'Morning Joe' Actively Pushing Moderate Candidates?

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" has recently delivered some strange messages of bipartisanship and moderation to its viewers. These included lecturing would-be Koran-burner Florida pastor Terry Jones on loving one's neighbor before cutting him off without opportunity to answer, and showcasing a "Bipartisan Health Challenge" – a group of politicians and journalists walking three kilometers around the National Mall to promote fitness and bipartisanship.

The MSNBC morning show featured a slightly odd segment Monday – which Newsbusters' Mark Finkelstein first reported on – echoing New York City Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to support moderate political candidates and combat angry political messages from fringe candidates. The "Morning Joe" crew seemed to fully endorse Mayor Bloomberg's message,attacking "political extremists who are dominating the airwaves."

Of course, the extremists the brew crew has in mind are conservatives such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who compared putting a mosque near Ground Zero with a Nazi sign displayed near a Holocaust memorial.

"You know, according to the Times, Bloomberg's going to be helping candidates who aren't bound by rigid ideology, and that's the message we've been trying to emphasize here," co-host Joe Scarborough stated. So what kind of candidates is the show actively endorsing? Are they simply endorsing conservatives and liberals who are trying to work with each other, or are they endorsing more centrist and moderate candidates?

Among the candidates Mayor Bloomberg is extending a hand to are Sen. Harry Reid (D), former RINO senator and current independent Rhode Island Gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee, and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Wittman. These aren't exactly the specter of conservatism or liberalism, aside from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Later, Scarborough continued to make an active push for a certain type of candidate. "Now we're going to continue like we've done for three years – to encourage viewers and guests to resist the pull of those people on the far Right and the "Professional Left" who seek division."

To be fair, Scarborough has expressed his approval in the past for conservative stars Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, and he is a self-described old-style conservative. He may not have been advocating centrist candidates as much as conservatives and liberals who promise to reach across the aisle.

Even so, Scarborough and company's message seems fuzzy as to who and what exactly they're endorsing – and why they were taking time to endorse them in the first place.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on September 20 at 6:37 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Welcome back to "Morning Joe." New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg making news over the weekend with his extensive interview with the New York Times. The front page interview raises new speculation about his possible Presidential ambitions.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: You think he's going to run?

BRZEZINSKI: I'm thinking. In the interview, Bloomberg confirms he is trying to pull politics back to the middle by helping candidates across the country – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – fend off the Tea Party. The candidates include Meg Wittman, the Republican running for Governor of California, and Lincoln Chafee, a Republican-turned-Independent, running for Governor of Rhode Island. He also plans to host a fundraiser in Manhattan for Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader facing Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, who's being backed by Sarah Palin.

Now in the interview, the mayor says this, Joe. "Look, people are angry. ... Their anger is understandable. Washington isn't working. ... Anger, however, is not a government strategy .. .It's not a way to govern." And that, of course Joe, has been the theme of this show for three years.

SCARBOROUGH: I love that line, "Anger is not a government strategy." And the mayor's right. He really is. You know, according to the Times, Bloomberg's going to be helping candidates who aren't bound by rigid ideology, and that's the message we've been trying to emphasize here, and also in my book – I mean, we've been doing it every day on "Morning Joe." And what we try to do is encourage politicians and thought-leaders, and every American to follow the advice of an old British war poster that carried a very simple message: "Keep calm and carry on."

And, you know, that was a message, Mika, that FDR delivered to a battered nation in the depths of the Great Depression, when, you know, he declared to all Americans that all we have to fear is fear itself. It's also the message that Bobby Kennedy delivered to a shocked nation on the night that Martin Luther King was assassinated. And I really do believe that's the message Americans need to hear again today. Because today our nation is confronting a new war. And it's a war of words. We've forgotten how to talk to each other. You've got political extremists who are dominating the airwaves and dominating the national debate. And you know, what the White House calls the "Professional Left," as well as what we call the "Far Right," now profit from division and hate speech but makes our political system weaker. And yet, isn't it strange that Washington politicians seem to obsess on those angry voices on the "Professional Left" and the "Far Right," instead of seeking out voices of people like you, rational Americans who show respect to their neighbors, who raise their families, who go to work, and who play by the rules. It's time for you, you quiet Americans, to respond, and not with angry words or hateful commentaries, or setting your hair on fire, calling a Republican President a "fascist" or a Democratic President a "fascist." But rather, to respond with reasonable voices in a rational debate.

Now we're going to continue like we've done for three years – to encourage viewers and guests to resist the pull of those people on the far Right and the "Professional Left" who seek division – we're going to say resist that, and instead let's keep focusing on the task at hand, ensuring that America's greatest days lie ahead.

BRZEZINSKI: And what we do here, and what we'll continue to do is we'll call out those who preach hate, and we'll continue to celebrate civility and promote open debate for all voices. Voices on all sides are welcome. And as Joe and I try to show you every day – I think we do a pretty good job, except when you interrupt me –

SCARBOROUGH: Except when you hit me –

BRZEZINSKI: Well, there's that – that you can disagree without being disagreeable.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, and Mika, the mayor is right. Now more than ever Americans need to work together, they need to keep calm, and they need to carry on. I like the mayor's message. Anger is not a governing message, and it's not a governing message when Republicans are in power, it's not a governing message when Democrats are in power. We need to keep it together.

(...)

7:03 a.m. EDT

JOE SCARBOROUGH: (On Newt Gingrich) I've said it before, Mika, I'll say it again. He's selling books. And unfortunately, as we said last hour – whether it's the "Professional Left," or in this case the "Professional Right," people make extreme statements that may drive up ratings, may sell books, but they hurt America. They hurt America, they coarsen the debate, and hopefully we can move beyond that.

(...)

7:45 a.m. EDT

SCARBOROUGH: We've been talking for some time on this show – if you've seen it, you know – we constantly are calling out extreme voices on the Right, and extreme voices on the Left, and one of the reasons is because it makes people's jobs so much harder in the Senate.
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014