NBC News Executive on Sharpton: 'He's an Elder Statesman'; Black Media Critic Speaks Out Against Hire

On yesterday morning’s “Reliable Sources” with Howard Kurtz on CNN, media critic Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times spoke out about the grave reservations expressed after the imminent hiring of activist and failed presidential candidate Al Sharpton as a prime time news anchor for NBC News’ cable station MSNBC.

Big Journalism began beating the drum over NBC News’ latest “brand downgrade” last week when we showed our readers the insidious relationship between MSNBC’s parent company, Comcast and Al Sharpton’s political action group National Action Network. The incestuous relationship between Comcast’s $190,000 “donations” to Sharpton’s community agitator organization and Sharpton’s subsequent endorsement of the “diversity goals” of the new Comcast/NBC entity don’t pass the smell test. Especially when you consider that Sharpton’s diversity endorsement proved critical to the FCC approval of the merger. It seems too convenient that he would now be rewarded with a prime time hosting gig on NBC’s cable news outlet.

Those objections plus the fact that Sharpton has already vowed not to criticize President Obama were all echoed by Kurtz and Deggans in the CNN segment as reasons to question NBC News’ move. What was came as a bit of a surprise was the news that Sharpton has cancelled his scheduled appearance at the National Association of Black Journalists conference this coming week due to the outspoken backlash coming from members of the group.

As Deggans said, “We have been pushing hard for diversity, particularly in prime time… to have that one slot go to someone who’s more of an activist and not a journalist…” wherein Kurtz interrupted and said “not a journalist by any stretch of the imagination.”

Kurtz raised the specter of the Tawana Brawley fiasco that Sharpton was a key player in which eventually led to a successful defamation suit against the controversial activist. According to Kurtz, MSNBC President Phil Griffin responded to the Tawana Brawley scandal by saying that Sharpton “is an elder statesman now.”

I’ve heard Al Sharpton called a lot of things. Heck, he even calls himself a “Reverend” even though he never went to college to earn a divinity or theological degree and he doesn’t actually pastor at an actual church. But one thing I never thought I’d hear him referred to as is an “elder statesman”.

If the polarizing and vitriolic race-baiting Sharpton who many believe is anti-Semitic and responsible for the hatred and violence that led to deadly race riots in Crown Heights is considered an “elder statesman” by the head of NBC News’ cable outlet, what does that say about his overall news judgement?

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