MSNBC Scrambles Behind the Scenes to Change Its Vitriolic Culture

The Associated Press writes that MSNBC, the network that is rife with anti-conservative and anti-GOP rhetoric, is beginning to realize – together with its corporate affiliates – that its personal attacks on Republicans may not be in its interest.

The AP reports that MSNBC President Phil Griffin, who apologized to GOP National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus after MSNBC’s twitter feed contained a message that implied the political right wing would hate a Cheerios ad featuring a biracial couple, “has quietly put the word out to hosts to avoid personal attacks.”

MSNBC’s recent history has featured firing a staff member who was responsible for the offensive tweet; Alec Baldwin quitting after using an anti-gay slur in public; afternoon host Martin Bashir resigning after his on-air suggestion that someone should defecate in former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's mouth; and Melissa Harris-Perry apologizing after mocking Mitt Romney's family Christmas card for having one black family member, Romney’s adopted African-American grandson.

Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, commented, "It's one thing to make (mistakes) a few times in a row. That's bad luck. But if you keep doing it after you've acknowledged it, that suggests a blind spot."

The RNC threatened MSNBC with a boycott of its shows after the offensive tweet. Priebus wrote to Griffin, "With increasing frequency many of your hosts have personally denigrated and demeaned Americans – especially conservative and Republican Americans – without ever attempting to further meaningful political dialogue." Griffin then apologized.

Paul Levinson, communications professor at Fordham University, said, "MSNBC got the wrong message from its Keith Olbermann experience. You had somebody who was very charismatic and galvanizing and they thought it was OK basically to let anybody say whatever they want… If you're going to be a news organization, I think you probably need a little more self-control than the MSNBC commentators have. I think it does reflect badly on NBC."

Comcast, which owns NBC, has noticed. It seems Comcast wants to effect a separation between NBC and MSNBC. New NBC News President Deborah Turness is outspoken about the divide between the two.

Rosenstiel said, “All prominent news organizations have bumps like this. The real question is, are the corrections perceived as sincere and honest? More importantly, does the audience believe that you have learned something... from your mistakes?"


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