Once again MSNBC president Phil Griffin is claiming that his cable outlet is not liberal on purpose. (I know what you're saying, if you believe that he has a bridge to sell you) In an interview with a TV reviewer for the Kansas City Star, Griffin once again made the claim that the extreme leftward tilt that MSNBC has taken over the last few years was a complete accident and that they aren't "tied to ideology" like Fox News is. Griffin also attacked Fox News saying that, "you can't trust a word they say."
It all started when Aaron Barnhart of the Star asked Griffin for his reaction to statements made by Fox News executive John Moody who said that MSNBC only gained their current market share because of the "messianic ranting" of its anchors, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. This set Griffin off at the outset of the interview.
"Look," said Griffin. "I totally respect Fox News and what they did. But it's totally cynical. For them to say that is outrageous. They saw an opportunity years ago to create an ideological channel. And they did. I give them total credit. I tip my hat to them. They scored. But it was ideological and opportunistic. It was a business plan.
Ah, but you see, MSNBC is different. Their ideological tilt was purely an accident... so it doesn't count.
"We didn't do that. We go out and hire the best people that we can and give them freedom. Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann were arguing in point-of-view programs against the war when the war was popular. This wasn't a business decision. .... We're not tied to ideology the way they are. We're still NBC News, best newsgathering organization in the world, we have a couple of point-of-view people, but we have a variety of opinions you don't see elsewhere.
Griffin's spin is an Olympics worthy back flip as any look at their programing reveals. But, his main point is a meaningless distinction in the long run. Fox News may have set out from the beginning to fill the rightward niche market, it is true. It is also true that MSNBC didn't start up with the direct intentions to be the extreme left version of Fox News... after all, there was no Fox News at the time. MSNBC beat Fox News to air by four months or so. Certainly it wasn't MSNBC's initial "business plan" to become the Pravda of cable news. But, the end result is still the same. They did become that.
That they didn't start out with that business plan is meaningless in the final analysis. The truth is that they have, indeed, turned to that business plan to save their perennially third placed cable outlet's bacon in the ratings game. They have similarly found their niche -- and a considerably smaller one if ratings are any indication -- just as Fox News has. That they didn't launch their cable channel in 1996 for that particular reason is not very relevant to the facts as they now stand.
And, this new turn to the far left really did see MSNBC tap into a market niche. They are the darlings of the nutrooters and have cashed in rather handsomely as a result. But for Griffin to then say, "we're not tied to ideology the way they are," referring to Fox News, is an absurdity. Of course MSNBC is wholly tied to the leftist line ideologically. If they abandoned it now they would lose all their newfound ratings and most likely disappear from the TV altogether.
Still, Griffin is sticking to his story no matter how unbelievable it is.
"What they are trying to do is play a game here," Griffin continued. "THEY made the business decision to create an ideological network. We didn't. They were the ones that got in bed with the Bush Administration, so that most of the time, where did the Bush Administration officials come out and make their points? Fox News. We didn't. You brought it up, but it's a great story because you can't trust a word they say.
... and a nice homage to his viewer's Bush Derangement Syndrome, too. Nice touch Philly.
But this wide-eyed shock from Griffin that people think MSNBC is an ideologically driven organization is not new. He has been peddling this same faux shock for a while, now.
Back in November of 2007, Griffin was selling the same line to The New York Times when he told them that the obvious drift left wasn't a conscious plan. "There isn't a dogma we're putting through," he told the Times, "there is a ‘Go for it.'"
But, doesn't it become "dogma" the second you decide that your policy will be "go for it"?
Anyway, despite what he keeps claiming, the reality of the programming speaks louder than Phil Griffin's protestations.