The PJ Tatler

Chelsea Clinton's NBC Grooming Project Isn't Going Well

BuzzFeed captures some of the grumbling and backlash that’s leaking out of NBC’s America’s Next Top Politician “TV Dork Diva”* show.

To get the TV gig, Chelsea’s team played off rival networks, holding a series of meetings in New York last fall with all the major television news outlets, including ABC, CBS, and CNN. “Her agent calls, asks if you want to meet with Chelsea Clinton, you take the meeting,” one network executive tells BuzzFeed.

But she didn’t blow anyone away with her presence during the interview process, according to network executives who interviewed her. “Horrible,” says another high ranking TV executive who met with Chelsea. “There were ground rules, what she could and couldn’t report, only good news, no politics, ” says the executive, who felt Chelsea would be a dud and passed.

That speaks well of the other networks. NBC, not so much.

There was a sense in the meetings that that the news channels were auditioning for her — not the other way around — which rubbed a few of those she met with the wrong way. “They acted like we should be grateful” that she was offering herself to the networks, says the exec.

Even high ranking company officials within NBC, according to sources at 30 Rock, weren’t that impressed with her. One senior staffer told colleagues after multiple meetings that Chelsea was going to be simply “terrible” on television. Upon her arrival, Chelsea was given a welcome bag, filled with NBC swag, 30 Rockers tell me. NBC’s David Gregory responded by jokingly asking: “Where’s my welcome bag?”

Gregory’s joke hints at the unprecedented level of special treatment Chelsea receives: she didn’t do live shots on her Rock Center debut; she gets chauffeured everywhere in a town car while others her age strap hang with the suckers in Gotham’s sewers; she has her own personal spokesperson; and she has her own chief-of-staff, Bari Lurie. (Lurie is to Chelsea what Huma Abedin is to Hillary: a fiercely loyal female aide and confidante, who logged over 7,000 miles with her during the 2008 campaign.) Other top talent at the network noticed that luxury: Lester Holt, Hoda Kotb, Natalie Morales, and Savannah Guthrie all share a single assistant. (An NBC spokesperson says, however, that Chelsea pays for her own chief of staff.)

How? Is the chief of staff money coming ultimately from her dad’s foundation donations, or from her mom’s government salary, or from the corporate board positions handed her solely because of who her parents are? BuzzFeed doesn’t get to the bottom of that question. It does ask another:

So why can’t we connect?

Almost everyone I spoke to for this story—from within NBC and at other networks as well—agree that that problem is that she won’t talk about the one thing that makes her undeniably compelling. How did it feel to be Chelsea Clinton during the Monica years? In the past, she’s responded angrily to that question. “It’s none of your business,” she told an audience after being questioned about it on the 2008 campaign trail.

She’s a Clinton, the same family that brought us the missing Rose Law Firm records and the bitten lipped, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Answering real questions is something only non-Clintons have to do.

But I doubt even answering those 90’s vintage questions will help the next gen Clinton connect. She seems to have gotten more of her DNA from icy mom than from Elvis dad.

NBC, meanwhile, knows what it bought in hiring Chelsea. It didn’t buy useful on-air talent, it bought access. And probably at a bargain price, all things considered.

*Chelsea Clinton is no “dork diva” as BuzzFeed puts it. That title belongs to MythBusters’ Kari Byron. Just so we’re all clear on that.