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I've been watching MSNBC ever since it first appeared on my local cable TV. I was a huge fan of Keith Olbermann, and sad when he was asked to leave the channel. I won't go into all that here ~ read this article for some background. Keith is still a TV icon to the Left because he would stay on a story for weeks after it was dropped by other networks, and he never backed down in his attacks on rival Fox News, especially Bill O'Reilly. While obviously his personality was too strong for some, and maybe too strong for cable news, he wasn't just a mouthpiece for a bunch of talking points like say, cough, cough, Joe Scarborough, cough.
I will always miss Keith's commentaries, but I got over it and became a fervent MSNBC watcher again during President Obama's 2012 campaign. I loved their "Lean-Forward" message, and Rachel Maddow's speech to the Tea Party about all the things that weren't going to happen now that Mitt Romney had failed as a candidate.
But just after the election something changed. Time and again from 2013 till now, MSNBC has disappointed their main viewership, made up of Democrats and Liberals like myself who voted for Barack Obama. It's not just one thing, it's an accumulation of wrong-headed mistakes. If I had a dollar for every time someone on Twitter told me to turn off MSNBC and boycott them, I would have a chunk of change.
The bottom line is this: MSNBC has forgotten who their demographic is. In their quest to steal from Fox and CNN, they think they have to become a right-center network. But in doing so, they are offending the very people who have stuck with them since before Keith Olbermann got the boot.
A little background on the long decline of MSNBC:
MSNBC’s decline can be traced back to one decision. At the time, when he let Keith Olbermann walk out the door, MSNBC boss Phil Griffin believed that his network’s brand was strong enough to replace the former 8 PM host. Griffin was wrong.
After Lawrence O’Donnell had failed, Griffin put Ed Schultz in the 8 PM slot. Griffin shuffled Schultz off to the weekends because he believed that MSNBC could attract more young viewers by developing several clones of Rachel Maddow’s successful 9 PM show. Phil Griffin decided to go wonky with Chris Hayes at 8, which led to many former MSNBC viewers leaving and not coming back.
Hayes has been a disaster at 8 PM, and viewer demand for Schultz was so strong that the blue collar populist was put back on to the weekday lineup at 5 PM.
MSNBC was floundering, and Griffin made things worse by caving to Sarah Palin and the right by defacto firing Martin Bashir for some blunt comments that he made about the former half term Alaska governor.
Bashir never has the audience that Olbermann did, but his removal from 4 PM sent a message to MSNBC’s viewers. Lean Forward was just a marketing slogan. When push came to shove, MSNBC easily caved to right-wing pressure.
Martin Bashir was fired after reading a historical document about slavery on the air in response to Sarah Palin, who had tossed slavery into her word salad about GOP oppression caused by President Obama. Bashir was disgusted with Her Royal Stupidity misinterpreting history, and he made a choice to speak some serious truth so she would understand the demeaning tortures that real slaves in the South had to endure.
While it's true that some details of the history lesson were distasteful (so-to-speak), the far-right on Twitter spread the untrue story that Bashir had told Palin to "eat sh*t" on the air. The Tea Party kept the pressure on until the President of MSNBC, Phil Griffin,fired Martin Bashir.
Phil Griffin has a long history of pandering to the Right:
It's been nearly a year since #msnbc and Phil Griffin caved in, not to Al Qaeda, but to Republican priss Priebus. http://t.co/RnxGlSGfJa
— E.A. Harris (@KW2Kenai) January 13, 2015
Call 212-664-2456 Direct Line to Phil Griffin's office to protest Martin Bashir leaving MSNBC http://t.co/HUY2AmG9tS
— Neal Schulz (@GBNeal59) December 5, 2013
Melissa Harris-Perry Gives Tear-Filled Apology to Mitt Romney for Black Grandchild Jokes - http://t.co/x8PXYn65GC < took her time saying it
— Frank Woodman Jr (@kstaxman) January 11, 2014
Griffin is known for having "pets" at MSNBC, and they know who they are. Take Joe Scarborough, please. He did an interview last year, after the firing of Bashir, explaining his relationship with Griffin:
Appearing on Steve Malzberg‘s NewsMaxTV show Wednesday, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough spoke out about the controversy surrounding his colleague Martin Bashir...
. . . Malzberg asked Scarborough why MSNBC hadn’t suspended Bashir or publicly reprimanded him. Obviously hesitant to comment on internal matters, the Morning Joe host suggested that, much like how Fox chief Roger Ailes doesn’t allow his hosts to attack each other, MSNBC’ers are unable to do the same.
However, he did say:
Every time something horrific is said like that, I go in and I talk to Phil Griffin, who I’m good friends with. And I say, Phil, this is unacceptable. Either they apologize for it or I’m going to bring it up myself.
Personally, I can't stand "Morning Joe" and I usually only see clips of it on Twitter. But apparently it started out to be MSNBC's one right-leaning show to "balance" the rest of the network. Maybe that would work if the namesake of the show had an ounce of humility and a willingness to learn from others. Unfortunately, Joe Scarborough is a loud-mouth bully who dominates not just sidekick Mika, but anyone else who shows up in the morning.
Last year, Scarborough verbally attacked the large and growing Democratic and Liberal-leaning Twitter group Unite Blue, of which I am a member. He called our members "freaky fringe haters" or something like that, never thinking for a minute he was shooting himself and MSNBC in the foot. Somehow he thought it was a good idea to attack the very demographic that was keeping his job available to him, since Dems and Liberals watch most of the other shows.
That display of arrogance should have been enough to get him fired like Martin Bashir, but we soon found out that "pets" get to stay, and the feelings of a huge group of Democrats don't mean very much to Phil Griffin, compared to someone important like the Tea Party's Sarah Palin.
But Lean Forward, right? LOL.
For a long time many have called for Joe Scarborough to be fired to save the rest of the network, but instead, Griffin tried him out on the night shift last week, in place of Maddow and Chris Hayes. It's unbelievable.
So Phil Griffin is trying to drive away @msnbc's evening audience as well? Not a good game plan, Phil. #MorningJoeAtNight
— Pat120 (@Pat120) January 31, 2015
.@debdlund Scarborough and weekend Jail programs do nothing to develop brand loyalty of Progressive audience. All Phil Griffin's doing.
— Bill Wong (@ten24get) February 5, 2015
This recent article warning of impending doom at the network makes no mention of Joe Scarborough, choosing to blame mainly Chris Hayes, and warning that Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid may be on their way out. Looks like he wants to "save the pets" while kicking off the strays.
From The Wrap
January ratings revealed double-digit declines compared with January, 2014 in all ratings measurements. During the day, MSNBC was down 20 percent in viewers and 37 percent in the advertising-coveted 25-54 demo. In primetime, it fell 23 percent in viewers and 39 percent in demo.
In October, MSNBC President Phil Griffin said the network was "experimenting" with new ways to regain momentum, spawning widespread speculation that he planned to make significant changes to the lineup. Ronan Farrow's show, which debuted last year and has received dismal ratings ever since, is one program that is widely believed to be up for removal. On Tuesday, it brought in just 11,000 viewers in the demo.
An MSNBC spokesperson declined to comment on the Tuesday ratings.
But Morning Joe isn't the only problem at MSNBC. Even the mainstays of the network seem to lean some other direction besides Left.
Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes, for all the good they do night after night, often go a little nuts and out of step with ordinary liberals out here in the heartland, to the point that real Democrats just turn them off. This has become more of a cumulative effect since the 2012 elections. Yes, they have a right to their opinions, but if you want to know why the ratings are so low, look back over the past two years at topics that may seem unimportant in the scheme of things, but which made viewers angry enough to boycott MSNBC.
I love Rachel Maddow and I really enjoy her show. She is witty, entertaining, funny, and at her best, her show has the spirit of Keith Olbermann.
But unfortunately she sees herself as a "War Historian," and whenever President Obama seems to be on the verge of doing something with American firepower or diplomacy anywhere in the world, Maddow goes berserk. I remember the first time I went "click" on her show. She was saying that President Obama had every right to intercede in Syria, but that he needed to ask permission from Congress or he might get us trapped into another war in the Middle East. It still makes me go "huh?" She sounded just like the nuts on Fox who didn't want that uppity President to do anything like any other President who has ever lived.
And what's worse, Maddow seemed to have no sense of irony that the Congress she was suggesting he ask for "permission" is the same wingnut Congress she reported on every night as a bunch of warmongers obsessed with guns and Benghazi. He was supposed to ask them? She even invoked the Constitution, which is right up there with Sarah Palin!
Some people forgot to watch her show after that. Oh, and they were really mad at her. Some of them still are. Some viewers just aren't coming back.
Comcast Secretary of State Rachel @Maddow consulting with Comcast Emeritus Chair Andrea Mitchel on how bad Obama messed up our War in Syria.
— Ina (@InaMaziarcz) August 30, 2013
Hannity and Rachel @maddow basically in total agreement against war in #Syria. Not sure that was the Hope and Change Obama was going for.
— Dave Rubin (@RubinReport) August 28, 2013
@KaJo503 @Maddow She's so arrogant, she doesn't accept her Ivory Tower views on Obama Admin or on Syria play any role in her decline.
— Jeff Gauvin (@JeffersonObama) August 29, 2013
There are some problems with Chris Hayes too. His chirpy, giddy and cerebral persona were more appropriate for his Saturday morning show "Up," but Griffon thought he could save their prime-time lineup and attract the younger demographic. It was soon apparent that it didn't work out that way. I think he means well and much of his reporting is excellent, such as his work during the Ferguson marches.
What I didn't expect was that he would become the sudden champion of an out-and-out traitor to the United States, Edward Snowden, the Russian "patriot" defector.
Viewers didn't leave the show because Hayes criticized the NSA. Viewers just got fed up with MSNBC's elevation of Snowden's partner/mentor/witness/whatever Glenn Greenwald as some kind of hero journalist and paragon of virtue who wants to save the world. The real Greenwald is a raging Anti-Government Libertarian and Near-Anarchist who calls the President an "Imperial Emperor" (just like the rightwing nutjobs) and thinks anyone with allegiance to any country is a "statist." After a few weeks of Greenwald worship, Chris Hayes figured out that most Democrats don't like him, but by then Hayes was like a little boy whose balloon got deflated all of a sudden by criticism on Twitter and the falling ratings.
Fascinating to watch Glenn Greenwald sucking up to Chuck Todd and Chris Hayes. Obviously thinks they're sympathetic.
— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) September 24, 2014
So @MSNBC, how's Greenwald Groupie @chrislhayes working out for ya? http://t.co/oSlmf99niG pic.twitter.com/Knt8gCT8IC
— TheObamaDiary.com (@TheObamaDiary) August 8, 2014
I refuse to watch Chris Hayes if he continues to invite Greenwald on show. Greenwald enemy to country! @AngieinWAState @allinwithchris
— Mary Ann Barbero (@marieann66) July 10, 2014
So basically all you get from Chris Hayes is a one sided report on the NSA by way of Glenn Greenwald. Almost daily. Not balanced.
— Gus (@Gus_802) July 31, 2013
When asked if broccoli was his favorite vegetable, Chris Hayes responded with, "whatever vegetable Greenwald likes, I like." #BroccoliGate
— Gus (@Gus_802) July 9, 2013
MSNBC’s @chrislhayes confronts @ggreenwald: “There are lots of people who watch this show who hate you, frankly.” http://t.co/M4edNajtKM
— Dan Froomkin (@froomkin) May 19, 2014
The Greenwald and Rand Paul Themed MSNBC Experiment Has Been A Complete Failure. Lowest Ratings In 6 Years http://t.co/vVkLfV4KHY #p2
— Jeff Gauvin (@JeffersonObama) July 3, 2013
Griffon can blame Ronan Farrow, Joy Reid, or anyone else he likes for low daytime ratings. But he should look at his pets, for instance the ever-exasperated Andrea Mitchell and the ever-smarmy Chuck Todd. Day after day since the last election they have been going into hysterics over President Obama's "Optics" - "Why is he playing golf" or "Why is he going out for dinner?" "Why is he drinking coffee?" "Why doesn't he care?" "Why is he on vacation?" - stuff no one ever said about George W. Bush or any other President in history.
POTUS and VPOTUS now golfing after announcing decision to delay action Optics?
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) August 31, 2013
VIDEO: NBC's Andrea Mitchell calls out Obama for Failed "Optics of Leadership" http://t.co/nNSXuvMrOi #tcot
— Accuracy In Media (@AccuracyInMedia) July 26, 2014
Obama says doesn't do optics well answering @chucktodd on golfing after Foley murder #MTP http://t.co/oZM65JDA2x
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) September 7, 2014
The fact that Chuck Todd thinks that asking about golf is hard hitting journalism just shows how doomed .@MTP ... http://t.co/f3gbsaiu3H
— Pnthrgrlgail (@Mama4Obama1) September 7, 2014
Krystal Ball from "The Cycle" is another problem. She is so far-left, she is nearly to the right of Rand Paul sometimes. She's not that horrible sometimes, but other times, she is. I don't hate her, but I don't watch her anymore either.
