MSNBC's Roberts Interviews Colleague Sharpton About What He's Doing As Activist to Get Voter ID Law Overturned

Generally when a broadcast journalist interviews an activist about a hot-button political issue, it's customary and in accord with sound journalistic practice to interview someone from the other side of the issue for balance. Except, of course, if you work for MSNBC, which has essentially become DNC-TV.

On the August 17 MSNBC Live program, news anchor Thomas Roberts interviewed his fellow MSNBC colleague Al Sharpton, who openly and shamelessly continues to work as an activist on issues that his program reports on. Roberts failed to ask tough questions of Sharpton, nor did he bring on a defender of voter ID laws. What's more, although Sharpton is portraying the voter ID issue as one with strong racial dimensions, Roberts failed to note a recent poll that shows nearly 2/3rds of non-white voters support photo ID requirements to vote.

"Your organization, the National Action Network, is getting involved in this. What are you going to do to try to get this [Pennsylvania voter ID] law, or attempt to get this law, overturned?" Roberts began his interview with the Politics Nation host.

After Sharpton updated Roberts on what NAN is doing in the Pennsylvania case, Roberts then brought up the Obama administration's lawsuits in Ohio and Florida regarding early voting changes in those states. The anchor then asked if we are "essentially seeing a presidential election that could be decided by the courts once again?"

Sharpton jumped at this opportunity to charge that it was Republicans who were attempting to "change the voting rights of people in order to get an edge in swing states" and that some courts were standing up against that, like a federal judge in Florida whose ruling essentially will give voters in five counties four extra days of early voting over voters in other counties in the state.

Although that Florida federal judge's ruling fundamentally creates unequal protection of the law, Roberts failed to press Sharpton about whether the outcome was fair, even though Sharpton supports an Obama/Holder lawsuit against Ohio which is being waged on a 14th Amendment equal protection claim.

Reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A federal judge heard arguments Wednesday in the Obama campaign's lawsuit seeking to open up in-person absentee voting during the weekend before the presidential election.

The three days before Election Day should be open to all because they are open for members of the military, said Bob Bauer, an attorney for the Obama campaign.

Bauer said the campaign is not arguing that military members should be excluded like everyone else. But the unequal access to the ballot is a violation of the constitution's equal protection clause, he said.

"The only dispute is who cannot vote," Bauer told U.S. District Court Judge Peter Economus. "This is not who is being kept in. It's about who is being kept out."

"I think it is frightening that here we are 47 years after the Voting Rights Act, and here we are fighting this fight again," Sharpton charged.

While Roberts did note that many people around the country support voter ID laws, he ascribed that position to folks "not paying attention to this," the implication being that were voters better informed, they'd naturally share Sharpton's position.

At not point did Roberts cite a new Washington Post poll showing that two-thirds of African-American voters are okay with photo ID requirements. True, the same poll showed that:

African Americans are the most likely to see voter suppression as a major problem and the most likely to see support for the laws as an effort to boost one party over the other. Nearly six in 10 African Americans sense that support for the laws stems from partisan politics.

All the same, despite all those reservations, when asked the question "In your view, should voters in the United States be required to show official, government-issued photo identification -- such as a driver’s license -- when they cast ballots on Election Day, or shouldn't they have to do this?" 65 percent of African-American respondents said they should be required, with 47 percent saying they believe that "strongly."

Other core Democratic target constituencies which allegedly would be harmed by voter ID laws like Hispanics (64% support, 41% strongly), women (73% support, 55% strongly), and the elderly (76% support, 63% strongly) support it, with the latter group among the strongest supporting demographic. Folks who earn $50,000 or less per year (74% support, 56% strongly), the working and middle classes, are fine with voter ID. And on the whole, sixty percent of Democrats feel a photo ID should be required with 42 percent believing so "strongly."

Voter ID is just "a solution looking for a problem," Sharpton and Roberts would have their TV audience believe.

Perhaps voter fraud is not as incredibly widespread as it could be, but that's no argument for instituting policies that will only help to prevent voter fraud and thereby ensure that every legitimate vote cast truly counts.

It's a shame, however, that MSNBC doesn't want to give its viewers that perspective on the issue, rather than shamelessly pushing a partisan agenda.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters