It was not a sentence I expected to hear from the 6-foot-5, seemingly gentile giant who was towering over me. “Hey, I’m a nice Jewish boy from the Valley,” David Gregory revealed as we chatted at NBC Studios in Burbank.
The year was 1995, and I was senior producer of a network program that had begun featuring reports from Gregory, then a 24-year-old local TV reporter. He explained that his father was Jewish, his mother was not, and that he’d been raised in a Reform congregation and had become a bar mitzvah.
I filed that information away in my head, and then watched as Gregory made a meteoric rise in the ranks of broadcast journalism. By the time we celebrated his 30th birthday together in 2000, he was guest-hosting the show on which I worked. That same year, he married Beth Wilkinson, who’d been one of the prosecutors in the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City bombing trial, which Gregory had covered. Wilkinson is a churchgoing Methodist and did not convert, but she agreed to raise their children Jewish.
After covering George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, Gregory was named White House correspondent for NBC News, a position he held until late 2008, when he became moderator of “Meet the Press.” It was the pinnacle of success for the hard-driving, ambitious Gregory. By August 2014, however, after years of sliding ratings, bad press and behind-the-scenes contention, Gregory and NBC parted ways.