WashPost Blogger Diagnoses 'MSNBCitis,' The Tendency to Ask Why Horrible Conservatives Do Such Odious Things

On Tuesday, Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple wrote a long analysis of daytime programs on MSNBC, where he underlined the Pew Research Center’s finding that the Lean Forward network offers much more opinion than hard news. To be precise, a study of three days in late 2012 (after the election), MSNBC offered 85 percent commentary, 15 percent news.

Then he identified traits such as “MSNBCitis, defined as the propensity to ask a liberal why those horrible conservatives do the odious things that they do.” Wemple cited an Alex Wagner interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:

Are you surprised by the recent onslaught of legislation specifically targeting women coming from your Republican colleagues in Washington? (No)...What is it, do you think, that keeps them on this anti-woman crusade or that wants to rewind the clock so many years?”  [Emphasis his]

...These shouldn’t be partisan issues. And every man in Congress has or had a mother that had to in some way deal with these issues. Do you ever say to Speaker Boehner, ‘Listen, you had a mom, you come from a big Catholic family in Ohio. You understand the importance of family planning.’ Do you ever engage with them as sort of humans and…” (No)

Wemple insisted Wagner wasn’t as “hardened a perpetrator of MSNBCitis as was former colleague Martin Bashir,” and he cited a “Bashir classic”: "Why do people like [House Speaker John] Boehner and others like Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) … Why do they continue to act as if the American public is actually behind them when the polls generally show the exact opposite?"

As Wemple watched through daytime programming on Friday, December 13, he enjoyed the hard-news segments when he found them, then wondered why MSNBC is do dominated by "volunteer lefty blather."

Choose your explanation as to why MSNBC doesn’t seed more of its coverage with such reporting and scale back the volunteer lefty blather:

1) Volunteer lefty blather is cheap;

2) Volunteer lefty blather appeals to the base;

3) Volunteer lefty blather is cheap and appeals to the base;

4) Serious reporters don’t engage in cheap and indulgent lefty blather;

5) Serious reporters deliver too little differentiation with arch-competitor CNN.


Wemple was tough on "The Cycle," insisting pseudo-conservative Abby Huntsman, daughter of pseudo-conservative GOP presidential contender Jon Huntsman, wasn't a strong-willed conservative:

Where Fox News ganged up four conservatives against a single, strong-willed liberal (Bob Beckel), MSNBC initially teamed up three liberals against a single, strong-willed conservative (S.E. Cupp).

After Cupp left for CNN’s “Crossfire,” MSNBC called in Abby Huntsman, then of the Huffington Post, to replace Cupp as the panel’s most pivotal member. She isn’t there yet, which leaves the show’s liberal majority without an unruly threat from the right. Maybe that’s just the way MSNBC wants things. “She’s growing into that role,” says Griffin of Huntsman. “I think she does a great job."

He also discussed Bashir’s 4 pm hour being the new spot for “Now w/Alex Wagner.” He said “The move should ensure that the network’s programming will march more and more leftward as the day matures. Here’s how Griffin puts the situation: ‘As the afternoon progress, there’s a little more analysis.’ Sure, if you call what Big Ed Schultz says ‘analysis.’”

Griffin added, “MSNBC does have a sensibility all day long, but there’s no question that prime time has a lot more analysis.”

Griffin also directly dissed Fox News: “I think the one thing you can say is that at MSNBC we’re honest to our viewers, we correct mistakes, we don’t put out slogans that are meaningless — ‘We report, you decide’ — and we’re not going to say if we want a candidate to win, that candidate is going to win,” he said.

Wemple was responding to readers who wanted him to match his analysis of Fox News in March, where he found a lot of hard news in the daytime hours, but also a “beatdown on Obamacare," with Fox “making a program to provide medical help for citizens sound like enlisting for an unpopular war.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis