MSNBC Suspends Donny Deutsch for Daring to Critique Olbermann, Did Nothing After Racially Tinged 'Coconut' Slur

MSNBC on Wednesday suspended host Donny Deutsch in the wake of a segment on Tuesday about what role hosts such as Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz play in making this country "America the angry." During the piece, Deutsch played a clip of an Olbermann rant and didn't defend Schultz when conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt attacked the "the biggest hate mongers in television." 

However, in February, when Deutsch dismissed Hispanic senatorial hopeful Marco Rubio as a "coconut," a term that the New York Times described as meaning "brown on the outside and white on the inside," MSNBC took no action.

Apparently, incurring the wrath of Keith Olbermann is quite dangerous. (TV Newser reported the role the liberal anchor played in the punishment.)

On Tuesday, after Hewitt made his first (of many) attacks on Olbermann and Schutlz, Deutsch neutrally replied, "I'm not taking the side of either one." (The segment was meant to discuss what effect the MSNBC anchors and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck have on the public discourse.)

Hewitt later said of the rancor in America: "MSNBC should start with Ed Schultz who's just kind of a joke." He stated of other liberals, "I spend my time talking to smart lefties. I just know Ed's not."

Finally, at the end of the piece, it seemed to occur to Deutsch that it might be a good idea for him to defend Schultz. (Interestingly, he did not stick up for Olbermann.) He snapped, "Hugh, you are the problem. A guy like Ed Schultz, you can disagree with him. This is a quality human being. And, you know, I don't know Glenn Beck. But, Ed Schultz is trying to do the right thing."

Deutsch ultimately apologized for referring to the Hispanic Rubio as a "coconut." However, the host certainly got in nowhere near the trouble that he did for daring to challenge MSNBC's liberal left-wing heavyweights.

A transcript of the April 20 segment, which aired at 3:23pm EDT, follows:

DONNY DEUTSCH: Now, back to our week long special series, "America the Angry." We've looked at anger at Wall Street, the anger that leads to domestic terror and even the anger at celebrities. But, what about the media? Any chance some of the anger Americans are feeling is a reflection of and what they're hearing on radio and seeing on TV? Of course it is. And on the internet. You be the judge.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Barack Obama is President of the United States today because of stupid, ignorant people who think like you do.

[Montage of people yelling at each other, including the famous O'Reilly/Geraldo fight.]

KEITH OLBERMANN: Embarrassed your district, embarrassed your state, embarrassed your party, embarrassed your nation. Shouted at the President like he was a referee at the ball game and you were a drunk in the stands. And you were wrong!

GLENN BECK: When the hell are you going to stand up, America?

DEUTSCH: Hugh Hewitt is a nationally syndicated radio host. Paul Farhi covers media for the Style section of the Washington Post and Karen Hunter is a journalist and publisher. Hey, Karen, let me say something crazy here. Let's take a last guy, Glenn Beck, who I pretty much disagree with everything he says. But, so what. He's an entertainer? Why don't we put the pin in everybody and stop worrying- Oh, of course there's anger at the media. Of course, some of these guys are crazy. So what? You know what, entertain. Say what you're going to say. Who cares?

KAREN HUNTER (Hunter College): Well, I think we need to stop referring to these people as journalists and as part of the media. They are entertainers. Even Glenn Beck said that about himself. That's all reality TV right there that you just showed. That was not media. And it was not journalism.

DEUTSCH: Hugh isn't there- and I I was kind of surprised when the president kind of fired back at Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck at different points in time. Hugh, you've got a big following there. You're a conservative guy. At the end of the day, don't we kind of elevate you guys too much by saying that you're anything other than just another person on the street spouting off just like there's a guy at the end of the bar and spouting stuff, you just kind of turn the other way. Am I crazy? Is it too easy for me?

HUGH HEWITT: It's too easy for you, Donny. There are, of course distinctions between people on any type of media, whether it's television or radio. I mean, physician heal yourself. When you guys get rid of Ed Schultz and Keith I'll start to think that they're actually serious here. Because, they are the biggest hate mongers in television.

DEUTSCH: I'm not taking the side of either one. I guess my point is where ever you come out on Ed and Keith, wherever you come out on Glenn and Bill O'Reilly, it's like so what. Just like I could line up 1,000 guys in the room and you can always have guys that are outrageous and over the top. But, why are we even allowing America to believe that these people are really kind of informing our brains? Maybe- Do I think people are brighter than they are?

