NBC News Hired Psychological Consultant To Talk To David Gregory's Family, Friends

A new report from The Washington Post on Monday featured David Gregory discussing the "Meet the Press" ratings slide, and hinted at the kind of pressure the embattled host is facing.

The Post revealed that in 2013, the network hired a psychological consultant to interview Gregory's wife and friends. "The idea, according to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, was 'to get perspective and insight from people who know him best,'" the Post's Paul Farhi reported. "But the research project struck some at NBC as odd, given that Gregory has been employed there for nearly 20 years."

The network pushed back against the report in a statement to The Huffington Post Monday. "Last year Meet the Press brought in a brand consultant—not, as reported, a psychological one—to better understand how its anchor connects," Pianta said. "This is certainly not unusual for any television program, especially one that’s driven so heavily by one person."

An NBC News spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost's Michael Calderone that the network commissioned the firm Elastic Strategy for the project. Meanwhile, Farhi told Poynter that he checked the characterization with the network over telephone before publishing.

It's no secret that the network is concerned about the "Meet the Press" ratings. The NBC News public affairs show once dominated Sunday mornings, but has slid to number three behind CBS News' "Face the Nation" and ABC News' "This Week." The network recently closed its third straight quarter in third place.

The show's struggle has generated speculation that Gregory's job is in trouble, but NBC News has repeatedly and strongly denied those rumors to The Huffington Post and others. "We're doubling down on David Gregory right now," NBC News Senior Vice President Alex Wallace told HuffPost's Michael Calderone in March.