Thomas Roberts is no Lawrence O’Donnell…

This did not happen on MSNBC primetime. This happened during MSNBC’s straight news hour with Thomas Roberts. The New Civil Rights Movement’s David Badash writes about a segment where Thomas Roberts showed a picture of an empty chair for a segment that it turned was caused by an error by MSNBC’s own booking department.

MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts today was forced to interview Maggie Gallagher‘s empty chair as Maggie Gallagher was a no-show. Roberts stated that just one hour prior Gallagher had confirmed she would appear.

The video of this was far worse than Badash’s description. I was going to say that I wouldn’t say that Roberts was mocking Gallagher but after watching the whole video I’m not so sure anymore. At the very least he was tossing out more that a few cheap shots and the camera shot of the empty chair was gratuitous at best.

This segment wasn’t just handled wrong it was criminally handled wrong. There is no justification for what Roberts did on the air. None. Zero. It was over the top and inappropriate. The proper way to handle it is to say that a guest was scheduled to appear but couldn’t make it in time and we hope they will appear in the future. Then you move on and don’t refer to it again. Given that you don’t know what actually happened you must err on the side of caution…for reasons that now seem all too obvious given that it was MSNBC booking that screwed up.

Roberts apologized on Twitter for MSNBC’s error…

MYSTERY solved… @maggiemarriage was in a studio ready for our #nom interview it was just the wrong studio booked improperly on @msnbc_booking IT WAS OUR MISTAKE and she has an open invite for the show. Our sincerest apologies.

I’m sorry but this is insufficient given what Roberts did to Gallagher on the air. Only an on the air apology Friday will suffice and Roberts must not just apologize for MSNBC’s booking error, which was unfortunate bordering on excusable, but for his behavior regarding her non-appearance. Contrition is not an option here. This is supposed to be MSNBC’s non-POV straight news time, not Lawrence O’Donnell’s POV primetime where the rules are different and O’Donnell can get away with mocking an empty chair.

If I sound angry here, it is because I am. I have watched MSNBC since the day it launched and, not mincing words or understating the situation, this is the worst display of journalistic unprofessionalism I have ever seen on its newscasts. To say it’s an embarrassment is doing a disservice. By rights Roberts should be suspended as it totally undermines MSNBC and NBC News and is no better than David Shuster’s “pimped out” comment regarding Chelsea Clinton for which Shuster got a small “vacation” for.

That is if MSNBC still wants to stand for news and journalistic values from 9-3 anymore.

P.S.: “Expozedz”? Nice typo in the chyron there…

(via J$)

Update: I want clarify something here. When I equated Roberts’ on air antics to the suspension of David Shuster over the “pimped out” comment I wasn’t saying that Roberts did something truly godawful. Some people felt the Shuster comment was truly godawful. I didn’t. I felt that given it was during Hardball that it had occurred on it was on the edge at best but not completely out of bounds. But if MSNBC was going to suspend Shuster over what I considered a borderline call, then Roberts’ antics during a non-POV newscast where the rules covering appropriateness are supposed to be much stricter, in my eyes should merit similar consideration.

21 Responses to “Thomas Roberts is no Lawrence O’Donnell…”

  1. I saw this live and agree Roberts handled it very badly. He may have been upset that he thought she left but there was no excuse for mentioning it more than once. I also agree that an on air apology today is mandatory.

    I don’t think a suspension is necessary; if a sincere and fulsome apology is given.

    The part that you don’t mention in in your post is the role of Robert’s producers. Where were they in all this? Why did they not tell him why Gallagher was not there? They are responsible for having his back and they let him down this fiasco.

    If suspensions are warranted then his producers are the ones who should get them; not only for the original screw-up but because they allowed, and possibly encouraged, Roberts rant and thus let him hang out to dry.

  2. Leaning… leaning… leaning…. CRASH!

    Maybe Spud can agree with me that MSNBC is not just a liberal leaning version of FNC? It’s something different. Not in a good way. It’s nasty.

  3. Contrary to your assertion they absolutely told him she wasn’t there. They had to have. He wouldn’t have known she didn’t show on his own. He couldn’t have…not unless he was capable of being two places at once (on set and in the control room). They told him and he ran with it. That said I agree the producers share some of the blame…but for the empty chair shot. You combine that with Roberts antics and the whole segment comes across the TV like some sort of co-ordinated setup.

  4. MSNBC is becoming more and more of a joke all the time. I really try to watch many stations just to see what the story lines for the day are going to be. My goodness, I get better New from Robin Meade on HLN that I do from MSNBC. I tried watching Morning Joe this morning and just could not take more than 15 minutes of the show. You can tell when Joe is going over the line because even Willie’s face can’t stay noncommittal while he is blathering his garbage.