Ball went on a crazy tirade about the Obamacare website back when it was having problems, helped along by some whining by then MSNBC fixture, Ezra Klein - who wanted background music while waiting on the phone. Of course now that the same website is enrolling millions of new people into health insurance,and yes, Krystal Ball does seem to take pride in that - NOW. But back at the beginning, Ball certainly helped the Far-Far Right by slamming ACA Obamacare because it wasn't working automatically.
Considering that just this week, two years after Ball and Klein attacked the Obamacare website, my own state of Tennessee just turned down Medicaid expansion again due to Obamacare haters in the GOP, it was never a good thing that Krystal Ball decided to attack ACA from the left. Maybe MSNBC has chosen to forget this wrong-headedness, but it's harder to forget here in a red state.
What do you think about http://t.co/O1sehQfEXs? Share your comments here: http://t.co/7wlAKic7Js cc @krystalball
— The Cycle (@thecyclemsnbc) October 25, 2013
REQUIRED READING for .@krystalball and .@ezraklein. http://t.co/mWRtQSf10B Your privilege oozes. Can't help, get out of the way. We.See,You.
— KSK(africa) (@lawalazu) October 26, 2013
About the #ACA website Krystal Ball's cognitive dissonance was obvious to everyone except her . . . pic.twitter.com/FFza41LZj1
— Jeanne K. (@SnarkAmendment) October 26, 2013
She also praised Libertarian Nutcase Rand Paul as "courageous, and begged Hillary Clinton not to run for President. . Last year, she said President Obama's State of the Union "depressed her." What. The. Hell? Is it any wonder that viewers sometimes wonder whose side she is on?
More from MSNBC's @KrystalBall on Hillary: "Tone-deaf and unrelatable." http://t.co/kbfZNapCSi
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) October 25, 2014
RUN LIZ RUN! RT @thecyclemsnbc: . @krystalball is telling Hillary “don’t run”. Watch: http://t.co/5oeX2ZuGMY pic.twitter.com/iuQVROYBAk #p2 #ctl
— I Am #ABWisdom (@adbridgeforth) August 2, 2014
@krystalball slams "pathetic" Democrats for not leading on #Ferguson http://t.co/YRmxLRWGVL (via @EgbertoWillies)
— The 757 Progressive (@hrprogressive) August 27, 2014
Last year, Chuck Todd wrote a book about President Obama called "The Stranger," which the President and his daughter mocked just before Christmas as "a sad book." Todd is famous for stating that he had no obligation to report "the truth" about Obamacare to the GOP - that tells you all you need to know about his life as a "journalist." He replaced the lame David Gregory, another Phil Griffin favorite, on NBC's Meet the Press, and I'm sure the ratings have plummeted even more. Todd also turns up frequently on MSNBC shows such as Morning Joe and Hardball to discuss "Lame Duck" or "Weak" President Obama. What Democrat wants to hear that stuff day after day? Not this one!
SHUT UP @chucktodd SHUT UP @chucktodd SHUT UP @chucktodd SHUT UP @chucktodd @mitchellreports @msnbc @cspanwj pic.twitter.com/r0V0iSHE0l
— Maverick™ (@spooney35) February 6, 2015
My point here is that there are many problems with MSNBC, and they are so deep it may not be fixable with Phil Griffon at the top. Unfortunately he seems to be tone deaf to the viewers, and incapable of firing his pets. They can turn the network into another version of Fox News and probably lure some wingnut viewers if that's what they want, but it would be a shame to see the network of Keith Olbermann go completely down the toilet.
MSNBC sure is running a lot of Koch ads. Takeover is complete. @msnbc @Koch_Industries
— LiberalPhenom (@LiberalPhenom) February 6, 2015
If the owners at Comcast/NBC wanted @MSNBC to be successful, they wouldn't keep Phil Griffin in his job.
— Allan Brauer (@allanbrauer) February 5, 2015
@Green_Footballs Dude, I turned off @msnbc and @cnn years ago. Nothing but less objectionable @FoxNews propaganda.
— Liberal Librarian (@Lib_Librarian) February 6, 2015
Hey @MSNBC !!!!!!!!!! Keith & Martin especially !!!! #uniteblue #WakeUp pic.twitter.com/q5itrseC3k
— Jim McCarthy Jr. (@jimmacpam) February 5, 2015
Maybe Phil Griffin at @msnbc should look in a mirror, he is one of major reasons of any ratings issues. #MourningJoe and Wika
— Caligirl22 (@Twitlertwit) February 6, 2015