An interview with journalist David Gregory

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David Gregory
David Gregory listens to questions
David Gregory signs books
Watkins and Gregory with the crowd

An interview with journalist David Gregory at the OKC National Memorial

By Peter Preksto

The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum and the Greater Oklahoma City Jewish Federation hosted a conversation between Kari Watkins, Executive Director, and journalist David Gregory during his appearance here on Dec. 2.

In September, Gregory published How’s Your Faith: An Unlikely Spiritual Journey. The title question was one asked of him several times by President George W. Bush, who knew that Gregory had been studying Jewish theology for several years with Erica Brown, author of Happier Endings.

Gregory is married to Beth Wilkinson, who prosecuted Timothy McVeigh. The daughter of a pacifist mother and a father who commanded a nuclear submarine, Wilkinson is herself a Methodist, and she struggled with the decision to argue for the death penalty in McVeigh’s federal murder trial. Her forceful concluding remarks swayed the jury to act on behalf of the community, viewing McVeigh not as a man of courage, as his defense argued, but as a coward who killed and injured innocents.

Gregory covered the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and the McVeigh trial, and he and Wilkinson eventually married and had three children.

Gregory, raised in Hollywood, is a member of a well-known Jewish entertainment family. His father, Don, for whom he is in mourning, was a movie producer. The family’s synagogue was located in the Director’s Guild building on Sunset Boulevard. Surrounded by Oscars on display at the Guild, Gregory had believed that they were mystical Jewish symbols. Although the family was fairly secular, he has always felt that culturally he is a Jew.

His clumsy termination from “Meet the Press” was a humbling blow to this successful member of the journalism elite, and his exit was handled badly by NBC. Since then, Gregory has worked and prayed to comprehend what it means to him to be a Jew, and how, as he put it last night, he could “quiet the noise of religion with spirituality.” The couple agreed to raise their children as Jews, a decision that he deeply respects and a sacrifice of hers that he sometimes feels as a burden. Shabbat is a core of their family life, and family and friends gather each Friday, creating new rituals to augment the old.

It’s a complex family life, with Wilkinson’s stellar and full career as a litigator and partner at Paul|Weiss, his career, their three kids, travel and writing. Gregory said that he likes a bumper sticker he saw recently, “I don’t know, and you don’t either,” and he appeals for less certainty in our beliefs—not substituting a wobbly faith, just an avoidance of an attitude of “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Focus on your personal humility and spiritual journey, he said, and that of your family, then you may find you don’t have time to try to run the lives of others.

Gregory starts each day with the Prayers Upon Awakening and in the afternoon, Minchah, a pause in the day to talk to God. He prays especially for humility, the antidote for arrogance. And he strives to balance spirituality and religion in his life and in his family.

Video excerpts from the conversation can be found on the Memorial web site at

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