Jon Meacham speaks about contributions to Biden’s acceptance speech with U.S. Elections class on Nov. 10

MSNBC changes Meacham’s role from paid contributor to guest, per The New York Times.


Wilson Hall, photographed Oct. 25, 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/ Elle Choi)

Riya Chinni and Madeline King

Vanderbilt professor Jon Meacham addressed his contributions to some of President-elect Joe Biden’s recent speeches and the controversy surrounding a post-speech media appearance on MSNBC during a lecture for the U.S. Elections class on Nov. 10.

Meacham has written drafts and offered edits on several of Biden’s significant addresses, including the Aug. 20 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), according to The New York Times

The New York Times also reported that Meacham played a role in crafting Biden’s Saturday, Nov. 7, victory address in Wilmington, Delaware. 

“I was part of conversations and contributed to the process that led to a couple big speeches, and to that speech on Saturday night,” Meacham said during the online lecture. “I was not in any way the sole author. There was this mis-reporting over the last 24 hours about how I wrote this speech, which is not true.”

Several media outlets, including The New York Times, Fox News and The Hill, reported this story on Nov. 9, the day before Meacham’s address to the U.S. Elections class. 

Meacham did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment.

During the Nov. 10 lecture, Meacham also spoke to the U.S. Elections class about his role and objectivity as a historian.

“I believe this is an important election, and I’ve done everything I can to respect the confidentiality within all the usual rules,” Meacham said. “You know, I’m not an objective journalist. I’m a historian with a point of view.”

Meacham is a presidential historian and has written biographies for notable politicians on both sides of the aisle, including George H.W. Bush and John Lewis. In a speech at the DNC this August, Meacham endorsed Biden, his first ever presidential endorsement. Meacham is also a regular guest on MSNBC. 

On Nov. 7, Meacham appeared on MSNBC with anchor Brian Williams and commented on Biden’s acceptance speech without disclosing that he had been a part of the writing process. 

“I’m not the historian that you are, and I don’t have the Pulitzer that you do, but do you concur that is the way we are used to hearing from our presidents?” Williams asked Meacham after Biden’s speech. 

“Absolutely,” Meacham answered. 

Following his appearance, MSNBC changed Meacham’s role from paid contributor to guest, per The New York Times. Meacham has since appeared on MSNBC on multiple occasions.

MSNBC has also changed the roles of other paid contributors, including health expert Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, legal analyst Barbara McQuade and political analyst Richard Stengel, to unpaid guests following their appointments to the Biden administration, with disclosure of their political involvement. 

The Hustler sent emails to the Biden campaign and MSNBC on Nov. 15. Neither have responded to requests for comment as of publication.