MSNBC’s Latest Al Sharpton Headache
In a must read, Politico Magazine’s Glenn Thrush makes MSNBC squirm some more over its still after all these years not at all clearly defined set of boundaries for itself and Al Sharpton…
What brought them together, according to numerous sources I’ve spoken with about this over the years, is a shared commitment to racial justice, and a hardheaded pragmatism that has fueled their success. “He realized I wasn’t as irrational or as crazy as people thought,” Sharpton told me in an interview this week, and indeed Sharpton not only visits the White House frequently, he often texts or emails with senior Obama officials such as Jarrett and Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American to hold that job and who, like Sharpton, views the Ferguson crisis as a pivotal one in Obama’s presidency.
“I’ve known Al since he was 12 years old, and he’s arrived at the level he always wanted to arrive at, which is gratifying,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a colleague and sometimes rival, told me. “He’s the man who’s the liaison to the White House, he’s the one who’s talking to the Justice Department.”
The above two paragraphs alone illustrate in ways no other Sharpton/MSNBC story has so powerfully illustrated before, why MSNBC and Phil Griffin’s previous approach of sticking their heads in the sand whenever Sharpton’s antics draw unwelcome optics 30 Rock’s way is no longer a viable one.
The previous approach is underscored by TVNewser’s Jordan Chariton who brought up a Griffin quote on Sharpton from a few weeks ago…
“We’ve always been transparent about the dual roles and his work outside of MSNBC.”
However Chariton does the equivalent of getting a base hit in baseball and then going back to the dugout without running the bases; he throws out Griffin’s ridiculous on its face quote and doesn’t explain why it’s bullshit. So I’ll explain why these new revelations make it bullshit.
All MSNBC has ever commented on the Sharpton flagrant conflict of interest for the network is to essentially say, “Well…uh…he’s an activist and…uh…we like him being an activist and…uh…uh…everything is fine.”
No. Everything is not fine. Everything has never been fine but now it is untenable for the network.
In the history of cable news we’ve had conservative pundits and liberal pundits. We’ve had erudite conservative pundits and erudite liberal pundits. We’ve had in the tank conservative apologist hosts and in the tank liberal apologist hosts. We’ve never had a host that was “the man who’s the liaison to the White House”…”the one who’s talking to the Justice Department”. Until Al Sharpton.
It’s not just that Sharpton has his outside causes. Keith Olbermann had his outside causes. Ed Schultz has his outside causes. Glenn Beck had his outside causes. Sean Hannity has his outside causes. Lawrence O’Donnell has his outside causes.
None of them had a direct pipeline to the White House and the Justice Department like Al Sharpton has now.
Oh sure, they’d get invited to the White House on occasion, regardless of which party was in power, to talk shop where the White House would listen to them and they’d listen to whatever points the White House wanted to get across.
But none of them has ever had the power to shape policy the way Al Sharpton does.
MSNBC has always tried to position the Sharpton hire has a case of he’s got his outside thing and we’ll take that on a case by case basis. But the reality is Sharpton’s “outside thing” is pretty much what he does on MSNBC. They are one and the same.
MSNBC at one time or another has had to rein in Olbermann, Schultz, and Scarborough when their outside activities threatened the balance inside 30 Rock. FNC has had similar incidents with Beck and Hannity.
As far as I can tell MSNBC has never said “No” to Al Sharpton. Indeed, it seems to be doing everything it can to facilitate or, at the very least, encourage him.
Let us be clear here. Nothing that Al Sharpton has done is any less worse than anything Olbermann, Schultz, Scarborough, Beck, or Hannity has done.
MSNBC in effect has given Sharpton a pass.
The inherent danger of today’s revelations is the obvious question regarding this Sharpton conduit to the White House…
Is the conduit one way? Or does it go both ways?
Is Sharpton only co-coordinating with the White House in order to achieve what he wants or is the White House also coordinating with Sharpton to get what it wants?
Is there a quid pro quo at work?
We can’t tell. And we can’t tell precisely because MSNBC and Phil Griffin have never and I mean NEVER explained exactly where the lines are; what MSNBC will allow and what it won’t allow. We only know what it does allow by seeing what it allows Sharpton to do. But we have absolutely no clue as to where there limits are. If there are indeed any limits at all.
That’s why it has always been bullshit that MSNBC has “always been transparent about the dual roles and his work outside of MSNBC.” We have never had any clue what’s really going on there because the network has never ever told us.