Although he sort of admitted it earlier, MSNBC President Phil Griffin seems to have problems stating the obvious: that his network has made a conscious decision to feature primarily leftwing hosts (Joe Scarborough being the sole exception in the lineup). Griffin makes yet another stab, in an interview with Rory O'Connor of the Huffington post, at explaining why MSNBC went hard left and the resulting explanation is so painfully tortuous as to be comical:
"The answer is complicated...but simple at same time," Griffin responds. "The network has evolved a lot in the past few years. We went from doing a little bit of everything to doing lots of politics under Keith from 2003-05. We first began to get traction after the Iraq war started, after 'Mission Accomplished.' Then, more and more, politics led the way. When we did well with it in the 2006 elections, we made a decision to become 'the place for politics,' as the late Tim Russert dubbed us - and all of a sudden began to take off a little."
Griffin says that both Olbermann and fellow MSNBC stalwart Chris Mathews "both had a strong point of view about the war -- but our strategy then was simply to hire smart people, allow them to have a point of view, and to be authentic. At the same time, we moved even further toward politics and away from trying to be 'all things to all people.'"
Which is a long-winded way of saying they are trying to be leftwing for liberal viewers even though he tries to make it sound almost accidental. And when O'Connor asks Griffin if he is positioning MSNBC to be the liberal alternative to Fox, yet more evasiveness kicks in:
"Well, Rachel did so well as a guest analyst -- and was so smart, like Keith -- that we asked her to fill in when he went on vacation," Griffin recalls. "And she held his numbers, which is something that other talent we had on-air at the time, like Dan Abrams, didn't do. So that made the decision to give Rachel her own show after the conventions really easy ... September 8, 2008, was her first day, and almost immediately it was obvious to us that Keith's audience loved Rachel ... so we had flow. But it was more organic than a conscious strategy to go left," Griffin concludes. "A vision of smart progressives just began to emerge ...
Oh yes, it sort of just happened by accident to go far left, not a conscious decision. And organic too! Sounds very healthy.
Griffin then admits that despite having no "political line," they do have a "progressive (liberal) flow."
Taking a swipe at Fox, he points out, "We have no daily talking points; we also have [the more conservative-oriented] 'Morning Joe' program -- so it's clear we have no political 'line,' if you will -- but sure, we now have a progressive flow."
Almost as funny as Griffin's tortured explanations about the obvious liberal bias of MSNBC is his boasting about the poor MSNBC ratings:
"How do you measure if we're succeeding?" Griffin asks rhetorically. "Well, ratings are a good start! We're beating CNN; and we're also doing great with the high end demographic groups, such as young people aged 18-34."
Woo! Hoo! We're beating CNN which is in the ratings toilet! Yeah, some success there, Phil. O'Connor then points out a painful truth about the relative standings of the cable news networks:
Still, the Fox News Channel recently ranked fourth overall in primetime cable ratings, averaging 1.89 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Fox News, which had regularly been placing second behind USA, has now ranked in the top five cable networks for 20 straight weeks, and its cable news competitors still trail by a wide margin -- MSNBC placed 24th in primetime with an average of 747,000 total viewers, while CNN placed 28th with an average of 651,000 total viewers Facing such figures, even Griffin acknowledges that FNC still looms as the 800 pound gorilla in the cable news and opinion space.
Perhaps Griffin should come right out and admit the obvious rather than come up with his laughable explanations about why MSNBC purposely steers hard left despite lousy ratings. It would be refreshing to hear Phil say something like this:
MSNBC is purposely sticking with our policy of leaning hard left despite our really terrible ratings. No matter how much our audience declines we will continue to be completely in the tank for Obama and the Democrats while maintaining our policy of hostility and contempt towards conservatives. Rest assured that our news and shows will continue to remain heavily biased to the left.
So say it, Phil! SAY IT! Don't be ashamed to let your inner liberal out. We already know it's there.