Kristen Welker. Photo provided by NNPA Newswire

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Chuck Todd hosted his final episode of “Meet the Press” on NBC, handing the reigns over to White House Correspondent Kristen Welker, who will make history as the first Black person to host the iconic program.

Todd announced earlier this year that he would leave the show he has hosted since 2014. He mentioned feeling concerned about this moment in history but reassured by the standards they have set for the show. On his final show, which aired on Sunday, Sept. 10, Todd thanked his viewers and team and offered a glimpse of what the show would look like with Welker as host.

“The last nine years as moderator of the longest-running show on television have been the honor of my professional life, and as I prepare to pass the baton to the next custodian, it is a privilege to pass it to someone who needs no introduction,” Todd remarked. Welker wasted little time letting viewers know she was up to the task.

“I am ready, Chuck, and I just want to say I am also so thankful and grateful to you for this moment for entrusting me with this monumental, important role,” said Welker, who earlier during her final White House briefing was feted with congratulations by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“I take this responsibility so seriously. I’m ready because you have helped me get ready, Chuck. You are someone who invests in the people that you care about, and you have invested in me, and I am so eternally grateful for that,” Welker said.

The 47-year-old Philadelphia native has served as a White House correspondent for NBC since 2011 and moderated one of the presidential debates in 2020. This week, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell marked the historic passing of the baton with an op-ed, writing, “On Sept. 17, another milestone will be passed for women journalists. Kristen Welker is set to become the 13th moderator of ‘Meet the Press,’ the longest-running show on American television.”

Mitchell noted that for the first time, every Sunday public affairs program will be moderated or co-moderated by a woman as Welker joins Dana Bash, Shannon Bream, Margaret Brennan, Jen Psaki, and Martha Raddatz at the helms for their respective networks. As the 13th moderator in the 75-year history of “Meet the Press,” Welker will be the first Black person in the role. But not, as Mitchell noted, intriguingly, the first woman. That honor belongs to the broadcast’s founding host, Martha Roundtree, who launched the program in 1947.

Welker, who has held the title of the network’s chief White House correspondent during three presidencies, has a well-earned reputation for being collegial and inclusive. “I can attest to her eagerness to jump into action for others, even while under pressure herself,” Mitchell wrote. “A conversation with her usually begins with her asking, “How can I help you?” She is a rare combination: a pit bull when chasing a story and the kind of friend you know you will treasure forever.”

Welker received widespread praise for her remarkable composure and exceptional handling of the high pressure as the moderator of the final debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in 2020. Mitchell heaped more praise on Welker for her accomplishments and predicted more award-winning journalism from her colleague.

“Welker will now lead the most venerable program on television, inheriting the legacy of such predecessors as Tim Russert and Chuck Todd,” Mitchell noted. “There is still a long way to go in the march to equal representation, but Welker will be an example to follow. Not that long ago, “woman journalist” was almost an oxymoron, especially in broadcast news.”

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