TV news veteran Katie Couric says she's not sure if the question about reading material she famously asked Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential election would have the same impact in 2019 due to what she said was a "concerning" rise in anti-intellectualism.
Palin's fumbling nonanswer when Couric asked her about what newspapers and magazines she read that had shaped her worldview — "All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years" — was met with mockery, but also raised serious questions about her suitability for the number two spot on Sen. John McCain's ticket.
In an interview that aired Wednesday on AM to DM, BuzzFeed News' Twitter morning show, Couric said the question, which Palin later claimed was "gotcha journalism," hadn't been preplanned and came up spontaneously as they shot b-roll.
"I'm sort of interested in how people get set in their ideological ways, what really establishes their worldview, and what have they consumed that made them have these positions," Couric revealed. "Since she's very conservative, was she going to say William F. Buckley? Was she going to say she was really influenced by the Bible? I don't know what she was going to say.
"And I think the fact that she was so annoyed with me and/or that she couldn't name anything, I think was very telling about her lack of intellectual curiosity. I think that's what struck a lot of people," she said. "So I thought it was a very revealing exchange, and perhaps that's why it got so much traction."
But Couric said that she's not sure the controversy would have the same effect in the current political environment.
"I've thought about that and have wondered, actually — that was in 2008 — if now in 2019 if someone didn't know the answer to that question, or didn't know the answer to a lot of other questions, if it would matter," she said.
"I think there's such a reverse snobbery about intellectuals that I think it would almost be seen as a badge of honor. I think that's really concerning."
Couric appeared on AM to DM to promote 3M's State of Science Index, an independent survey, which found that skepticism toward science has increased 6 percentage points in the US and 3 percentage points globally.
The former Today show host attributed this to an increase in anti-intellectualism and populism around the world.
"There's kind of reverse snobbery, weirdly, about scientists, academics, elitists — whatever you want to call them," she said. "So, I think it's permeating our perceptions of what science is and what it can do for the world."
Couric said the news media needs to spend more time covering the complexities of climate change. "I think the political conversation is sucking all the oxygen out," she said.
"I don't think there's as much screaming as there is opinion," she said of cable news, "and I feel like sometime everyone gets caught up with the tweet of the day or the mudslinging that's going on between a dead John McCain, or Meghan McCain, and the president, and it takes time away from the policy discussions."
But Couric said the cable networks follow this model because it rates well. "You can blame the media," she said, "but you also have to blame news consumers for gravitating to that kind of journalism."