Bozell Column: MSNBC's Sharpton Sinkhole
A few nights back, Mark Levin made a powerful point on his radio show: Fox News boss Roger Ailes is a well-known and infamous name in media circles, like some sort of cable-news Voldemort or Darth Vader. Meanwhile, MSNBC boss – quick, can you name him? – Phil Griffin is unknown and not the least bit controversial even after hiring, as Mark unforgettably put it, a “conga line of morons.”
NBC News used to be the channel for sober, boring Huntley-Brinkley journalism. Liberal, to be sure. But serious. It wasn’t always objective, but it had a reputation for professionalism. Think Tim Russert. But in today’s era, Brian Williams going on saucer-eyed burger runs with President Obama is a refreshing improvement over MSNBC’s lineup, chock-full of vicious, uncivil, shamelessly partisan left-wing hacks.
Griffin is the man who should be held responsible for this. This man fired Pat Buchanan because he didn’t think his latest book “should be a part of the national dialogue, much less the dialogue on MSNBC.” Buchanan worried in print about a possible “end of white America.” But Griffin hired and now promotes the race-huckstering activist Reverend Al Sharpton.
By giving Sharpton a platform and showing Buchanan the door, Griffin is engaging in mind-boggling hypocrisy – hypocrisy unbecoming of a “news” network executive, unless he works for MSNBC.
Before Buchanan was thrown out, the blog Inside Cable News – no conservative hot spot – decried “The Sharpton Sized Elephant in MSNBC’s Buchanan Room.” The blogger saw danger around the corner: “MSNBC is all but inviting the same litmus test to be applied to Sharpton. And Sharpton would fail that test just as Buchanan apparently has.”
Before his hiring, Sharpton was infamous for perpetuating a hateful racist hoax in 1987 starring a teenaged Tawana Brawley, who smeared dung and wrote racial epithets on herself, and then falsely accused a pack of white men of repeatedly raping and sodomizing her. In 1991 and again in 1995, Sharpton was ranting at the center of racial protests -- filled with blacks shrieking anti-Semitic insults -- that wrapped up with funerals. But this didn’t stop Sharpton from running for president in 2004, with placid calm in the liberal media seas.
Since Obama was elected, Sharpton lost a bunch of weight, then underwent a different sort of makeover – a PR scrub by the national media, honored as “reinvented” in a fawning Newsweek cover story and boosted by Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” as “now, a trusted White House adviser who’s become the President’s go-to black leader.” Does anyone believe the “trusted White House adviser” thing had nothing to do with these gooey stories...or Sharpton’s new job last summer at MSNBC?
David Duke underwent a face lift. He still had to answer for David Duke.
Sharpton not only anchors a TV show, but with MSNBC’s permission he moonlights as an activist as well, leading his marches and crusades. A few days ago, NBC’s “Today” brought on Sharpton to condemn Rush Limbaugh for being “offensive and misogynist,” with co-host Amy Robach wondering: "Is this something the Republican Party needs to deal with right now?" Like a good company servant, Robach had nothing to say about whether Sharpton is a judge of anyone else’s moral integrity or political appeal.
While MSNBC unloads both barrels on Rush Limbaugh for “vicious attacks” and lobbies for his show’s complete implosion, they continue to employ Sharpton and Ed Schultz, who advocated on air for ripping Dick Cheney’s heart out of his chest and calls Joe Lieberman’s wife a “whore.” The idea that MSNBC can lecture anyone else for being an uncivil cesspool is beyond ridiculous. It’s just sick.
But then, MSNBC is very talented at denial. Rachel Maddow also entered beyond-laughable territory when she granted an interview to Slate at the end of 2011 and claimed “there may be liberals on TV at MSNBC, but the network is not operating with a political objective.”
There is no party line to toe at MSNBC, she insisted, just a herd of independent minds. Maddow continued, with a straight face: “Whereas Fox is operating with a political objective to elect Republican candidates, and particularly, to elect Republican candidates Roger Ailes likes. I think Roger Ailes is a really good TV executive, but their operation is essentially a political operation to elect Republicans.”
NBC and MSNBC are now owned by Comcast – thanks to a merger approved by the Obama Justice Department. Comcast was aided by the activism of one Al Sharpton, so perhaps his program was part of the deal. Comcast executives and employees have also shoveled millions of dollars to Obama’s re-election campaign. The definition “essentially a political operation to elect Democrats” has never been more accurate.