You may not be aware of this, but when Keith Olbermann was fired – sorry, I think we’re supposed to say “agreed to part ways” – at MSNBC there was a shakeup in their lineup which left the 6pm slot open. Cenk Uygur, of The Young Turks “fame”, took over the slot. You might be asking yourself, “Who?” It’s a good question. Cenk and The Young Turks were a YouTube show that gained a following among Progressives a few years ago. He’s one of those loudmouth know-it-all-but-doesn’t-really-know-anything blowhards who parrots progressive talking points while smugly suggesting that anyone who disagrees with them is stupid. The most recent example of Uygur spouting off half-cocked – he does this a lot – and reality coming back to smack him in the face came in the aftermath of WeinerGate. You must watch the video. Knowing how it all turned out makes it even more hilarious.
So you’d think Cenk would be a perfect fit at MSNBC, right? Not exactly.
The New York Times reports that Uygur is done. And, to add insult to injury, Al Sharpton is replacing him. How awful do you have to be as a host for Al Sharpton to be considered a better alternative?
He earned solid but not stand-out ratings; in late June the channel’s president, Phil Griffin, decided to try out Mr. Sharpton, and offered Mr. Uygur a new contract that included a weekend show, but not a higher-profile weekday show.
Mr. Uygur, who by most accounts was well liked within MSNBC, said in an interview that he turned down the new contract because he felt Mr. Griffin had been the recipient of political pressure. In April, he said, Mr. Griffin “called me into his office and said that he’d been talking to people in Washington, and that they did not like my tone.” He said he guessed Mr. Griffin was referring to White House officials, though he had no evidence for the assertion. He also said that Mr. Griffin said the channel was part of the “establishment,” and “that you need to act like it.”
The schadenfreude is strong, I’ll admit it. But where to begin!? Let’s start off with the part where someone in Washington is calling MSNBC executives and telling them who should and shouldn’t be on the air. You might be tempted to speculate, like Uygur did, that it was someone at the White House or within the Democratic Party. But, as Larry O’Connor has been highlighting, there’s another group based in Washington who seems to have a lot of influence at MSNBC. Maybe Cenk refused to follow the talking points properly? Maybe someone in Washington was afraid Uygur made Progressives look bad because he was too arrogant while being completely wrong and they were afraid it would turn the few independents who watch off?
Don’t even get me started on the allegation that MSNBC President Phil Griffin considers his network part of the Democrat “establishment.” That’s a whole other can of worms that may or may have not just been opened by this development. Al Sharpton was a legitimate candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2008, after all. Well, okay. He was included in a bunch of the debates. Better?
Anyway, the powers that be didn’t like Uygur’s “tone.”
MSNBC is home to many hosts who criticize President Obama and other Democrats from a progressive point of view, but at times Mr. Uygur could be especially harsh.
Now, before you go thinking that Uygur was harsh on President Obama for being too liberal, think again. This guy once claimed, with smug certitude, that Obama was more conservative than Reagan. He even tried to argue the point with some of his guests at the time. Red flags should have gone up at MSNBC way back then. But no, they kept bringing him back. They even gave him the 6pm slot for a while. A decision they clearly regret.
Phil Griffin is denying Uygur’s allegations and Cenk is holding to his version of the story. One can only hope the two engage in a protracted, and public, PR battle. It would make great theater. Oh, and the White House is denying any involvement, so Cenk’s all alone in this thing. But he still has his YouTube show, so he has that going for him. Did I mention I’d love to see a long round of he-said-she-said here?
And now MSNBC has Al Sharpton at the 6pm slot.
I’ll let those jokes write themselves.