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. […]

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 7 2009

Did GE Stifle Keith Olbermann?

Fox and MSNBC's Gentlemen's Agreement

In the wake of an August 1 expose in the New York Times, an agreement reportedly reached by executives at the parent companies of Fox News Channel and MSNBC to rein in the networks’ two stars’ criticism of each other seems to have fallen apart. The behind-the-scenes deal-making, though, still illustrates the corrosive effect on media of corporate ownership. The alleged deal concerned MSNBC‘s Keith Olbermann and Fox News Channel‘s Bill O’Reilly. Olbermann seemed to deny any arrangement limiting his speech, and criticized Fox and O’Reilly right after the Times story was published (8/3/09). O’Reilly, in turn, resumed his criticism […]

May 2 2005

Scarborough Responds to FAIR

On April 29, FAIR issued an action alert pointing out that G. Gordon Liddy, who appeared on a Scarborough Country segment on violent talk radio rhetoric (MSNBC, 4/27/05), had on his own radio show advocated shooting federal agents. FAIR received this response from the show’s host, Joe Scarborough: Just saw your site’s write up on my show with G. Gordon Liddy. I admit that I am shocked that I did not have personal knowledge of Liddy’s statement. I remembered Bill Clinton blaming Liddy for Oklahoma City but obviously did not know the back story. As one who has stayed on […]

Apr 29 2005

Did MSNBC Know Liddy’s History?

Host Once Advocated Killing Government Agents

NOTE: Please see the update to this alert. In an April 27 debate about extreme talk radio rhetoric, MSNBC‘s Scarborough Country turned to an unusual guest: right-wing talker G. Gordon Liddy, who ten years ago called for the killing of federal agents. The purpose of the MSNBC segment was to discuss a skit from Air America‘s Randi Rhodes Show (4/25/05). The pre-recorded segment, about an “American Association of Armed Retired People,” included the sound of gunfire as the “answer” to Bush’s Social Security plans. Both Rhodes and Air America quickly apologized for the skit. “Our normal vetting process failed…. and […]

Dec 22 2004

Tucker Carlson to MSNBC?

Struggling Cable Channel Attempts to Outfox Fox

Recent news reports (USA Today, 12/20/04; Daily Variety, 12/21/04) suggest that conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, seen currently on CNN and PBS, might find a new home: a prime-time show on MSNBC. 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 prime-time line-up more right-wing than Fox News Channel. “The pattern in cable news is to imitate Fox,” said FAIR’s Peter Hart. “But […]

Apr 1 2003

MSNBC’s Racism is Ok, Peace Activism is Not

Defending its decision to give a weekly TV program to Michael Savage, a radio host who special­izes in racism, misogyny and homopho­bia, the MSNBC cable network called the hire “a legitimate attempt to expand the marketplace of ideas” (Electronic Media, 2/25/03). This was a response to critics of Savage’s slurs, which include dismissing child victims of gunfire as “ghetto slime,” referring to non-white countries as “turd world nations,” calling homosexuality “perver­sion” and asserting that Latinos “breed like rabbits.” (See Extra!, 3-4/03.) The news channel—co-owned by Microsoft and General Electric/NBC­ declared in a formal statement: “By bringing our viewers a wide […]