The Creeping Fox News Contagion: MSNBC’s New Executive In Charge Of Morning Joe

Taking another leap toward the dark side, MSNBC announced today that they have hired Kevin Magee to serve as executive in charge of Morning Joe, the three hour block of programming hosted by former Republican representative Joe Scarborough. Magee is a former executive vice-president at Fox News.

Morning Joe Scarborough

The immediate ramifications of this staff change will not be particularly earth shattering. The program is already a bastion of right-wing propaganda with predominantly conservative punditry. However it does represent a congealing of the Fox Effect on the mainstream media. It is an advance of the virus emanating from Fox to infect other networks with their deliberately deceitful approach to journalism.

Morning Joe already has a weakened immune system. Last year they added Amy Holmes to their roster of contributors. Holmes is also the anchor of Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze Internet Video program. Scarborough himself is hopelessly biased and nearly oblivious to the right-wing dominance of the press. In November he went on an extended rant demanding his guests to name a single Republican on a nightly news program (they couldn’t, but I could). And Morning Joe is the MSNBC home of Donald Trump, who has become a regular fixture on the show – and nowhere else on the network.

One thing that this should put an end to is the talk that MSNBC is the liberal answer to Fox News. That has never been true, mainly because, while MSNBC was generally more progressive, it remained fact-based as opposed to the blatant lying that is the hallmark of Fox. More to the point, Fox News would never give a three hour block of airtime (soon to be expanding to four hours) to a liberal ex-congressman, but Scarborough not only has that, but is also featured on NBC’s Meet the Press. Just imagine if Fox & Friends was hosted by Anthony Weiner or if Sean Hannity were replaced by Rachel Maddow.

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

Since NBC/Universal was bought by Comcast, MSNBC has undergone some troubling changes. Comcast’s owners, the conservative Roberts family, insisted that there would be no substantive changes, but Ed Schultz, Joy Reid, and Alex Wagner lost their shows shortly after the acquisition. And now they are beginning to stuff the deck with right-wing pundits and producers. This cannot possibly lead to anything positive for the network. If they were smart they would recall that when Keith Olbermann was on in primetime, his show regularly challenged, and occasionally beat, Fox’s O’Reilly Factor. And Olbermann just happens to be available now.

MSNBC’s Scarborough Has On-Air Mental Breakdown Over Liberal Media Myth

The resident Republican blowhard on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough, has staked out his post as the network’s voice of rightist disinformation. He commands his three hour block of airtime like a junta leader, ordering the topics of discussion and interrupting his guests incessantly.

MSNBC Joe Scarborough

This morning Scarborough appeared to have a severe cognitive collapse during a segment about the Republican Party’s debate-o-phobia (video below). Like most of his ideological allies, he is suffering from the delusion that the American media, owned by a handful of megalithic, multinational corporations, is dominated by liberals. Scarborough set off on a rant about the absence of conservatives on nightly news programs, Sunday shows, and in the executive suites. He badgered his guests to come up with examples of Republicans in those roles, and insisted that they could not do it.

Scarborough: Outside of Brit Hume, who has been a conservative in the mainstream media in the past 30 years who you’ve worked for? Outside of Brit Hume, who has held a powerful position at ABC, NBC or CBS News on the air? […] Name the single Republican that has hosted a Sunday show, that has been an anchor of a news network for the big three networks over the past 50 years. You cannot do it.

Setting aside the fact that Scarborough conveniently leaves out Fox News, the most watched, and therefore mainstream by default, cable news network, he repeatedly spits out this challenge to his colleagues, who are not particularly well informed on the subject. For instance, Mark Halperin, the senior political analyst for MSNBC, responded sheepishly saying “Joe, I agree with you 100%.” No one else on the panel was able to take up Scarborough’s challenge either.

For their future reference, they may want to note that Chris Wallace, now the anchor of Fox News Sunday, hosted NBC’s Meet the Press for a year. Tony Snow, who went on to serve as press secretary for George W. Bush was the first host of FOX News Sunday. Diane Sawyer anchored ABC’s World News Tonight for five years after serving as a press aide to Richard Nixon. So Scarborough’s sweaty insistence that no one can name such people is demonstrably false.

Scarborough kept switching from asking for on-air-personalities to executives in charge of the news operations. On that front there are right-wingers like David Rhodes, the current President of CBS News who had a similar position at Fox for fifteen years. Ken Jautz, the head of CNN, is the man who gave Glenn Beck his first job on television. NBC is now owned by Comcast, whose Roberts family owners are notorious righties.

There are certainly more conservatives in television newsrooms, but it’s hard to pin them down with proof. That’s because most career journalists are careful to avoid any open expression of partisanship. So people like CBS’s Scott Pelley, or NBC’s Chuck Todd, and many more, may have distinctly conservative views, but they have never worked for a GOP senator or made a donation to any political campaign, or even registered with a party, so there is no hard evidence. And the same is true for journalists who are accused of being liberals. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there. And it doesn’t warrant the loony outburst that Scarborough let loose today. If anything, the fact that no one at the table could cite any of the people mentioned above is proof that the media is conservative, and blind to their bias.

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

Glenn Beck Returns To Cable News – On MSNBC? (Sort Of)

The ratings troubles on MSNBC have been the subject of much hand-wringing by executives at the cable network and their corporate bosses at Comcast/NBCUniversal. In an attempt to reverse the downtrend MSNBC canceled Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid, moving anchor Thomas Roberts into those time slots. That left an opening in Roberts’ old program, “Way Too Early,” that precedes “Morning Joe.” It appears that Joe Scarborough has now assumed control of his lead-in which is leaning more toward his conservative brand of politics. And that is evident by the person currently anchoring the early show.

MSNBC Amy Holmes Glenn Beck

That’s right – Amy Holmes has been at the helm of Way Too early all this week. For those unfamiliar with her, she is host of a program called “The Hot List” that is part of Glenn Beck’s Internet media venture TheBlaze. Prior to that she was a speechwriter for Bill Frist, a former senator from Tennessee and Republican majority leader.

Giving Holmes this high profile spot as a “news” program anchor is a disturbing step toward the sort of wingnut media that even Fox News couldn’t handle when they fired Beck. Now Beck’s fringe media has a foothold on what has been regarded as the “liberal” cable news network. It’s a foreboding development and one that creates suspicion as to where the new management team at NBC plans on taking the cable net.

One thing that this should put an end to is the talk that MSNBC is the liberal answer to Fox News. That has never been true, mainly because, while MSNBC was generally more progressive, it remained fact-based as opposed to the blatant lying that is the hallmark of Fox. More to the point, Fox News would never give a three hour block of airtime to a liberal ex-congressman, but Scarborough not only has that, but is also featured on NBC’s Meet the Press. Just imagine if Fox & Friends was hosted by Anthony Weiner. [Note: Scarborough also left office amid controversy over the death of intern Lori Klausutis]

Putting Holmes in the anchor chair on MSNBC is the equivalent to replacing Sean Hannity with Rachel Maddow. Fox would never consider such a thing. Even though Fox pretends to be fair and balanced, their schedule is rife with right-wingers and former GOP operatives. There are even four candidates for the Republican primary for president who are former Fox News employees (Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson). And now Glenn Beck’s voice is being heard daily on MSNBC to balance that right-wing cable news bias with some crackpot, conservative, evangelist bias. If MSNBC thinks that this is going to help their ratings, they are sorely mistaken.

News Corpse Presents: The ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Fox News Admits Ted Cruz Isn’t Ready To Be President (Or Rand Paul, or Marco Rubio)

The Fox News community web site and Fib Factory, Fox Nation, posted an item this morning that sought to discredit President Obama’s qualifications to be president. In the process they not only disqualified several Tea-publican presidential hopefuls, but they demonstrated what a laughably unserious source for news Fox has become.

Fox Nation
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NBC News had nothing to do with the article about Obama’s readiness to be president. They certainly did not “admit” anything of the kind. It was Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, a Republican host and pundit, who made the comment that “Barack Obama has proven over the past five years that he wasn’t ready to be president of the United States.” Of course, that’s a position that GOP pundits have held since before Obama ever took office, and can hardly be considered breaking news.

The funny thing is that Scarborough’s reasoning behind his opinion is that “Obama ‘came out of nowhere’ as a freshman senator […] with less than a full term in the U.S. Senate, also unimpressive. Most of his time there seemed to be spent running for the presidency.” That description fits freshmen senators and prospective presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio, as well as it does Obama. Therefore, we can assume that Fox also regards these Tea Party darlings as unfit for duty in the White House.

And just to drive home how fiercely Fox News is competing with supermarket tabloids for the Batboy-loving news consumer, they juxtaposed the article about Obama with one featuring a reporter being groped by a monkey (insert Schwarzenegger joke here). If this doesn’t send a message about Fox’s credibility as a news enterprise, I don’t know what will.

Comparing Sarah Palin To Howard Dean

Yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Time Magazine editor-at-large and senior political analyst, Mark Halperin sought to make a comparison between Sarah Palin and Howard Dean. Commendably, the show’s co-hosts would have none of it. Mika Brzezinski said flatly that it was “not the same.” Joe Scarborough went even further:

Joe Scarborough: “It is such a disservice to compare Sarah Palin, in any aspect to Howard Dean. Yes, because that is an insult to Howard Dean’s intelligence.”

Fox Nation and other rightist webizens are aghast at Scarborough’s slap at Palin. But do you think they ever bothered to actually compare the two?

Sarah Palin: Howard Dean
Attended four universities before attaining a degree in journalism. Earned a BA in political science at Yale and medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Miss Wassila and third runner up in the Miss Alaska pageant. Stock broker on Wall Street.
Brief stint as a sportscaster for local Anchorage TV. Practiced family medicine in Vermont.
Served two-terms as Mayor of Wassila, AK. Elected to the Vermont House of Representatives and later, lieutenant governor.
Quit half way through her first term as Governor of Alaska. Served six terms as Governor of Vermont.
Selected by John McCain as VP candidate. Ran for the nomination of the Democratic Party for President.
Went Rogue. Was elected to chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

The similarities are mind-boggling. Scarborough was quite right to admonish Halperin for his simplistic and incorrect analysis. But the bigger issue here is how someone like Halperin can be accorded the respect and authority of an editor’s role at Time Magazine. Exactly how low are their standards?

The Cult Of Foxonality™ Part II

A little over two years ago I wrote an article titled, The Cult Of Foxonality™. It’s premise was that…

“Fox viewers appear to be more loyal to Fox than to Republicans or conservatism. This misdirected allegiance bestows a far more influential authority onto a media entity than ought ever to be considered. It suggests that the bombastic demagogues that Fox has shaped into celebrity anchors truly do weigh down their transfixed disciples.”

That piece employed an analysis of ratings and viewer habits at the time that confirmed that Fox News viewers were wedded to their cable hearth and would not be moved. Subsequent events reinforced the theory. For instance, prior to the election, a Rasmussen poll reported that nine out of ten Fox News viewers intended to vote for John McCain. That’s a higher percentage of McCain voters than amongst Republicans.

Recently, Fox News has been building on their ratings dominance. In an attempt to understand why Fox would be increasing their audience at a time when Republicans are reaching new lows, I revisited the cult hypothesis. No other model adequately explains the stark divergence of the fates of Fox News and the Republican Party.

Looking at the current cable news landscape, there is an obvious separation of the primary players. Fox News is far and away the leader. MSNBC is the spunky challenger that has recently overtaken the old master, CNN. It would be easy to assign labels that reflect the partisan programming philosophy of these networks. However, in truth, there is only one truly partisan network among them.

Fox News’ success is firmly rooted in its primetime lineup. With Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren all easily winning their time periods. Add to that Glenn Beck’s arrival that has put him in competition with perennial leader O’Reilly. But it doesn’t stop there.

Fox’s business anchor (and head of their business network) is Neil Cavuto, an aggressively conservative advocate for right-wing viewpoints. Fox’s Washington editor is the blatantly partisan Bill Sammon. The White House correspondent is the equally biased Major Garrett. The Fox morning program is an almost laughable cliche of wingnut dunces.

Compare that to MSNBC’s schedule that consists of only two reliable liberals. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. [Edit: Add Ed Schultz] Chris Matthews swings both ways and is close buddies with folks like Tom Delay and Rudy Giuliani. Their morning program is three hours hosted by the conservative Republican, former congressman, Joe Scarborough. (Can you imagine Fox News giving three daily hours of airtime to a liberal Democrat?) CNN has become devoid of any personality at all. Their leading figures are null types like Larry King and Anderson Cooper. Although Lou Dobbs does stand out a bit.

