RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Bans Staff from MSNBC After Race-Baiting Tweet

As NewsBusters readers are aware, yesterday, MSNBC sent out an offensive tweet which claimed that conservatives hate interracial families. The network eventually retracted its tweet and some staffers with the left-wing cable channel apologized for it but that wasn't good enough for Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus who has banned all of his staff members from appearing on MSNBC until the network's president, Phil Griffin, apologizes directly for the defamatory statement.

The tweet referenced an ongoing television ad campaign for Cheerios which portrayed a mixed-race family. "Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family," the network said on its official account.

After experiencing a massive backlash, MSNBC deleted the offensive tweet. Richard Wolffe, the digital editor for the cable channel's website apologized for it, saying that it was "dumb, offensive" and "not who we are at msnbc."

That wasn't enough for Priebus, though, who has told all RNC staff members they are not permitted to appear on or to book party surrogates on MSNBC until Griffin apologizes for his staff. Priebus also urged people not directly affiliated with the Republican central committee to refrain from responding to booking requests either.

Here is the full text of the statement:

While we understand MSNBC will go to great lengths to discredit Republicans and conservatives, this kind of attack on the millions of Americans who identify with the political right is offensive and unacceptable. Unfortunately, this tweet is just the latest in a pattern of poor statements by MSNBC and its hosts.
 
This morning I left a message with MSNBC President Phil Griffin to express my displeasure. I have sent him a letter demanding that he personally, as president of the network, take responsibility and apologize for the disgusting tweet. Until he takes internal corrective action and personally apologizes—not just to the RNC but to all right-of-center Americans—I’m banning all RNC staff from appearing on, associating with, or booking any RNC surrogates on MSNBC.
 
As an elected official, strategist, or surrogate, I’m asking for you to agree to the same.
 
We can have our political disagreements with MSNBC, but using biracial families to launch petty and ridiculous political attacks is low, even by MSNBC’s standards. It only coarsens our political discourse.
 
MSNBC hosts—including Alec Baldwin, Martin Bashir, Melissa Harris-Perry, Alex Wagner, and Ronan Farrow just to name a few—have had a troubling streak in the last several weeks of making comments that belittle and demean Americans without furthering any thoughtful dialogue. Perhaps it's time for the executives at MSNBC to consider whether their network is upholding a meaningful journalistic mission.
 
This is more than just a tweet or an offhand comment. This is part of a pattern of behavior that has gotten markedly worse, and until Phil Griffin personally apologizes and takes corrective action, we cannot be part of this network's toxic programming.
 
I am confident that he will want to "lean forward" and prove to the American people that he does not condone this behavior. I look forward to his apology and corrective action.

As Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple notes, this latest incident fits within a pattern of behavior at MSNBC, making Wolffe's statement that the race-baiting tweet does not reflect his employer's true values ring hollow:

The tweet in question isn’t clever, helpful or fair. It’s a divisive piece of taunting nastiness driven by a worldview that MSNBC personalities have surfaced with great regularity in recent memory, always followed by excellent apologies. After then-MSNBC host Martin Bashir suggested that Sarah Palin be subjected to an excrement-related punishment visited upon slaves, he said, “My words were wholly unacceptable,” among other very contrite things. After short-lived MSNBC host Alec Baldwin allegedly shouted down a paparazzo with homophobic language, he said, “I did not intend to hurt or offend anyone with my choice of words, but clearly I have — and for that I am deeply sorry.” After host Melissa Harris-Perry presided over a segment that mocked Mitt Romney’s family over a photo featuring his adopted African-American grandson, the host said, among other things, “So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family. Adults who enter into public life implicitly consent to having less privacy. But their families, and especially their children, should not be treated callously or thoughtlessly.”

And now this Cheerios thing. The string of offenses raises doubts about Wolffe’s claim that the tweet from last night doesn’t reflect “who we are at msnbc.” Rather, the tweet appears to a careful observer to define precisely what MSNBC is becoming: A place that offends and apologizes with equal vigor.

The Erik Wemple Blog supports media organizations that muster strong apologies. Too often, mistakes are followed by stonewalling and a failure to repent. Apologies can be an important measure of accountability. Yet this string of meae culpae suggests that the apology may be morphing into an enabling device for the network’s tendentious and divisive attitudes. Sometimes a bad tweet represents the errant and unrepresentative thoughts of some employee managing the social-media accounts. And sometimes it represents institutional morays and prejudices.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013