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Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

NBC's Chuck Todd claimed in an interview with Rolling Stone that "the right" has "an incentive structure" to spread misinformation, specifically with respect to the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

The big picture: Todd's popular show "Meet the Press" has consistently led its Sunday competitors in total viewers in 2019. Todd has had a number of combative interviews with Republicans and members of the Trump administration, and will host a special edition of MTP on Dec. 29 centered on the weaponization of disinformation.

  • In January 2017, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway famously used the phrase "alternative facts" on MTP while defending a false statement by then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer, just two days into the administration.
  • In August 2018, Rudy Giuliani said on MTP that "truth isn't truth" while debating whether President Trump should testify in the Mueller investigation.

More recently, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) became the third Republican senator to promote the Ukrainian interference theory on MTP, creating a viral moment when Todd accused him of helping spread Russian disinformation.

  • "I started to think, he wants the confrontation. He wants to use this for some sort of appeasement of the right," Todd told Rolling Stone, adding that he had not expected Cruz — who has traditionally been hawkish on Russia — to repeat the conspiracy theory.
  • "People that are the loudest chanters of fake news and accusatory of us are the ones who, under a lie detector, would probably take our word over any word they’ve heard from the other side on whether something was poisonous or not," Todd said.

The bottom line: Todd claimed that he was "naive" when he believed that the Trump administration wouldn't willfully mislead the public, and that the Ukraine story has helped "crystallize" the reality of the situation. "Donald Trump’s entire life has been spent using misinformation," Todd told Rolling Stone. "His entire life."

Go deeper:

Editor’s note: NBC is an investor in Axios and Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, is a member of the Axios board. MSNBC & Axios engage in a weekday sponsored television appearance at 5:55am ET.

Go deeper

20 mins ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.

37 mins ago - World

Emiratis ask Blinken to label Houthis terrorist designation

Secretary of State Tony Blinken (left) listens to United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint news conference at the State Department iin October. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed asked Secretary of State Tony Blinken in a phone call Monday to re-designate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization, a senior Emirati official told Axios.

Why it matters: Less than a month after he assumed office, President Biden rolled back the Trump administration’s decision to make the designation. He said it hampered humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. Since then, the Houthis have escalated their attacks against Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region — including an attack Monday on Abu Dhabi.

Updated 52 mins ago - Economy & Business

World Bank: Gap between rich and poor countries is widening

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For the last two decades, incomes in poorer countries were catching up to rich countries. The pandemic economy of the 2020s may reverse the trend, the World Bank warns in a new report.

Why it matters: Falling inequality between countries has been one of the most positive trends of the 21st century. If it reverses, it implies more human suffering and geopolitical instability.