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“We have never misled people,” Schieffer said.

NBC News may be feeling the pressure of two of its signature news programs losing their dominant status. After an impregnable 17-year run on top of the ratings, “Today” has suddenly slipped behind ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Meet the Press” had an unchallenged run at the top before the death of host Tim Russert in 2008. Brian Williams of “Nightly News” is the network’s last unquestioned leader in its time slot.

Sunday morning dominance is worth more than bragging rights. Advertisers pay more to be on the top show, and newsmakers want to go where they can be seen by the most people.

With the return of George Stephanopoulos, ABC has also become more competitive. In fact, the ABC show beat both of its rivals on Sept. 2, with its largest lead over CBS in two years. Viewers switch around to shows that have the best guests, making for a volatile ratings race, Schieffer said.

“So much of it depends on who you have,” he said. “It used to not be. In the days of Tim Russert, Tim could bring along a test pattern and show it and he would win the week. But those days are long gone, and people have to adjust to it.”