Except for 'Morning Joe,' MSNBC Ignores S.C. Dem’s Racist Attack On Nikki Haley

May 7th, 2013 11:43 AM

We here at NewsBusters are often extremely critical of MSNBC’s Morning Joe as it often sets the agenda for the daily bias on the cable network. There are a few times, such as the Gosnell infanticide trial, when Morning Joe will actually prompt the rest of the liberal network to begin covering a story that it had previously ignored. Unfortunately that's not the case with Dick Harpootlian's racist attack on Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) at a fundraising dinner with Vice President Joe Biden in attendance.

You may recall that we noted that on May 6, Morning Joe ran a brief segment on the outgoing chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Dick Harpootlian grousing that the Palmetto State's governor, who, like fellow conservative Southern governor Bobby Jindal is of Indian ethnic heritage, should be sent, “back wherever the hell she came from and this country can move forward.” 

The segment ran at 6:20 a.m. Monday morning, and co-host Mika Brzezinski admitted that had Harpootlian been a Democrat, Morning Joe would have begun the broadcast with the story. Following the brief discussion of the story on Monday morning, no other MSNBC show even mentioned the controversy surrounding Harpootlian, even as numerous hosts mentioned today's special election to fill the vacant House seat in South Carolina’s First Congressional District between former Republican Governor Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. 

In fact, on Tuesday morning, Brzezinski tried to stop host Joe Scarborough from mentioning the story again, chiding “We don’t need to repeat it.” Perhaps Brzezinski was worried that talking about this controversy on Election Day might hurt jinx Democrat Colbert-Busch’s chances at winning the seat in the heavily Republican district.   

Perhaps the worst example of MSNBC’s omission of the story occurred on the Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell when Harpootlian’s replacement as party chairman, Jamie Harrison, appeared on the show to talk about the election in South Carolina but received no questions on his predecessor’s racist comments towards Governor Nikki Haley. Were it an outgoing Republican state chairman who  made a racist swipe at a Democratic governor, you can bet your bottom dollar that O'Donnell would have called on the incoming chairman to vociferously denounce those remarks.

But instead, O’Donnell, who provided Colbert-Busch with her first national interview following her nomination as the Democratic candidate, gave Harrison a softball interview to push for Colbert-Busch’s candidacy, never once mentioning his predecessor. O’Donnell is a vocal Democrat and a veteran of campaign politics, so it seems his partisan inclinations overrode any journalistic impulses to glom onto a story involving racial animus, particularly given the fact that MSNBC eagerly latches on to any story that has a racial angle when the target is a Republican.

Chalk it up as yet another instance where MSNBC proves that truth-in-advertising would require them to call themselves MSDNC.


**UPDATE** During the 10:00 a.m. hour of Jansing and Co. on May 7, host Chris Jansing interviewed Dick Harpootlian and asked him about his racist comments towards Nikki Haley. Chris Jansing is now just the second MSNBC host to mention these comments. 


See relevant transcript below. 

MSNBC's The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell

May 6, 2013

10:30 p.m. EST

MARK SANFORD: First I would like to thank Jenny and the boys. I couldn't be doing this job without their support. And as jenny would eagerly say to House and Senate members sitting here tonight, if you think that getting along with Mark Sanford on spending is tough, try being married to him. And so Jenny, I would just say thank you for all that you put up with and all that you do. Would you stand and be recognized?

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: All she put up with. That was Mark Sanford back in his happy days as Governor of South Carolina before he started wandering down to Argentina. Tomorrow, South Carolina voters will decide whether to send him or Elizabeth Colbert Busch to Congress. In a new Public Policy Polling poll, Mark Sanford is at 47%, Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch is at 46%. Two weeks ago, Colbert Busch led by nine points, 50-41 after Sanford faced trespassing allegations by his ex-wife, Jenny. He will be in court, Mark Sanford will, on those charges Thursday, just two days after the election. Tonight, USA Today reports that cameras will be allowed in court. There will, of course, be many more cameras in court Thursday if Mark Sanford wins tomorrow night. Joining me for his first national interview since getting the big job, Jamie Harrison, newly elected Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, and Krystal Ball co-host of MSNBC’s The Cycle. Mr. Chairman, how does it look?

JAMIE HARRISON: Well Lawrence it looks good right now. We really believe that Elizabeth’s going to pull this victory out tomorrow. And I tell you, it will be huge, it will be historic. It is almost the equivalent of saying some super Democratic giant losing to a Republican. But we're going to do that here tomorrow in South Carolina so we’re excited.

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: Krystal Ball, in the poll on the race, it is 47% say they think Colbert Busch is too liberal, 43% say her positions are about right, and 38% say that Mark Sanford is too conservative, 48% say that his positions are about right. What's your bet on what is going to control this thing in the end, the positions of the candidates or the strange history of Mark Sanford?

KRYSTAL BALL: Well I think the real place to look is who ends up showing up in this election. And what you've seen as you highlighted, is there was a huge shift in that PPP poll from Elizabeth Colbert Busch being up by nine to now losing by one, essentially a tied race. And the biggest shift there was not in the change in attitudes, although there was some momentum that way towards Sanford as well. The biggest shift was the electorate that was planning on turning out for the election. This is a district Mitt Romney won by eighteen points. So it’s frankly a miracle Elizabeth Colbert Busch has made this a close race and has a shot at winning it tomorrow. So it is notoriously hard to figure out who is going to show up in elections, it’s even harder to figure out who is going to show up in a special election. That's really what it is going to come down to tomorrow.

O’DONNELL: Jamie Harrison, if you look at those numbers and think of Mark Sanford as an incumbent, then it actually looks pretty good for Elizabeth Colbert Busch because whenever the incumbent is polling below 50 and certainly that close to the challenger, the presumption is that most of the undecided’s will go for the challenger because most people make up their minds about the incumbent faster, and it is the challenger that they kind of wait to decide on. So is that the way you're looking at those numbers that those are good if you think of – they’re good for Elizabeth Colbert Busch if you think of Mark Sanford as the incumbent?

HARRISON: Yeah, that's exactly right, Lawrence. Krystal was right. Mitt Romney won this seat with 18 points over Barack Obama in the last general election, but we do see an enthusiasm gap here in this district. Republicans, there are a lot of them, they might agree with Mark Sanford on some policies, but they really have some problems with his ethical background. And so in the end we think, you know, as the day goes long and people are working, the question comes well, am I going to leave my job to go vote for Mark Sanford or will I just sit on my hand this time around? And we think a lot of Republicans will choose that. We also think though there's a large number of independents in this district that tend to vote Republican, but with the right candidate they will vote for a Democrat. And we think many of those independents are going to come our way.

O’DONNELL: Krystal, Jamie makes a good point about the energy in these things tends to be with the upstart, with the challenger, and that is the role that Elizabeth Colbert Busch is in. You would think on this kind of odd day election, you know, out of schedule election that more turnout energy might be on her side than on his?

BALL: I would definitely think that. I mean, just from the grassroots base all the way up, democrats are really excited about the chance of winning this seat. There's no question she has the enthusiasm on her side. And I think the other key piece here is how do those independent women in particular vote and do they show up to vote. I think that's the other key piece here. One independent women's group that's trying to back Mark Sanford is basically saying don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. That's the best argument they can make for him. So that's another sort of key piece to watch here, is how do women turn out and who do they vote for.

O’DONNELL: Krystal Ball and Jamie Harrison, the first African-American Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, congratulations on your election, Mr. Chairman, and thank you both for joining me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

HARRISON: Thank you, Lawrence.