WTF is Going On at MSNBC? Recent Hires Have a Distinctly Fox News Flavor

Three months into Donald Trump’s administration there is more cause than ever for critical analysis of Washington politics. But much of the press is having trouble countering Trump’s “Reality TV” dramatization of news. They attempt to achieve a false balance by presenting opposing views, even if one side is truthful and the other is lying.

Rachel Maddow

Having a president who’s suspected of colluding with Russians to steal an election is hardly the time to go soft. It is not the time to appease those in power or pander to wingnuts who will never tune in anyway. Yet that’s exactly the direction that MSNBC appears to heading.

In recent weeks they have hired or promoted some decidedly right-wing personalities. Former Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren now has her own show on MSNBC. Former communications director for George W, Bush, Nicolle Wallace, also just premiered a new program. Likewise conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt. This week MSNBC announced that it has hired old-school conservative George Will away from Fox News.

These roster changes are especially puzzling at this time. MSNBC has built a brand that appeals to a more progressive audience. Despite having a former Republican anchoring three hours in the morning (Joe Scarborough), and a generally straight news profile during the day, their prime time lineup leans openly to the left. Chis Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Laurence O’Donnell are not shy about expressing their liberal opinions.

More importantly, that programming slant has paid off handsomely for MSNBC. They are enjoying their highest ratings in years. Maddow is actually beating her competition on Fox News in the key advertising demographic of 25-54 year olds. Not too long ago Fox News was considered unbeatable. But now Adweek’s TVNewser reports that:

“The network also continues to post more year-over-year prime time audience growth than both Fox News and CNN: +82 percent in total viewers and +61 percent in the prime time demo versus April 2016.”

It’s a surprising and inspiring success story. Any network would be turning cartwheels and striving to replicate that success across its dayparts. So why is MSNBC going out of their way to bolster a winning lineup with right-wing losers? None of the new “talent” has demonstrated any appeal to MSNBC’s audience. Van Susteren, in fact, is an obvious hole in the schedule, dipping noticeably between her lead-in and lead-out. And the viewers that might be interested in these new faces are genetically averse to ever tuning in to the radical socialists at MSNBC. Why should they when they can get all the wingnuttery they desire on Fox News? And if it’s caterwauling debates that they want, CNN already has the market cornered on that.

There is no shortage of liberals who could be brought into the MSNBC family. Joy Reid already has a Saturday morning show that gets more viewers than many weekday shows on CNN and Fox. They could have moved her into the time slot they gave to Van Susteren or Wallace. Even Keith Olbermann was in talks to return to MSNBC. His last stint with the network was the last time they challenged Fox. But according to Olbermann, they told him he would have to refrain from his “fiery” commentaries. That was an untenable restraint, so he walked.

It’s hard to know what the suits at MSNBC are thinking. There is clearly an appetite for news commentary that counters the powerful elite in Washington. It’s a programming niche that is unfilled elsewhere. Plus, it’s a necessary defense against the dangerously erratic Trump administration’s assault on America. Where else can we go to get reality-based news about climate change? Who else is covering voter suppression and gerrymandering? Which other network is allotting time to racial and gender discrimination? And what about our President’s potentially treasonous connections to unsavory figures in Russia?

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Fox News deliberately downplays any unflattering news about Trump. CNN reports it, but puts on crackpots who disseminate absurd justifications. That leaves MSNBC as the one network that honestly covers Trump’s dark side. For that reason alone they should not be adding to the pro-Trump voices in the media. We already have plenty of that and far too little truthful common sense and compassion.

UPDATE: There are rumors that MSNBC may not renew the contract of Lawrence O’Donnell despite the fact that his ratings are at a record high. He is beating CNN, and challenging Fox News. This would be good time to let MSNBC know that we demand they keep O’Donnell and stop sucking up to the right. You can call them at 212-664-4444 and email them at

FINALLY: CNN Calls Out Trump For ‘A Presidency Shaped By Fox News’

From the beginning of Donald Trump’s candidacy he was fawned over by adoring anchors and pundits on Fox News. They rushed to defend him at every turn and praised whatever lame-brained or hateful scheme he would propose. The network turned over so many hours of valuable airtime they should have been designated as campaign contributions. He had a long-running regular segment on Fox and Friends called “Mondays with Trump.” And Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity kept the door open for him to appear, or call in, at his convenience.

CNN Brian Stelter

Since becoming president, Trump has made a habit of harvesting topics from his obsessive viewing of Fox. There have been numerous instances of him tweeting about something that had aired shortly before on his favorite network. He clearly relies more on conspiracy theories from Fox than he does on the intelligence agencies that work for him. It’s a perverse and frightening state of affairs.

