MSNBC obliterated the notion of separating cable-news hosts and their political activism when the network brass gave Rev. Al Sharpton a nightly show two years ago. It was just another day at the office when Sharpton held a rabble-rousing rally for Trayvon Martin in the afternoon, and then covered it on his show hours later.
But Saturday's rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial celebrating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's March on Washington was the most dramatic conflict of interest yet. Sharpton organized the rally (with Martin Luther King III) and MSNBC aired huge chunks of it live, including all 20 minutes of Sharpton's screaming keynote speech. An MSNBC press release said they'd be promoting the rally from 11 am to 9 pm.
On Friday night, MSNBC gave Sharpton two hours of "pre-game" to promote the rally. On Sunday morning, he appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" to pose as Reverend King. On September 6, MSNBC will give Sharpton yet another two hours in prime time for an "Advancing the Dream" special.
Tawana Brawley's enabler rules.
None of the media columnists and TV news blogs could muster any space to explore how Sharpton's weekend demonstrates he has invaded MSNBC and conquered it completely. The subject is apparently exhausted. Everyone expects zero norms of journalistic detachment and professionalism. Everyone seems comfortable with the revolution. The inmates are running the asylum, making grandiose claims about their place in American politics. Sharpton wants to be the modern-day black Moses, fuming righteously against hard-hearted Tea Party pharaohs.
Tampa Bay Times media columnist Eric Deggans claimed "Any concern that Sharpton might be unfairly blurring lines between fair-minded pundit and committed activist seemed long gone Saturday night, as the crowd surged toward another rendezvous with history."
Sharpton is never a mere pundit, and "fair-minded" has never described his vicious race-baiting ways. Sharpton explicitly promised in his speech to take his National Action Network staff to Texas and North Carolina and lobby against Republican governors on the allegedly racist outrage of being asked to provide an ID on Election Day. On Monday, Sharpton made another visit to the Obama White House to advise the president.
Deggans boasted this event "cemented Al Sharpton's blend of cable news anchoring and activism" and "proved the ascendancy of Sharpton's brand." There is no doubt that Sharpton's brand is on the rise, but one cannot say the same for the brand of NBC News. At this point, Sharpton's brand and the NBC News brand are indistinguishable. They ought to put Sharpton's face on the Peacock at this point.
After Sharpton finished speaking on MSNBC, network hosts Ed Schultz and Melissa Harris-Perry agreed that Sharpton was the Martin Luther King of the new century. "There's no doubt that Reverend Sharpton is the contemporary civil rights leader of our time," said Schultz. "He is peerless," oozed Harris-Perry.
Schultz honored Sharpton as a "man with a very unique platform in a social media with a television show, with the National Action Network, with the social following that he has." It's "very unique" for the Reverend to host a nightly hour on cable news at the same time he's assembling crowds in the street for "justice for Trayvon" or whatever the racial ambulance-chaser's case of the day might be.
Perhaps Sharpton views himself as a politicized version of John Walsh on "America's Most Wanted, except the evil perpetrators he's tracking are conservative Republicans.
Radical-left MSNBC analyst Michael Eric Dyson joined in. "What Reverend Sharpton did today was magnificent," he claimed. "Today Reverend Sharpton emerged as the preeminent leader of his generation, bar none!" Dyson was putting Sharpton above Obama, Bill Clinton, and every other leader in America. Harris-Perry was still agreeing: "I think that's clear. Reverend Sharpton for me walks away from this moment peerless!"
Naturally, Schultz and Dyson were also speakers from the podium earlier in the rally. MSNBC afternoon host Krystal Ball also served as an emcee at one point. Blur, blur, blur.
This comparison is unfair to Rick Santorum, but imagine if Fox News gave Santorum a nightly show and then Santorum gave the keynote speech at the March for Life, and Fox aired large chunks of the March for Life live, and then afterwards, the Fox News hosts competed to see who could praise Santorum the most as the peerless leader of the century. Every liberal who's ever claimed Fox is a propaganda channel and not a news network should shut up and sit down after this Sharpton spectacle on MSNBC.