MSNBC’s choice to hire He­witt en­rages de­voted pro­gres­sive view­er­ship

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Pro­gres­sives ex­pect­ing a com­fort­ing anti-Trump pres­ence Satur­day morn­ing on MSNBC were spew­ing their corn flakes af­ter find­ing in­stead con­ser­va­tive Hugh He­witt in his de­but as host of a weekly show on the lib­eral net­work.

Mr. He­witt, an au­thor, ra­dio host and for­mer Rea­gan White House of­fi­cial, had an im­pres­sive “get” — CIA Direc­tor Mike Pom­peo in his first net­work in­ter­view since tak­ing the job. But the MSNBC faith­ful were still fu­ri­ous, ac­cus­ing their fa­vorite net­work of be­tray­ing them by hir­ing a “hy­per­par­ti­san” host and pro­vid­ing a weekly “pro­pa­ganda ve­hi­cle” for Pres­i­dent Trump.

“Dear MSNBC: When we said ‘Who’s MSNBC go­ing to give a show to next — Hugh He­witt?’ we were kid­ding,” tweeted Lau­ren Baratz Log­sted. “No one wants this. No one.”

Lib­eral Me­dia Mat­ters for Amer­ica de­nounced Mr. He­witt as “Sean Han­nity in glasses” and ticked off his trans­gres­sions, in­clud­ing vot­ing for Pres­i­dent Trump and urg­ing other con­ser­va­tives to do the same de­spite crit­i­ciz­ing the real-es­tate mogul dur­ing the cam­paign.

For pro­gres­sives, the hire came as more ev­i­dence of what they have de­scribed as MSNBC’s alarm­ing shift to the right. The move came on the heels of two high-pro­file pick­ups of Fox News per­son­al­i­ties by the NBC fam­ily of net­works.

In Jan­uary, MSNBC brought on ex-Fox host Greta Van Sus­teren for a night­time news and anal­y­sis show, “For the Record,” while NBC News nabbed for­mer Fox star Megyn Kelly.

Last month, MSNBC un­veiled “Dead­line: White House” hosted by Ni­colle Wal­lace, a GOP cam­paign vet­eran and for­mer White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions chief for Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

“MSNBC! Hugh He­witt! Are you kid­ding me?” said Mary Shel­ley on Face­book. “Megyn Kelly, Greta Van [Sus­teren], too. Ba­si­cally Fox News Lite. Dis­ap­point­ing to say the least.”

The pre­dictable out­rage may ex­plain why MSNBC sprung Mr. He­witt’s ar­rival on its view­ers at the last minute and with lit­tle fan­fare. Word of the show didn’t drib­ble out un­til Thurs­day, two days be­fore the pre­miere.

Blame for the re­cent hires has fallen on NBC News Chair­man Andy Lack, who has been ac­cused of be­ing a “Trump lover” and “Trump pup­pet.” Pro­gres­sives have called for a He­witt boy­cott and started a #FireAndyLack Twit­ter cam­paign.

“Andy Lack, chair­man of NBC News and MSNBC, has been on a very per­sonal cru­sade to turn both net­works into Fox News,” said David Badash in an ar­ti­cle on the New Civil Rights Move­ment blog shortly af­ter Mr. He­witt’s hir­ing was an­nounced.

Mr. Badash pointed out that MSNBC’s rat­ings have risen since the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump. For the first time, MSNBC led the big three ca­ble news net­works in to­tal view­ers in Nielsen rat­ings, beat­ing Fox and CNN for the week of May 15.

Credit for the jump has gone to MSNBC’s lib­eral stal­warts. Rank­ing first in their time slots were shows hosted by Rachel Mad­dow and Lawrence O’Don­nell, as re­ported by Va­ri­ety.

Mr. Lack may be try­ing to achieve greater po­lit­i­cal bal­ance in the face of the 2016 Repub­li­can sweep — MSNBC did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a re­quest for com­ment — but view­ers say there’s no rea­son to fix the net­work if it isn’t bro­ken.

Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” re­ceived an ear­ful on so­cial me­dia af­ter wel­com­ing Mr. He­witt aboard in a tweet Satur­day, as did MSNBC an­chor Craig Melvin.

“No way! Love you but @hugh­he­witt is too Con­ser­va­tive for MSNBC view­er­ship,” Sharon Ed­wards tweeted in a re­ply to Mr. Melvin. “Boy­cotting his show along with @greta @meg­ynkelly — no Fox, Jr.!!!”

This isn’t the first time pro­gres­sives have chal­lenged their flag­ship net­work. A graphic mak­ing the rounds on so­cial me­dia called “The FOX­i­fi­ca­tion of MSNBC” makes the case that MSNBC’s right­ward creep started long be­fore Mr. He­witt’s ar­rival.

The chart says that 12 hosts who were ei­ther lib­eral or “di­verse” have been re­moved, de­moted or have left on their own, while the net­work has added “con­ser­va­tives.”

Then again, one of those al­leged rightwingers is iden­ti­fied as MSNBC nightly news host Brian Wil­liams, who wouldn’t be de­scribed as a con­ser­va­tive by con­ser­va­tives them­selves or by any­one out­side the most left-wing of cir­cles.


Hugh He­witt

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