MSNBC President Dismisses Anchors' Gaffes, Says They Haven't 'Hurt Us in Any Way'
Phil Griffin, head of the MSNBC cable television channel, told Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter that he accepts responsibility for recent embarrassments that led Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir to leave the network and Melissa Harris-Perry to offer a tearful on-air apology.
"These were judgment calls made by some of our people. We handled them. We were transparent. That is our philosophy: Be factual, and step up when you make a mistake,” Griffin asserted. “We took responsibility for them and took action. They were unfortunate,” but “I don't think it hurt us in any way.”
While known as a hands-off manager, Griffin stated that “we don't rely on one person to look at all scripts -- there are too many" before adding that he meets with the producers every day.
“Of course, I've talked to everybody in the building about it -- and we move on,” he continued. “I'm not going to allow these specific moments of lack of judgment to define us."
The first "specific moment" for Griffin's network was caused by Alec Baldwin, who hosted the Friday night program Up Late for just five weeks before being caught on camera calling a photographer who was following him and his family “a c**k-sucking fag."
A mere eight days later, weekday afternoon host Martin Bashir resigned in disgrace after suggesting that someone should defecate in the mouth of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and urinate in the prominent Republican's eyes after a discussion about similar punishments that were meted out to slaves about 150 years ago.
Then on December 28, Harris-Perry and a panel of comedians ridiculed former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for being in a picture with his adopted black grandson.
On the following Saturday, the weekend host said that the previous episode was supposed to be “a year-in-review program” which she called “our look back in laughter.” She tearfully added:
But in one of the segments, we looked at a number of photos that caught our attention over the course of the year. In that segment, I asked my guests to provide kind of off-the-cuff ideas for captions of the photos that we were seeing. Among the images we aired was one of the Romney family that showed governor Mitt Romney's grandchildren, including his adopted grandson, who's African-American.
Now given my own family history, I identify with that picture and I intended to say positive and celebratory things about it, but whatever the intent was, the reality is that the segment proceeded in a way that was offensive. And showing the photo in that context, that segment, was poor judgment. So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family.
“The transgressions of MSNBC's liberal-leaning hosts have been of particular interest to an aggressive contingent on the right, though Bashir's Palin commentary prompted bipartisan outrage,” Guthrie stated in her article. “And multiple MSNBC staffers expressed amazement” at the “stupidity” of Bashir and his producers.
“But the cutthroat cable-news competition lately has spilled into public squabbling,” the author stated.
Griffin also said that Fox News Channel chief Roger Ailes' quote from him saying that MSNBC is “not the place for breaking news” was taken out of context.
“I did not say that,” he asserted. “It was in reference to CNN, that their brand is known for breaking news. And my reference was not that we don't do [breaking news], but we're not known for it in the way that CNN is.
“I stand by our coverage of any major news story,” Griffin said while stating that the tone of the debate "has gotten very nasty. At some point it just becomes background noise, and I just ignore it."
Actually, the MSNBC president got some unexpected good news for the week ending Jan. 12. During that period, Rachel Maddow's program beat Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly at 9 p.m. in the important demographic covering 25- to 54-year-old viewers.
Due in part to New Jersey governor Chris Christie's bridge controversy, MSNBC was also the highest-ranked news channel in prime time on Jan. 9 and 10, while Chris Matthews' 7 p.m. show tied FNC's Greta van Susteren in the important demographic, and Lawrence O'Donnell topped Sean Hannity on Jan. 8 and 9.
That week's ratings represent incremental gains on the historic dominance of Fox News, Guthrie noted, and as NewsBusters previously reported, NBC was the only network to cover the bridge scandal on its Wednesday evening news, while CBS and ABC did not deem it newsworthy.
If that trend of diminishing interest in the bridge controversy continues, perhaps only the obviously left-wing MSNBC and CNN channels will fail to follow Tom Brokaw's advice: “You got to move on, guys.”