In an interview with Rachel Maddow, Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher inconspicuously dropped the following bomb: “…MSNBC runs a significant amount of conservative programming every day.” He provides no data or offers any evidence to substantiate such a bizarrely counterintuitive claim although he obliquely acknowledges it is controversial, calling it “an overlooked fact”.
And what turn of argumentative sorcery could possibly justify such a boast? (And surely, it is intended boastfully, presumably demonstrating the network’s bipartisan balance.) What exactly counts as a “significant amount”? Since there are only two conservative commentators on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough and S.E. Cupp, a network otherwise populated by a happy band of liberal warriors, Christopher must be relying on some other metric he won’t deign to share.
It’s also worth noting that Scarborough and Cupp appear on ensemble shows more often than not dominated by liberal guests, and so are usually lone conservative voices straining to be heard over a left-leaning cacophony. Is the representation of one conservative viewpoint sufficient to stamp a program conservative in character? Is The View a conservative show because Elizabeth Hasselbeck, one of four commentators, is regularly ridiculed for her minority dissent? If Mitt Romney ever actually appears on the David Letterman show, can we then consider Late Night to be a bastion of conservative thought? Yours truly just enjoyed an Americano at Starbucks which I have now officially anointed a conservative coffee empire.
One unobtrusive hint provided in Christopher’s otherwise evidence-free zone is a link embedded within the comment that leads to a story about the outsized influence of Joe Scarborough’s Morning Joe. Despite its relatively modest ratings, it can still be considered the most consequential show on MSNBC:
“Morning Joe is the most influential show on cable news because of who watches it; namely, every member of the Washington, DC political ecosystem, from journalists to legislators, to consultants, to staffers, right on down to Bo Obama, I’m sure. To Scarborough’s credit, he has demonstrated a willingness to speak out against members of his own party, but that tendency is the currency that allows him to retain that influence.”
First of all, it’s more than a little hyperbolic to claim that “every member” of the Washington elite class watches the show: is there any data to support that implausible contention? Can they really be “sure” President Obama is a faithful viewer? Nothing like pure conjecture to back up flights of faux empirical fantasy. It might be worth noting that MSNBC’s card carrying conservative has been one of the most spirited critics of Mitt Romney among the professional pundit class, often drawing ire from fellow conservatives for his relentless attacks.
Christopher only pulls off this untenable claim if he fundamentally alters the meaning of the words “significant”, “conservative”, or I suppose “programming”. It’s not at all clear if his flippant comment is a function of self-oblivion or willful dishonesty but, either way, it serves as a helpful reminder that MSNBC runs a significant amount of egregiously partisan pablum.
Ivan Kenneally is a writer for Daily Witness.
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