  5. “Contrary to your assertion they absolutely told him she wasn’t there. They had to have. He wouldn’t have known she didn’t show on his own”

    I’m not saying they didn’t tell him she wasn’t there; just not the reason for her absence. It sounds like they were in the dark as much as Roberts as to why she was a no show. That being said they should not have allowed Roberts to say what he did without knowing why she was missing. And if they did know and allowed him to say what he did then they are even more culpable.

    There is also the question as to why they booked an anti gay wingnut like Gallagher in the first place. It looks like they were looking for a conflict segment; like Matthews and LOD sometimes do; and when she got lost decided to do the segment anyway. Big mistake. I hate these conflict segments with guests like Gallagher or Orly Taitz who are only booked to gender an on air fight because they almost always end up in a screaming match that bring the host down to the level of the nutbar guest.

    My hope is Roberts just apologizes and moves on but somehow I think this will just become the next big battle on the right wing blogs.

  6. lonestar77 Says:

    Haven’t seen the footage but it sounds pretty bad. This is what happens when you put people like Roberts in the “straight news” slot. MSNBC may call him a straight-news anchor but he’s not one. He wouldn’t have done this to a liberal no-show. He was probably already angry at the woman simply for being a conservative.

  7. I’ve given up on Morning Joe. Joe has sold out to the devil. There will be a price to pay. I would suggest having to sit in the visitor’s section as Alabama loses football games for eternity.

  8. I like msnbc but it has become very clear that Thomas Roberts hour is filled with opinion and activism.

  9. Well that was interesting. Maggie Gallagher appeared on TR’s show today and while Robert’s mentioned the ‘booking mix-up’ there was no apology. and no comment by Gallagher.

    The segment was odd as Robert’s tried to goad Gallagher into a confrontation and she refused to take the bait. Fred Kruger was also on the panel but had little to say. I’m not sure what they were debating and in the end it wasn’t all that interesting.

    My guess as to what happened is that the two sides reached an agreement that worked out for both. Robert’s didn’t have to apologize for his behavior yesterday and in return Gallagher got her five minutes of air time to plead her case. For nutbars like Gallagher TV air time is what they live for and it was a good trade off for her. I doubt this is the end of the matter and it will live on in the right wing blogosphere and Fox News programs. She’s probably already booked on F&F.and Hannity.

    Roberts is still a loser here as he didn’t put the issue to bed and he will probably still have to apologize.And this incident isn’t going to help him retain his show at MSNBC. Luke Russert is probably smiling at the whole episode.

  10. The best “empty chair” segment that I’ve ever seen was in 2001 after September 11th. It was done by, of all people, Bill Maher, on his ABC show “Politically Incorrect.” Barbara Olson, one of the victims of September 11th, was supposed to have been a guest on this particular episode. Maher left a chair empty in her honor. I thought it was very touching and a very classy thing for Maher to have done.

  11. Every time I think Mahrer is the worst person in the world, he redeems himself.

    Spud gets featured again:’s-thomas-robert’s-empty-chair-shtick-backfires-leads-to-apology/

  12. missy5537 Says:

    That was nice of Maher, I guess. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    My favorite “empty chair” episode was when Leo Terrell walked off H & C a few years back! Boy, was he p*ssed when he left. But when wasn’t he?

    I just Googled to see if I could see anything more about it, and see my post, right here on ICN, from five years ago! I don’t think any of the other posters are still around:

  13. Poor Leo always reminded me to check that I turned the tea kettle off. Hope he is still alive.

  14. […] the hook entirely. While her response to Carney was nowhere near as outrageous or over the line as Thomas Roberts calling out an empty chair, Hall could have and should have handled this […]

  15. […] same week, MSNBC producers went with the empty-chair shot when it appeared that the National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher failed to […]

  16. […] same week, MSNBC producers went with the empty-chair shot when it appeared that the National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher failed to […]

  17. […] same week, MSNBC producers went with the empty-chair shot when it appeared that the National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher failed to […]

  18. […] same week, MSNBC producers went with the empty-chair shot when it appeared that the National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher failed to […]

  19. […] same week, MSNBC producers went with the empty-chair shot when it appeared that the National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher failed to […]

  20. […] same week, MSNBC producers w&#1077nt w&#1110th th&#1077 empty-chair shot wh&#1077n &#1110t appeared th&#1072t th&#1077 National Organization f&#959r Wedding […]

  21. […] not getting why the news is Roberts “interviewed an empty chair.” I watched the segment.  No vacant chair.  Only […]

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