Ouch! Huffington Post Slams Chris Hayes as 'Dead Raccoon' on MSNBC

MSNBC’s ratings are so bad that even The Huffington Post is slamming its decline. On their media page, Olivia Nuzzi wrote an article titled “MSNBC: ‘All In’ or ‘All Over’?”

“MSNBC has hit a ratings low in primetime not seen since the days that the network still carried a show hosted by raspy-voiced Fox News refugee Rita Cosby,” Nuzzi wrote. Especially disappointing were the 8pm ratings of "pleasant but exceedingly dry" Chris Hayes after they put Ed Schultz out to pasture on the weekends:

Chris Hayes' new 8 PM lynchpin show has lost a third of the audience Ed Schultz had a year ago -- and Schultz himself had been relegated to weekends due to low ratings.

Nuzzi turned to Noah Rothman of Mediaite to diagnose what ails the Hayes show:

"Hayes' problem is not just that his show rejects the drama and contention of heated debates between pundits with opposing viewpoints -- a cable news staple. It is that his professorial effort to inform his audience lacks the requisite entertainment value to keep them watching."

Actually, it's not much of a "cable news staple" any more to have segments with opposing viewpoints, although "The Five" and its retread "The Cycle" have some opposing POV built in to the DNA. MSNBC's guest list is quite routinely wall-to-wall liberal. Republicans are rarely guests, and are almost always potshot targets. (Brent Bozell's last MSNBC booking was in 2007. I haven't debated a liberal on cable TV in years.)

Nuzzi doesn’t buy the conventional wisdom that the Obama scandals leave MSNBC viewers demoralized. She thinks that there’s so much constant pro-Obama palaver at all hours that there’s no appointment television anywhere on the MSNBC schedule.

As a source told me, "the draw for them [MSNBC] was that people were tired of only seeing two things on TV: an all right-wing channel like Fox or something like CNN where they were afraid of being branded any one thing. The value of MSNBC was they were presenting something different. It's not different anymore - it's now repetitive, it's formulaic, it's now as ass-kissing as Fox is."

She also suggests a problem is inexperience: “Another problem is the sheer lack of anchoring experience among the current hosts at MSNBC. Maddow, Hayes, Harris-Perry, O'Donnell, Joe Scarborough, Chuck Todd, Wagner, Kornacki, Schultz, and all the hosts of the afternoon gabfest ‘The Cycle’ have literally never hosted an hour long show anywhere but MSNBC.”

Nuzzi didn't blame the Hayes show for all of MSNBC's problems, but ahem, she did suggest he was a "dead raccoon" in the first hour of prime time:

It is not fair or accurate for the blame to be placed solely on the weakness of Chris Hayes' program, nor on the Obama scandals that viewers simply don't want to devote viewing time to. A series of things have to go wrong for a network to lose as much audience as MSNBC has.

Roger Ailes, when his then-10pm host Paula Zahn was patted on the back by a reporter for growing Fox's ratings, noted  "I could have put a dead raccoon on the air this year and got a better rating than last year." Alies was paying tribute to the concept of the lead-in, in his case O'Reilly at 8pm and Hannity at 9pm. The problem becomes what happens if you put a dead raccoon on not last, but at the start of primetime at 8pm? In that event, even a 9pm O'Reilly would be in trouble. In going from its founding liberal to his last guest host, Lawrence O'Donnell, to Ed Schultz, to the pleasant but exceedingly dry Chris Hayes, MSNBC has found a series of increasingly sick television raccoons.

The meanest thing Nuzzi could do is recirculate this now-hilarious bombast from MSNBC boss Phil Griffin, from just three months ago in The New Republic: “Griffin, optimistically, believes he can beat Fox by 2014. It's a cockiness that has funneled down. In a recent staff meeting, one of Griffin's producers coined a new term for Fox News: ‘Loserville.’”

[HT: Dan Gainor]

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