Loose Lips Give Ammunition to MSNBC Foes
Since MSNBC is in the political ring, its opponents are always on the lookout for things to attack. Lately, NBC’s left-leaning cable news sister has offered plenty of ammunition.
MSNBC fired a staff member last week for an offensive tweet after top Republicans began talking about refusing to appear on the network. It was fourth in a string of apologies by people who’ve gone too far with their words, leading to questions about whether the incidents reveal a systemic problem.
’’It’s one thing to make (mistakes) a few times in a row. That’s bad luck,’’ said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute. ’’But if you keep doing it after you’ve acknowledged it, that suggests a blind spot.’’
The provocative or profane can be a fine line, particularly when appealing to an opinionated fan base that cheers a hard hit on a rival.
MSNBC President Phil Griffin moved quickly to contain any damage following the latest incident, where a message on the network’s Twitter feed suggested the right wing would hate a Cheerios ad featuring a biracial couple. ’’With increasing frequency many of your hosts have personally denigrated and demeaned Americans - especially conservative and Republican Americans - without ever attempting to further meaningful political dialogue,’’ GOP National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wrote to him.
Griffin apologized to Priebus, who backed off his threat not to appear on MSNBC programs and to encourage other Republicans to do the same.
The other incidences differed in degrees and targets. In November, Alec Baldwin apologized and subsequently quit for something that wasn’t even on MSNBC’s air: He was accused of using an anti-gay slur in a New York City street confrontation. But for the language involved, the timing may have been opportune; Baldwin’s weekly program was a ratings dud.
Shortly after, afternoon host Martin Bashir apologized for an on-air suggestion that someone should defecate in former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s mouth. After a week of not addressing the incident publicly, MSNBC accepted Bashir’s resignation.
Melissa Harris-Perry apologized after Mitt Romney’s family Christmas card, which showed the Republican’s adopted, African-American grandson, was joked about on her show. She said she meant to praise the family’s inclusion, but the message went awry with her panelists’ sarcasm.
’’MSNBC got the wrong message from its Keith Olbermann experience,’’ Paul Levinson, communications professor at Fordham University, said of the anchor whose intense anti-GOP commentaries set MSNBC on its new path before his relationship with management soured. ’’You had somebody who was very charismatic and galvanizing and they thought it was OK basically to let anybody say whatever they want.’’