MSNBC Turns Over 14 Minutes of Imus Time Slot to Jackson and Sharpton

On the Thursday edition of what would be MSNBC’s "Imus in the Morning" simulcast, NBC reporter David Gregory spent almost 15 minutes of air time discussing the radio host's firing with the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Gregory, who quarreled with Sharpton on the April 10 "Hardball" over his role in the Tawana Brawley false rape charges, did not broach the subject again. He did, however, challenge Jackson over his use of the slur "Hymie Town":

David Gregory: "You referred to New York as ‘Hymie Town’ in the past. You, you apologized for that and you expected and indeed retained your platform in America as a civil rights leader and as an important voice in this country. Why, again, if I may, should Imus be denied that same opportunity for redemption and to retain a platform that potentially could be used for good?"

Jackson: "You– You- You stretch it when you take a statement made in private that you neither saw nor heard, to someone sitting on TV 1000, TV and radio 1,040 hours a year. Don't make that comparison. A 24-year-ago discussion, in private, for which I profusely apologized cannot be a comparison You’re stretching to make your point."

Gregory: "But just explain why you think that is a stretch."

An irritated Jackson responded with a long answer that emphasized how the comment was made 24 years ago. The civil rights activist quickly shifted the subject back to Imus and the blame onto NBC anchors for appearing on the show. He added:

Jackson: "It’s not just Imus making a statement but when people like you appear on the show and Tim Russert and, and, and McCain and Harold Ford, you give, you’ve given credence to the show."

At that point, a chastened Gregory seemed to concede the point. He noted, "Reverend, it is a fair point and I take your point about my appearances on Imus and those of my colleagues as something that I and others have to think about as well." Anyone remember a time when the combative White House correspondent conceded a point to Press Secretary Tony Snow?

Earlier in the segment, which aired at 7:04am on April 12, Jackson tussled with Gregory over the amount of African Americans that NBC employs. The reverend asserted that on weekdays, from 3pm until midnight, NBC, nor any of its cable subsidiaries have a single black host. Gregory attempted to rebut the charge, but apparently could think of only a single name:

Gregory: "I’m sorry, Reverend Jackson, I just have to interrupt you here. I’m sorry, be very precise in what you are saying."

Jackson: "All right."

Gregory: "You are saying from, what, 3:00 to 12, because we do have African Americans who work at this company who are on MSNBC and NBC and I don’t want to detract from your point because you are entitled to make it, but I think you need to be accurate."

Jackson: "All right. Name- Name- Name- Name- Name me a host of an MSNBC show."

Gregory: "We’ve gone through this before. We did this a few days ago on the air. Alison Stewart is an African American host on MSNBC."

Jackson: "So, does she host, does she host between 3:00 and 12?

Gregory: "Well, that's why what I'm trying to, for you to be precise about. You are talking about from three in the afternoon to 12? Is that what you’re saying?"

Jackson: "The time when MSNBC shows come on, when the Wolf Blitzers come on, when the, uh, the Chris Matthews come on, I'm saying there is too much cultural isolation in the media. It should be more diverse and that's my basic appeal. We meet with officials today. We gonna talk about the employment categories, talk about hosts, and producers and content and supply diversity, All these things matter. You look at the, the, the weekly shows, the, the ‘Face the Nation,’ the ‘Meet the Press’ shows."

As noted earlier, while Gregory did question Al Sharpton over the Tawana Brawley case during a previous appearance, during Sharpton’s April 12 appearance, Gregory asked Sharpton innocuous questions such as "Why do you think NBC made the decision?" And he certainly didn’t make the point that, according to the Drudge Report, Don Imus asserted on his radio show on the same day: When will Al Sharpton apologize to the members of the Duke lacrosse team?

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