NBC News anchor Lester Holt said Thursday that his reports from inside North Korea over the weekend gave him a glimpse of life under the totalitarian regime, however orchestrated.
“I absolutely think the trip was worth it,” he told the Associated Press. “We talk about this place, we hear the bellicose language from its leader and we hear the reaction from our country. It’s important to get on the ground. You go to a place like North Korea with your eyes wide open.”
Mr. Holt said it was interesting to hear the voice of the people.
“Even though you know you’re not sure that you’re hearing their true voice, it’s certainly the voice of the country,” he said.
Mr. Holt and his camera crew learned while going through customs in North Korea that their request to visit the DMZ had been denied, and that they would instead be visiting the Masikryong Ski Resort, where athletes from North Korea and South Korea will train for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The camera crew were ordered to delete video they had taken on the road, the AP reported.
“As a reporter, you always want more,” Mr. Holt told the AP. “We want to be able to control where we go, who we can talk to, and we weren’t able to. That’s frustrating, but it wasn’t like we didn’t know that going in.”
Mr. Holt, who returned to the U.S. on Tuesday, said he worked under the assumption that everything he did and said would be monitored.
“I don’t want to say we censor ourselves, but you have to be mindful of the fact that you’re continuing the trip there,” he said. “You’re considerably more free when you’re out of there in how you frame certain things.”
The “Nightly News” anchor came under fire this week after he said during his broadcast at the ski resort on Monday that he and his crew had been “treated with respect” by North Korean officials.
He was accused by several prominent conservatives of peddling regime propaganda.
The Masikryong Ski Resort, built by North Korean soldiers and civilians in just 10 months, is a pet project by dictator Kim Jong-un to create the illusion of wealth and prestige in the impoverished nation.
NBC News reported last January that men, women and children — some as young as 11 and 12 — are tasked with shoveling snow at the luxury resort where trucks and snowplows are virtually nonexistent.