Jun 1 2012


More Obama boosterism than foreign policy examination

Photo Credit: MSNBC/Mediaite

Getting independent, skeptical coverage of official claims about Iran—from its supposed nuclear weapons program (Extra!, 9-10/05, 1/12) to its alleged plans to launch terrorist attacks across the world (Extra!, 3/12)—is essential. One place you might expect to see more critical coverage is on supposedly left-leaning MSNBC. But when it comes to Iran, in what little coverage it offers the channel largely mirrors the Democratic Party line. For the most part, it was hard to find Iran on MSNBC. From January to April, two of MSNBC’s stars, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz, brought it up only 16 and 14 times, respectively. […]

Nov 1 2011

Uygur Out at MSNBC

Another progressive show canceled for political reasons

Cenk Uygur--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Streamys

When talkshow host Cenk Uygur announced that his short tenure at MSNBC had come to an end due to his criticism of “those in power” (Young Turks, 7/20/11), it highlighted an unsettling pattern at the channel. Uygur’s ouster represented the third time in recent years that a show hosted by someone with progressive ideals and a willingness to challenge the status quo was canceled, despite good ratings. In January of this year Keith Olbermann, well known for his public disputes with right-wing figures, was terminated by MSNBC, just after control of the channel was sold by General Electric to Comcast […]

May 1 2011

Narrow Afghan Debate on Cable’s ‘Liberal’ Channel

Maddow's military boosterism takes center stage at MSNBC

Of the cable news channels, MSNBC has the most progressive image, based largely on the persona of now-fired anchor Keith Olbermann, but also reflecting the presence of hosts like Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Olbermann’s replacement Lawrence O’Donnell. To test how much this left-leaning reputation actually reflects the content of MSNBC’s news, Extra! looked at the network’s coverage of the Afghan War on four primetime shows—Schultz’s Ed Show, Olbermann’s Countdown, the Rachel Maddow Show and O’Donnell’s Last Word—from July 2010 through December 2010. Extra! counted all sources interviewed by MSNBC about Afghanistan, excluding taped soundbites pulled from other sources. Commentary […]

Mar 1 2011

Olbermann’s Countdown Reaches Zero

MSNBC and the limits of corporate media liberalism

Keith Olbermann--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/afagen

Whether the abrupt termination of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann’s contract on January 21 was connected to Olbermann’s left-of-center politics or the recent purchase of NBC by Comcast from General Electric, the host’s departure provides an opportunity to reflect on the bigger picture. MSNBC’s current ‘liberal’ identity is generally attributed to Olbermann, whose success offered compelling evidence that a left-of-center TV host could find a sizable audience. Olbermann’s willingness to criticize prominent Republican leaders and right-wing commentators like Fox’s Bill O’Reilly was virtually unknown in corporate television. And the show did more than that for progressive causes; for instance, as the […]

Aug 1 2007

MSNBC’s ‘Truth Squad’

Democrats labeled 'untruthful' for criticizing Bush

After the August 7 Democratic debate, MSNBC reporter David Shuster weighed in with what the cable channel called a “truth squad” segment, ostensibly intended to fact-check various claims by the candidates. But the result had less to do with clarifying the facts than with protecting Bush from harsh criticism. In concluding his report, Shuster singled out two candidates who “gave some untruthful descriptions of the Bush administration.” He noted that Sen. Hillary Clinton, when asked “the first thing you would do as president to improve the recovery in New Orleans,” responded that “the first thing I would do would put […]

Feb 1 2005

Struggling MSNBC Attempts to Out-Fox Fox

His CNN show Crossfire was canceled, but conservative pundit Tucker Carlson already appears to have a new cable news home lined up: a primetime show on MSNBC (USA Today, 12/20/04; Daily Variety, 12/21/04). With the departure of host Deborah Norville, MSNBC is reportedly considering Carlson to fill the 9 p.m. timeslot. His show would lead into Scarborough Country, hosted by former Republican congressmember Joe Scarborough. This pairing, not balanced by any avowedly liberal or progressive hosts, would arguably make MSNBC‘s primetime line-up more right-wing than Fox News Channel. This follows a pattern at MSNBC. In 1999, the struggling cable channel […]