Not only did NBC debate moderators give California Sen. Kamala Harris
extra time during its June debate, it turns out twelve executives from
NBC Universal and parent company Comcast gave her campaign cash too.
NBC was ready to crown Harris the victor after its two-night,
Democratic debates June 26 and 27. In various programming the network
heaped praise on the "breakout star," calling her "brave" and
But NBC's moderators broke their own debate rules by giving Harris more
time than she was supposed to get, some of which she used to attack
former Vice President Joe Biden and accuse him. The resulting exchange
caused MSNBC host Chris Matthews to wonder if Biden could survive
Harris' "amazing night in history."
Now, recently released Federal Election Commission data revealed Harris
had another kind of help from NBC.
At least 12 NBCUniversal/Comcast executives donated to the Harris
campaign in the months leading up to the debate. The FEC data included
March and April 2019 donations, raising concerns about potential
conflicts of interest.
Five news-related executives were of particular concern including three
executives who provide oversight to NBC News and two others who are in
charge of Comcast's political advertising sales.
Those five were Vice Chairman of NBC Universal Ronald Meyer, Chairman
of NBCU Film and Entertainment Jeff Shell, President of NBC Universal
International Television Distribution and Universal Networks
International Belinda Menendez, Comcast Spotlight Senior Vice President
and Marketing Executive Maria Weaver and Vice President of Enterprise
Sales and Global Commercial Development Katie Back of FreeWheel, A
The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics clearly states
that journalists should "Avoid conflicts of interest, real or
perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts."
It also states that journalists should refuse credibility-harming
"special treatment" and should "Avoid political and other outside
activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage
NBC Universal had not responded to Media Research Center's request for
comment as of July 23, 2019.
NBC Moderators Help Harris By Extending Her Time, Breaking Their Own
NBC's rules for the debate were that "candidates will have 60 seconds
to answer questions and 30 seconds to respond to follow-ups. And there
will be no opening statements, though candidates will have a chance to
deliver closing remarks."
In reality, there were multiple instances where moderators Chuck Todd
and Rachel Maddow broke those rules.
Maddow allowed Harris to give a speech on race neither in response to a
question nor as a follow-up in violation of debate rules. The speech
lasted approximately 1 minute and 45 seconds. She spent the majority of
the time attacking Biden.
The speech occurred when Harris interrupted a question posed to
opponent and author Marianne Williamson saying, "As the only black
person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race."
Journalism group The Poynter Institute, a prominent journalism think
tank, noted that the "magic moment" of Harris and Biden's exchange on
race was the moderators' fault. In it, Harris attacked Biden over his
Senate record working with segregationist congressional leaders.
Politico estimated that the entire exchange between Harris and Biden
lasted a whopping 5 minutes.
The moderators "ignored the rules on time and simply let this hold-
your-breath conversation play out for three minutes," Poynter wrote. It
disputed Maddow's claim that "it had nothing to do with us," and was
unexpected, saying it was exactly the kind of showdown NBC News
chairman Andy Lack was watching for.
Although Poynter called attention to the facts of the matter, it joined
the liberal media in gushing over the incident itself and called it a
"shining moment for NBC."
The Washington Post reported on June 28, "Moderators backed off,
letting the moment unfold, and the network provided the one absolutely
necessary element: a split screen."
Following the debate, NBC's Today dedicated an entire segment to Harris
"stealing the spotlight."
Time breakdowns from multiple news outlets showed Harris may have
received preferential speaking-treatment during the NBC debate.
Left-wing Vox reported June 27, that "Every person was expected to get
an estimated 12 minutes each. According to analyses by The Washington
Post, it didn't exactly wind up being that equitable." In terms of time
spoken, Biden ranked first with 13.6 minutes of speaking time, and
Harris second with 11.9 minutes. (Image: Chairman of NBCU Film and
Entertainment Jeff Shell)
The New York Times came up with a slightly different time calculations,
but still concluded Biden and Harris had the most speaking time of all
the debate participants.
FEC Shows Comcast, NBCUniversal Decision Makers Gave to Harris 2020
Data released in July from the Federal Election Commission revealed
that at least 12 executives from NBC Universal or its parent company,
Comcast Corporation, donated to the Harris campaign between January and
early June 2019.
Those executives were Universal Pictures' Donna Langley, Dwight Caines
and Jennifer Tartikoff, Comcast's Maria Weaver, FreeWheel's Katie Back,
NBC Entertainment's Jennifer Salke (she left NBC for Amazon Studios
sometime after making a February donation), NBCUniversal's Ronald
Meyer, Jeff Shell, Belinda Menendez, Brian Segna and Shamika Pryce, and
Universal Studios' Karen Irwin. (Image: NBCU Vice Chairman Ronald
Of particular concern were the three executives who provide oversight
to NBC News and two others who are in charge of Comcast's political
advertising sales: Meyer, Shell, Menendez, Weaver and Back. Meyer and
Shell each gave the maximum allowed individual contribution: $2,800 to
Harris' campaign. Menendez, Weaver and Back had contributed $500 each.
Ronald Meyer is Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal, a role he's had since
2013. As vice chairman, he's in the upper echelon of NBC Universal
decision-making. The website said, "He provides strategic guidance and
counsel on all aspects of the company, including its valuable portfolio
of film and television assets, as well as the global theme park
Jeff Shell is Chairman of NBCU Film and Entertainment where "he
oversees the content creation, programming and distribution engines
behind NBCUniversal's film and network television businesses including
NBC Entertainment, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group (UFEG),
Telemundo and NBCUniversal International." It's worth noting that
Telemundo co-hosted the June 27, Democratic debate.
Belinda Menendez is President of NBC Universal International
Television Distribution & Universal Networks International. She
oversees "distribution and channels for NBCUniversal International's
television business," which spreads NBC Universal's network content
across the globe.
Maria Weaver is Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing for
Comcast Spotlight, the advertising sales division of Comcast
Corporation. Part of the division's portfolio includes advertisement
for political content for NBC Universal subsidiaries (including NBC
Katie Back is Vice President of Enterprise Sales and Global Commercial
Development at FreeWheel, A Comcast Company. Tech Crunch reported that
FreeWheel is one of the largest ad platforms for TV networks and others
that stream video. Back secures new business, renewals and "oversees
the Commercial Development team at FreeWheel."
Watching Democrats come up with schemes to "catch Trump" is like
watching Wile E. Coyote trying to catch Road Runner.