Sunday, on CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter delivered a commentary about this titled “Welcome to the Fox News Presidency.” It was a long overdue examination of the incestuous relationship between Trump and Fox. Stelter began by noting that:

“Five of his seven sit-down TV interviews since taking office have been with Fox News. Trump watches Fox. He tweets about Fox. He uses Fox graphics to advance his agenda. He’s hired Fox talking heads. He promotes Fox as fair while denigrating its rivals as fake. All of this amounts to a Fox News presidency. What I mean by that is a presidency shaped by Fox News in all sorts of ways, big and small.”

Indeed. Trump has exhibited an abject fear of taking questions from any news organization other than his pals at Fox. His assaults on the free press are frequent and biting (as well as childish and false). But his compliments for Fox are effusive and unrestrained. Meanwhile, anyone critical of Trump often finds themselves locked out. Just ask Megyn Kelly and George Will. Independent thought is not a value favored by Fox executives. Perhaps Shepard Smith should watch his back.

In addition to the Trumpification of Fox News, there has been a simultaneous Foxification of the Trump administration. Former Foxies on the White House payroll include K.T. McFarland, Ben Carson, Sebastion Gorka, Heather Nauert, and Jonathan Wachtel. Fox’s Monica Crowley was also hired by Trump, but she was forced to resign after the rampant plagiarism in her book was revealed. This is an unprecedented migration of media hacks to political flacks.

Stelter’s commentary is an encouraging, albeit late, beginning for the media honestly characterizing the formation of Trump’s Ministry of Propaganda. More of this reporting will be necessary as Trump continues to steamroll the First Amendment and blur the lines between media and politics.

Trump recently told Fox’s Tucker Carlson that “When I have close to 100 million people watching me on [social media…] I have my own form of media.” Someone should tell him that another term for a president with his “own form of media” is “state-run media.” The press is not supposed to be a tool for the president’s communications. That’s how it’s done in dictatorships, but not in America. Maybe Trump has been consulting too much with his BFF, Vladimir Putin.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Donald Trump Is A Bloviating Ignoramus Says George Will

Just in time for the Memorial Day premiere of the History Channel’s Hatfields & McCoys, right-wing Nutlandia is erupting into their own epic feud.

Donald Trump

Today on ABC’s This Week, the conversation turned to the upcoming meeting of the remedial minds in New York between Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. When the panel came around to their most staunchly conservative member, George Will, there was a moment of honesty in political punditry that is rarely seen. Here is what Will had to say about Romney and his top surrogate Trump:

“I do not understand the cost benefit here. The costs are clear. The benefit — what voter is gonna vote for him because he is seen with Donald Trump? The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious it seems to me.

“Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics. Again, I don’t understand the benefit. What is Romney seeking?”

Actually, it’s obvious what Romney is seeking. He’s seeking to pander to the mental deficients who still think that President Obama is a Manchurian alien sent from Kenya to hand America over to godless Muslim socialists. He’s seeking to bask in the reflected glow of a television reality show celebrity to raise his abysmal favorability ratings. He’s seeking to bond with another member of the out-of-touch elitists who like to fire people. And he’s seeking campaign contributions from high income, low IQ donors.

Will’s slap at Trump is not the first shot fired in this feud. Last year Trump hit Will as “third rate,” and a couple of months ago Trump called the Pulitzer prize winning Will a hack and worse…

“I think he’s a totally overrated fool. I think this guy is so overrated. I don’t think he’s very smart. He looks smart with the little glasses and the hair slicked to the side.”

Trump made those statements to the overrated fools at Fox and Friends. It was typical of the Trump style of verbal assault that relies mainly on juvenile insults. Trump has previously directed his childish taunts at fellow Fox contributors Charles Krauthammer and Karl Rove, who he also called hacks.

Some of Trump’s ire may have been in response to the near universal dismissal of Trump’s aborted attempt to produce and moderate a Republican presidential primary debate. The debate, which Trump promised would get record ratings, never took place because the only candidates that agreed to participate were Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Romney, the man Trump has now endorsed, was one of those who declined to play in Trump’s sandbox. Will addressed the matter calling Trump an “entrepreneurial charlatan” and saying that…

“Now we have a December 27th debate proposed that would be moderated by Donald Trump. Surely it is time for these candidates to do something presidential. Stand up and say, we’re not going to be hijacked and participate in this.”

Last April, when Trump was still pretending to be considering running for president, Will fired off some brutal rounds at him and his alleged candidacy:

He can make a shambles of the Republican debates. Just by being there, he can hurt the Republican party. He is what’s called a ‘blatherskite’… that’s someone who blathers promiscuously.

And a month later, when asked what Trump’s political future would be. Will Responded that Trump “has no future in politics. He’s a buffoon, he’s a political sociopath.”