HEWITT: It depends on what credibility they bring to the table. If you spend like I do three hours, interviewing Lawrence Wright, about the Looming Tower, I think I might know something about that book. And if you spout off about something you don't know much about, then I don't think you deserve much credibility. It depends on the source. You got to go source by source. MSNBC should start with Ed Schultz who's just kind of a joke.

DEUTSCH: Paul- By the way, that's a ridiculous thing to say. He's a joke. He's a guy. Let me finish. Let me finish Disagree with everything he says-

PAUL FARHI: But, Donny- People-

DEUTSCH: Let me finish. Say, you know what, I think he says it loud and too crazy- So what? That's the way wherever you come out on these things. And I'm clearly a guy who's a little farther to the left. My kind of, whole, new thing is, like, we've got to calm down a little bit. Paul, forget whether you're a Glenn Beck guy, whether you're an Ed Schultz Guy, whether you're an Keith Olbermann guy, whether you're a Bill O'Reilly guy, just say, "Let them all scream at the wind." So what?

PAUL FARHI: Yeah, but these guys have followings. And people don't make distinctions between who's a journalist, who's a blogger, who's a commentator, who's a host on TV. It's basically a guy on television yelling at them and telling them they should be angry. And, frankly, there are good reasons to be angry. They're not creating the anger. The anger is there. They are simply exploiting what already exists.

HUNTER: Donny, Lady Gaga has followers. That does not make a person, you know, credible enough to lead people. I think you've hit on something. At the end of the day people can't have common debate in this country, intelligent debate in this country without information. And we're no longer doing the job as journalists. There was a time when Walter Cronkite got on the air waves and you knew he was telling you something important. Today, I teach at Hunter College. People don't know where Iraq is on the map.

DEUTSCH: Yeah, but Hugh, my point is this. Once again, let's go on. Your hate of Ed Schultz, or he should be off the air, what if I said--

HEWITT: I didn't say he should be off the air, Donny. I don't hate him. I think he's a joke. I spend my time talking to people like E.J. Dionne. I spend my time talking to people like Jonathan Alter. I spend my time talking to smart lefties. I just know Ed's not.

DEUTSCH: I guess my point is who are you or anybody to judge where the intellectual high ground is. These are all entertainers in one form or another.

HEWITT: Well, fine. It's subjective.

DEUTSCH: That's my point.

HEWITT: You can look at any show and decide whether or not there's an objective seriousness there, whether someone brings intellectual heft and knowledge and information to the interviews to the table. It's not that hard to judge who's serious, Charlie Rose and who's not, Ed Schultz, and decide who deserves intellectual credibility, like I do, like Bill Bennett does, like Dennis Prager, like Michael Medved.

HUNTER: You're part of the problem. Because you're not- you're not opening up the discussion for people to have intelligent debate. You're just saying this guy's an idiot. This guy's a joke. This guy's stupid. But, why? You know, let's have some-

HEWITT: I have to disagree with you. Clearly you've never heard the show.

HUNTER: I have heard the show.

HEWITT: I think E.J. Dionne and Jonathan Alter and people like that who are friends of mine and good lefties come on and talk to me in a serious, sustained way over a long period of time. Ed Schultz doesn't do that. He doesn't have the ability to do that.

HUNTER: Who's doing that?

DEUTSCH: Hugh, I got to say something. Hugh, you are the problem. A guy like Ed Schultz, you can disagree with him. This is a quality human being. And, you know, I don't know Glenn Beck. But, Ed Schultz is trying to do the right thing. Why don't you say, you know what, I disagree with this guy. Why do you have to say he's a joke. I happen to know the man. Once again, disagree with everything he say. But, his heart is in the right place. Glenn Beck-

HEWITT: Objectively, he's just that not smart. He doesn't know very much. Objectively-

DEUTSCH: You know what? Says you. Who needs that kind of language? Sir, who needs that kind of language?

HEWITT: Objectively-

DEUTSCH: Glenn Beck, I disagree with everything he has to say. Say it. Knock yourself out. I don't need to say you're a moron. Hugh, enough with that stuff.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org