MSNBC flap on Palin just lat­est blow for sink­ing news net­work

The Washington Times Daily - - Television - BY DAVID BAUDER

NEW YORK Martin Bashir’s apol­ogy for graphic com­ments about Sarah Palin on MSNBC hasn’t ended ques­tions about whether the re­marks de­serve pun­ish­ment from his bosses, giv­ing un­wanted at­ten­tion to a cable net­work deal­ing with sink­ing rat­ings along with loose-lipped hosts.

Mrs. Palin, in a Fox in­ter­view on Sun­day, said MSNBC was guilty of “ex­ec­u­tive hypocrisy” by not pub­licly dis­ci­plin­ing Mr. Bashir for his “vile, evil com­ments.”

Four days af­ter Mr. Bashir apol­o­gized, MSNBC said it was “han­dling this mat­ter in­ter­nally” and wouldn’t com­ment fur­ther.

“It’s a sys­temic prob­lem,” said Jeff Co­hen, an Ithaca Col­lege jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sor and lib­eral com­men­ta­tor who was a pro­ducer for Phil Don­ahue’s prime-time MSNBC show a decade ago. “It’s a prob­lem at MSNBC. It’s a prob­lem in cable news. It’s a cer­tain coarse­ness where ev­ery­thing goes. I guess they can keep sanc­tion­ing and sus­pend­ing peo­ple, but there’s some­thing wrong when name-call­ing is con­sid­ered OK.”

Mr. Bashir’s com­ments about Mrs. Palin came on the same day MSNBC sus­pended ac­tor Alec Bald­win from his weekly show for two episodes for his part in an off-the-air episode.

Mr. Bald­win used an anti-gay slur in a con­fronta­tion with a pho­tog­ra­pher on a New York City street.

Mr. Bashir used his week­day af­ter­noon pro­gram on Nov. 15 to crit­i­cize Mrs. Palin for her re­marks com­par­ing U.S. in­debt­ed­ness to China to slav­ery.

Mr. Bashir cited the diaries of a for­mer plan­ta­tion over­seer who pun­ished slaves by hav­ing some­one defe­cate in their mouth or uri­nate on their face. He sug­gested the for­mer Alaska gov­er­nor de­served the same treat­ment.

The somber an­chor, a for­mer “Nightline” host, apol­o­gized on his next show three days later.

The Bald­win sus­pen­sion set up an im­me­di­ate con­trast for MSNBC’s crit­ics to latch on to: Why does an ep­i­thet used in a heated mo­ment in an off-air con­fronta­tion merit a sus­pen­sion, while a sick­en­ing com­ment made on the air, pre­sum­ably re­searched and writ­ten in ad­vance, not de­serve one?

Other MSNBC per­son­al­i­ties have been dis­ci­plined for re­marks that drew un­wanted at­ten­tion. The net­work fired Don Imus in 2007 for re­fer­ring to mem­bers of the Rut­gers women’s bas­ket­ball team as “nappy-headed hos.”

David Shus­ter was sus­pended for two weeks in 2008 for sug­gest­ing Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign had “pimped out” daugh­ter Chelsea by hav­ing her place phone calls to celebri­ties and con­ven­tion del­e­gates.

The net­work sus­pended and even­tu­ally dumped long­time com­men­ta­tor Pat Buchanan in 2012 for a book that some crit­ics called racist, anti-Semitic and ho­mo­pho­bic, charges that he de­nied.

MSNBC is dom­i­nated by left-lean­ing news pro­grams, a lib­eral al­ter­na­tive to Fox News Chan­nel, which ap­peals to Repub­li­cans.

MSNBC has had a rough year, with its week­night pro­gram­ming down 32 per­cent in view­er­ship from 2012, prob­a­bly due in part to less in­ter­est in pol­i­tics fol­low­ing an elec­tion year and Pres­i­dent Obama’s dwin­dling pop­u­lar­ity. (Fox and CNN are down 17 per­cent in the same Nielsen com­pany mea­sure­ment.)

Mrs. Palin, the 2008 Repub­li­can vi­cepres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee and Fox News an­a­lyst, said in an in­ter­view with “Fox News Sun­day” that MSNBC had con­doned Mr. Bashir’s com­ments.

“That’s hypocrisy,” she said. When a con­ser­va­tive woman is a tar­get on MSNBC “they usu­ally just kind of pooh-pooh it, laugh it off. It’s no big deal.”

MSNBC did, how­ever, take Ed Schultz off the air for a week in 2011 af­ter he re­ferred to con­ser­va­tive talk­show host Laura In­gra­ham as a “slut” dur­ing a com­men­tary on his ra­dio show.

Mr. Schultz apol­o­gized pub­licly to Ms. In­gra­ham be­fore serv­ing his sus­pen­sion.

The net­work did not ex­plain what made the Bashir in­ci­dent dif­fer­ent.

“Martin Bashir has taken re­spon­si­bil­ity pub­licly for his of­fen­sive com­men­tary and also per­son­ally apol­o­gized to the Palin fam­ily,” the net­work state­ment said. “Mr. Bashir of­fered a heart­felt apol­ogy on MSNBC ear­lier this week where he ad­mit­ted it was a per­sonal fail­ing to be­come part of the pol­i­tics of vit­riol and de­struc­tion. He has com­mit­ted to el­e­vat­ing the dis­course go­ing for­ward.”

Since the com­ment, Mrs. Palin has also can­celed a planned in­ter­view with Matt Lauer for NBC’s “To­day” show. NBC News, par­tic­u­larly un­der new Pres­i­dent Deb­o­rah Tur­ness, has sought to dis­tance it­self from MSNBC, but they share cor­po­rate own­ers and, in the case of Chuck Todd and An­drea Mitchell, per­son­al­i­ties who work for both.

Heated, of­ten of­fen­sive, com­men­tary is hardly lim­ited to the lib­eral MSNBC, with con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host Rush Lim­baugh trig­ger­ing an ad­ver­tiser boy­cott for call­ing a woman who ad­vo­cated for con­tra­cep­tion as a part of health insurance plans a “slut” and a “pros­ti­tute.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.