A Sad Week For MSNBC

I love MSNBC. I try to catch a little bit of Chris Hayes or Rachel Maddow every day. These two shows, and other parts of the cable network (including The Cycle), do some of the best investigative journalism on television, and have some of the most interesting political analysis one can find. MSNBC’s content is, I believe, largely thoughtful, fair, and accurate. In the very few times I have heard Ms. Maddow say something that was untrue, she was on the air within 24 hours correcting her own mistake. There is real integrity there. When people try to tell me MSNBC is the left-wing equivalent of Fox News, I go slightly berserk (perhaps a topic for a future article). For these reasons, it is difficult for me to say the following: MSNBC is embarrassing itself in how it is covering the Chris Christie scandal.

Last week, Governor Christie’s office released a statement that read in part, “MSNBC is…almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him.” I think Governor Christie is being way too nice. Almost gleeful? Any observer of MSNBC knows there is no “almost” about it. Much of the MSNBC staff is openly and enthusiastically gleeful over Governor Christie’s current scandals.

Lawrence O’Donnell is the biggest offender. I want to first say that Mr. O’Donnell is a national treasure. His political analysis is reliably interesting and accurate; he is an accomplished writer (won an Emmy for his writing on The West Wing and wrote for the too-easily forgotten show, “Mr. Sterling”); and his humanitarian work is inspiring. With that said, his on-air antics in the past couple weeks leave a bad taste in my mouth. Each recent show is a celebration of Chris Christie’s demise. In researching this article, I was not able to unearth most of his shows, but was able to find a brief clip that demonstrates a sample of what I am talking about. The first eight seconds of this clip show an undeniably gleeful O’Donnell telling his viewers the great news of the New Jersey legislature starting to issue subpoenas and the fact that Christie had now lawyered up (although if you have watched much of the show recently, you will know this is pretty tame). In one recent episode, Mr. O’Donnell even went so far as creating and airing a political ad that Governor Christie’s political opponents could use against him. After Mr. O’Donnell aired the ad, he provided other sound bites of Governor Christie and advised his audience how they could make their own anti-Christie commercials.

While O’Donnell is the worst offender, he is not alone. Rachel Maddow took a little more care in not celebrating these terrible events and the implications on Governor Christie’s career, but she essentially spent an entire week of her show covering nothing other than Governor Christie.

Ed Schultz is Ed Schultz. What this means (as anyone who watches his show will know) is that his show is completely unchanged. Virtually every episode of The Ed Schultz Show is nothing more than Mr. Schultz telling you why various Republican leaders are liars, charlatans, and cheats. This past week he just happened to choose Governor Christie as the target of his unending scorn.

Putting aside for a minute that this type of wall-to-wall Christie coverage is not very interesting, it does a real disservice to MSNBC. Everyone knows MSNBC is run predominantly by liberals. That fact, however, does not mean the analysis and news can’t be done fairly and accurately. In fact, it typically is done fairly and accurately. But when we see MSNBC’s on-air staff behave gleefully over a state’s governor abusing his power and punishing the state’s citizens to settle political scores, we know something is rotten. It makes it that much easier for people to compare MSNBC to Fox News, and makes it harder for people like me to defend MSNBC. For crying out loud, there were points while watching MSNBC this past week where I actually felt sympathy for New Jersey’s Bully-In-Chief. If a news network makes me feel sorry for Governor Christie, you know it’s getting something terribly wrong.

– Dylan

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One Response to “A Sad Week For MSNBC”

  1. Lauren’s parents were out during the whole “Christie week.” I tune into all of the news networks, but mainly msnbc. I actually turned to Lauren and her in-laws and said,

    “This is really really bad. I can’t believe Rachel Maddow is actually smiling with that shit eating, gleeful grin. And the way she’s listing the scandals is in a school-girl gossip, ‘oh my god, guys! you’re not going to BELIEVE what he did next. You’re gonna love it! Oh man, I almost don’t even want to tell you but I will because it’s so HILARIOUS! Listen to this:”

    So yeah. I too noticed msnbc falling on its face.

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