Trump’s response to the latest broadside from Will has yet to be published, but you can expect that it is forthcoming. Trump is as predictable as Old Faithful, particularly where his ego is involved. And when he is punched he punches back, though usually with far less force or intellect.

#OccupyWallStreet: It’s Not About Giving Government More Power

The latest right-wing mis-read of the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon is that the protesters are advocating giving more power to a government that they don’t trust. That sentiment was expressed by John Fund on Fox News as well as by George Will in this exchange with Jesse LaGreca on ABC’s This Week:

George Will: Mr. LaGreca, I hear a certain dissonance in your message. Your message is Washington is corrupt. Your message is Washington is the handmaiden of the powerful, and a lot of conservatives agree with that. But then you say that this corrupt Washington that is the handmaiden of the powerful should be much more powerful in regulating our lives. Why do you want a corrupt government bigger in our lives?

With the corporate media advancing yet another phony theory about this new movement it is important to set the record straight. No one associated with Occupy Wall Street has ever called for more or bigger government. That is a fabrication made entirely on the part of conservative critics whose only interest is to tarnish the movement, silence the message, and misdirect the public’s attention.

To be perfectly clear: The Occupy America movement is not about giving government more power. It is about taking power away from the corporations, lobbyists, and wealthy special interests who control government, and giving it back to the people.

That’s a perspective that is rarely articulated on television or elsewhere in the mainstream press. The absence of such viewpoints is a shameful flaw in American media. Every newspaper and television network has dedicated business reporters, but where are the labor reporters? LaGreca managed to challenge his TV hosts on this point during his brief segment saying…

“[T]he reality is, I’m the only working class person you’re going to see on Sunday news, political news… maybe ever. And I think that’s very indicative of the failures of our media, to report on the news that matter most to working class people.”

Fund, Will, and other conservatives are quite correct when they agree that the bankers and brokers who got bailed out after throwing our economy off a cliff should be held to account. That requires oversight by responsible public agencies. Citigroup is not going to let me audit their books.

What this movement is attempting to do is bring fairness into the economic process. It is attempting to carve out a place for the working and middle classes who have been shoved aside by the wealthy elites. This is a goal that any sincere Tea Partyer ought to support. And those who have not been irreversibly deluded by the Tea Party’s financiers (the Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity, etc.), who are the perpetrators of The Great Recession and the beneficiaries of a weak government that they can manipulate, should hurry down to Zucotti Park or the nearest site of Occupation in their city.

When the interests of the people are represented in government, then government is not more powerful, it is more democratic.

CONFIRMED: Right-Wingers Mostly Wrong

The pundit class in American media has long been deservedly regarded with disdain. They are, as a group, an arrogant collection know-nothings who, via intense self-delusion, think they know it all. I addressed this sorry situation four years ago when I labeled them The PEP Squad: Perpetually Erroneous Pundits. The gist of that essay was to point out that once you become a member of the fraternity it doesn’t matter how much you get wrong, you will still be invited back to deliver more of your bad advice.

Now there is evidence from an academic study of contemporary punditry that shows that the accuracy of most pundits is no better than 50/50. So if you can flip a coin you’re as smart as the average pundit.

The most interesting conclusion of the report is the confirmation that liberals are accurate more often than conservatives. That may be the result of the inherent slant of factual information that was first identified by fake pundit Stephen Colbert who noted that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

The top performer in the study is Paul Krugman of the New York Times. The worst performer is uber-pundit George Will.

The study has some fairly serious methodological flaws in my opinion, including the omission of Fox News from the study. However, the most prominent flaw is that it included currently serving politicians in the roster of pundits. When politicians pontificate on current affairs they are not making predictions – they are campaigning. Therefore, they are not providing their honest opinions about what they believe will happen. They are attempting to influence public opinion to produce the result they hope will happen. To be sure, some bona fide pundits do the same thing, but at least they don’t have the direct conflict of interest that sitting senators have.

It is fairly safe to assume that the results of the study would not change materially if the politicians were removed. Anyone paying attention to media prognosticators over the years already knows that their success ratio is pathetic. If someone in almost any other job made mistakes as frequently as these losers, they would not have a job for very long. But such are the perks of PEP Squad membership.

What we need is a Pundit Certification Council. The purpose of this would be to rate pundits on their accuracy and impose mandatory labels. If they fall in the top third percentile they can be regarded as “experts.” Those in the middle would retain the “pundit” label. And those in the bottom third would have to be designated as “propagandists” wherever they appeared in the media.

This would provide some measure of truth in punditry. It would incentivize opinion givers to strive for accuracy, and give networks, newspapers, etc., a tool to assess the performance of their editorial staff. Then, if they choose to keep propagandists on their payroll, it would be apparent to their viewers and readers. Just imagine tuning in to This Week next Sunday morning and seeing, “George Will, ABC News Propagandist,” in large type below his deceitful talking head.