The Conversation

Dylan Byers: MSNBC Is Everything the Left Accuses Fox News of Being

Today Politico's Dylan Byers got tough on MSNBC with two posts calling into question the channel's journalistic credibility.

Byers started the day by going after MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry for something she said over the weekend. Harris-Perry claimed Sunday that the term Obamacare was an attempt by white people to denigrate a black President. Byers pointed out that "Hillarycare" and "Reaganomics" seem like similar appellations and asked, in light of these, how "Obamacare" could be implicitly racist while the other terms are not.

It's not clear whether Harris-Perry responded to Byers' challenge privately but she did not tweet (or anything else) today. In any case, Byers wasn't done with MSNBC.

Less than two hours later, Byers wrote a post comparing MSNBC to Fox and concluding that the network has become the thing progressives once said they abhorred:

In March, a Pew Research Center study -- yes, Pew -- found that 85 percent of MSNBC's programming is dedicated to "opinion," versus 15 percent that is dedicated to "news." Fox News dedicated just 55 percent of its programming to "opinion" and 45 percent to "news." (CNN dedicates 46 percent to "opinion" and 54 percent to "news.") During the 2012 election, the ratio of unfavorable to favorable treatment in stories on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on MSNBC “was roughly 23-to-1; the negative-to-positive ratio on Fox News was 8-to-1.”

It's worth adding that the 23-to-1 and 8-to-1 figures, while completely accurate, aren't directly compatible because they represent different percentages of the overall coverage. Both ratios come from a Pew chart which you can see here. Pew found that 71 percent of stories on Romney broadcast on MSNBC had a negative tone to just 3 percent positive, hence 23-to-1. Meanwhile, the comparable figures for Fox's coverage of Obama was 46 percent negative to 6 percent positive, hence 8-to-1.

But at Fox, nearly half of their stories mentioning Obama (48%) were mixed enough that they couldn't be rated as either for or against the President. On MSNBC only about a quarter (26%) of stories mentioning Romney were similarly balanced. And in the final week before the election things were even worse at MSNBC.

Byers main thrust was that MSNBC has become a bastion of opinion over fact and used his earlier post about Melissa Harris-Perry as a case in point:

Many of MSNBC's opinions aren't rooted in fact. Many of them are rooted in unfounded speculation. Melissa Harris-Perry's recent claim that Obamacare is a racially loaded term conceived of "by a group of wealthy white men who needed a way to put themselves above and apart from a black man" is based on... what? The fact that the term was first used by a woman? The fact that, from Reaganomics to Hillarycare, we've always ascribed names to signature policies and legislation?

What's interesting about this challenge is that Byers himself is not a conservative. So his casting down the gauntlet is presumably not motivated by an ideological viewpoint hostile to MSNBC (or friendly to Fox). In fact his headline, "Is MSNBC worse than Fox News?" makes clear he's not out to give Fox a pat on the back even as he challenges MSNBC.

I contacted Byers and asked if he had received any response from Harris-Perry or MSNBC. He told me a network spokesperson had responded earlier in the day saying they would pass "at this time." That might leave room for a response from Harris-Perry tomorrow. We'll have to wait and see if she or anyone else at MSNBC takes up the gauntlet. But given the month the network has had, losing two hosts in a row over crass comments, they may have decided they don't need another war of words right now.


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