Clueless in Secaucus: Pre-FNC, Ex-MSNBC Chief Recalls, Few Saw Any Liberal Bias

“Before Fox,” the AP's David Bauder relayed in a weekend article about the tenth anniversary of the Fox News Channel, “many in the media scoffed at the notion of a liberal bias and figured only a handful of people really believed that, said Erik Sorenson, former MSNBC President.” Sorenson, the President of the Secaucus, New Jersey-based MSNBC from 1999 through early 2004, where he re-hired Keith Olbermann in 2003 to replace Phil Donahue's show which he had created, told Bauder: "Fox proved it's a much larger group than anybody realized." Many realized it earlier, just not very many inside MSNBC -- or CBS News, where he served as Executive Producer of the CBS Evening News from 1991 to 1995. So he should know how Rush Limbaugh was banned from the newscast back then. Indeed, Bauder related how "the very idea that Rush Limbaugh would appear on a CBS Evening News segment called 'Free Speech,' heavily promoted on Katie Couric's first night as anchor, would have been unfathomable a decade ago, Sorenson said."

An excerpt from Bauder's October 1 dispatch, which on Yahoo carries the headline, “Slumping Fox News celebrating 1st decade”
...."I watched CNN for a week before I went on and I kept trying to wake myself up," [Fox News CEO Roger] Ailes told The Associated Press. "I kept nodding off and I realized they are biased, they are boring, they looked like a network that has never had any competition."

Ailes, a former Republican political operative, said simply presenting different points of view made Fox seem like a contrast to left-leaning news coverage elsewhere.

Before Fox, many in the media scoffed at the notion of a liberal bias and figured only a handful of people really believed that, said Erik Sorenson, former MSNBC president.

"Fox proved it's a much larger group than anybody realized," he said.

Their success clearly made others respond. The very idea that Rush Limbaugh would appear on a "CBS Evening News" segment called "Free Speech," heavily promoted on Katie Couric's first night as anchor, would have been unfathomable a decade ago, Sorenson said.

"I've had many people say to me we have forced people to think differently in their own newsrooms," Ailes said....

Back in 2001, after 9/11, Sorenson whined about the “patriotism police.” As recounted in an MRC CyberAlert at the time, the November 7, 2001 New York Times reported:
"'Any misstep and you can get into trouble with these guys and have the Patriotism Police hunt you down,’ said Erik Sorenson, President of MSNBC. ‘These are hard jobs. Just getting the facts straight is monumentally difficult. We don't want to have to wonder if we are saluting properly. Was I supposed to use the three-fingered salute today?’"
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center