So here is the interesting part. Glenn Beck was on CNN just a few months ago with nowhere near the audience he has today on Fox. CNN’s Dobbs, and MSNBC’s Scarborough are as conservative as anyone on Fox, but they can’t duplicate those numbers. What this tells us is that cable news success has little to do with partisanship. If it did, Dobbs and Scarborough would be doing Fox-like business, and Beck would not have had to move to Fox to find an audience. But he did have to move. Because Fox viewers, despite their obvious idolization of him now, were not going to go to CNN to see him. And it wasn’t because they didn’t know who he was. He was already the third biggest star on talk radio.

Therefore, the key to the popularity of Fox is that it is Fox. Their viewers are not interested in programs that feature the same ideology if presented on other networks. CNN could hire Sarah Palin and she would flop. But not on Fox. In fact, I would wager that if Dobbs and/or Scarborough shifted to Fox, everyone would be astonished at their newfound popularity.

Fox is the home of the forlorn, conservative, tea bagging, town howler. They have found their happy place, and they have no intention of moving from it. It is what gives them solace in a time when liberals (or socialists/fascists) have taken over the House, the Senate, and even put a dark-skinned, Muslim, illegal alien in the White House. They need the camaraderie. They need the affirmation. They need the reassurance that the world isn’t crumbling beneath them (or in Beck’s case, that it is). They are even marketing the Fox Nation web site with the undisguised message of a promise of togetherness.

It’s just so sad. I think I’m gonna cry. But that would be Glenn Beck’s shtick.

Chuck Todd Is A Political Analyst?

Chuck Todd is the NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent. I wonder what qualifications were required for those posts. Listening to Todd’s comments today on Morning Joe suggest that not much actual research or knowledge of current political events were deemed a prerequisite in landing his job:

The key portion of his remarks reveals some sort of tunnel vision on his part as he struggles to explain left-wing criticism of Obama’s healthcare initiatives:

“I think we’ve all been wondering at what point…you know…what would it take for the left to start actually criticizing the White House […] Would there be something that they would get upset about from the White House, and this is the first time we’re seeing that.”

The first time? Apparently Todd doesn’t read Paul Krugman, who has been blasting the President on his economic proposals. Todd hasn’t been watching Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow who have been fiercely critical of Obama’s timidity with regard to torture and the prosecution of those responsible for it. Todd must be oblivious to the attacks from advocates of civil liberties and same-sex marriage. And Todd must have missed the free press activists who are hammering the White House for not living up to their promises on transparency.

The left may be many things, but it is not above circling the wagons and firing away at itself. Todd has bought the right-wing fallacy that the media is liberal and that the Obama administration is enjoying special treatment. That has never been true, but that doesn’t stop the rightist propaganda machine from alleging it. One thing they never acknowledge is that Fox News is the #1 national cable news network, and they are notoriously, and viciously, critical of Obama, democrats, and liberals in general.

How the right can assert that the media is liberal while Fox, most newspapers, and virtually all of talk radio, are firmly in the conservative camp, is unfortunate but understandable given their self-serving agenda. What I don’t understand is how professional journalists, who aspire to practice their craft ethically, can be so taken in by the dishonest representations of partisan operatives and, as a result, disseminate the sort of nonsense that Todd is dispensing here.

[Update] Todd responded to an emailer (thanks, ecostar) saying:

“I love getting attacked on things like this. There’s a difference between venting and deciding to act upon the anger and what I was point out was the specific acting out by moveon on rahm and health care. Sounds like some blogger decided to either misrepresent what I said or somehow didn’t understand the context. But thanks for being a ranter in your attack.”

So Todd doesn’t think that all of the advocacy groups connected to the issues addressed above are acting on their complaints? MoveOn is just the latest to act. He should check with the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, FreePress.net, Brave New Films/Foundation, etc. His answer is a complete dodge that only further engulfs him in disinformation.

Feel free to let Todd know that this is NOT the first time that the left has been critical of Obama, and it is NOT the first time that media mainstays like him have misrepresented that fact:

Email:
Chuck Todd
Letters @ MSNBC