to other moderators who seemed to lose control of the events to Trump.
As Welker takes over Meet the Press during a bitter election season with deep political divides throughout the country, she will take on many formidable political figures and issues. Given her track record and first outing at Meet the Press, NBC’s political coverage seems to be in her skillful hands.