Eventually, though, it became clear that the video could not be viewed as such, and now Todd has apologized.
The men featured in the video were inmates in New York's Sing Sing prison and were all jailed in connection with deadly gun violence. The producer responsible for it asked the men to talk to their 12-year-old selves about gun violence. All of the men in the video appear to be black. Their often emotional testimony is, at points, accompanied by images of the men recorded behind prison bars, close-ups on the inmate's faces and their tear-filled eyes. One inmate's comments appear to have been enhanced by a synthetic echo.
Here's the video (via Raw Story) of Todd's introduction and that echo so that you can evaluate the segment yourself.
And, here's a link to the full-length video piece.
The portion of the video aired on "Meet The Press" amounted to an at-points-detailed recounting of the moment that each of the inmates took someone's life -- and the horrible toll that their actions have wrought. The week's expert panel, including New York Times columnist David Brooks and Eugene Robinson, a columnist at the Washington Post, followed the video with a discussion about gun control and the the inner struggles of young men. But Robinson also described the portion of the video aired on "Meet The Press" in terms that led to a brief but awkward exchange with Todd.
"I thought that was a very powerful piece...," Robinson said. "One small thing I would mention ... is it wasn't a terribly diverse set of people who were talking. ...We should point out that this is not just an African-American problem."
"No, no, no, no, no," Todd said. "And it wasn't intended to be that way."
Many on Twitter did not agree.
With so many long-running stereotypes regarding black men, danger and violence, the video and the decision to air it Sunday -- four days after a young, white gun man entered an African American church and shot dead nine black people -- it is not hard to understand what some saw as the problem or problems with the segment.
Todd later posted a statement on the show's Web site describing the behind-the-scenes deliberation about the portion of the video aired on "Meet The Press." Todd said the staff decided that it was critical not to avoid the issue of gun violence and its toll this week.
He did not explain or address why each of the men featured in the portion of the video aired on "Meet the Press" were black or whether there had been any discussion of adding to or modifying the piece to reflect a more representative and accurate sample (see Table 5 if you click that link) of the people convicted of gun crimes in the United States. Todd did mention that "Meet The Press" is doing its job well if different people are, at times, troubled by its content.
The criticism of the video aired on "Meet the Press" seems, at least in some ways, similar to a controversy ignited last year by a video of a white woman facing a virtual gauntlet of cat-calls, greetings and assertive come-ons as she navigated New York City's streets.
The street harassment video -- which featured a single white woman, numerous men of color and one white man -- aimed to call attention to the issue of verbal street harassment. The group behind the video said it had been viewed more than 15 million times within three days of its posting online.
But critics quickly denounced the video for reinforcing persistent and dangerous stereotypes about men of color, white women and sexual predation. When reporters uncovered the fact that the video's producer had edited the footage of the woman navigating the city in such a way that it removed all but one of the comments lobbed at the woman by white men, the organization behind the video apologized.
From its statement:
...We regret the unintended racial bias in the editing of the video that over represents men of color. ... We are committed to showing the complete picture. It is our hope and intention that this video will be the start of a series to demonstrate that the type of harassment we’re concerned about is directed toward women of all races and ethnicities and conducted by an equally diverse population of men.
But while the cat-call video garnered a fair number of online critiques, write-ups and commentary, the "Meet the Press" segment also led to public criticism from prominent journalists of color.
By early afternoon Monday, Todd offered a blanket apology saying, "We've heard you. We clearly got it wrong, and we are sorry."