It looks like Al Sharpton will get the permanent hosting job from 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM on NBC News’ cable station MSNBC. This is a curious move for NBC News for a couple of reasons. First, and foremost, Al Sharpton is just plain awful as a host. He can’t read a tele-prompter, he can’t speak extemporaneously, and he is awful at interviewing guests. You don’t have to take my word for it, see for yourself:
But his lousy on-camera performance isn’t the only strange thing about NBC News’ move (they hired Cenk Uygur, after all). It’s also strange because putting the NBC News brand on the line by associating it with a polarizing figure like Sharpton is dangerous and potentially devastating to NBC News’ journalistic reputation. Sharpton is accused of being a race-hustler and an anti-Semite, and worse for NBC News he is a known liar with a major defamation conviction on his record.
Why would a news organization like NBC News risk further tarnishing their brand by honoring someone with this record by giving him the honor of hosting a show, especially considering he has vowed not to criticize President Obama as we enter a presidential election season? The answer appears to be found at the highest levels of Comcast/NBC.
The Comcast/NBC merger would not have occurred if not for the approval of the FCC. One FCC commissioner, Democrat Michael Copps, voted against the merger saying that it would “erode(s) diversity, localism and competition”. The “diversity and localism” issue is something that had been a key concern for newly appointed FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn when she took her position early in the Obama Administration. And she held out her approval until she was certain that it would not be an issue.
She was swayed by a “diversity memorandum of agreement” signed by Sharpton and developed with help from his National Action Network. Clyburn, daughter of South Carolina congressman Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), said the diversity memorandum “will serve to keep the new entity (Comcast/NBC) honest in promoting diversity.”
Sharpton has a long and well-documented history of leveraging his civil-rights profile for his own benefit. Grabbing a prime-time anchor spot in exchange for cheerleading for a controversial merger would be the capper on that career. It’s gone remarkably unnoticed that Sharpton was the first major black leader to endorse the Comcast merger, which met fierce resistance.
It’s not like Sharpton was an early champion for the mega-media-merger out of the kindness of his heart. His political organization National Action Network (NAN) has received $190,000 since 2009, when the merger was first announced.
Also, Sharpton and NAN ferociously fought on behalf of James Clyburn in his struggle to retain a leadership position in the House when the Democrats were consigned to the minority earlier this year. The Democratic leadership created a position called “Assistant Minority Leader” so that he could retain the #3 position, something that does not usually exist for the minority party in the House. Subsequently, Comcast has donated over $10,000 to Rep. Clyburn’s political committees further assisting the father of the key FCC vote in favor of the merger, Mignon Clyburn.
Criticism is pouring in from left-leaning publications who realize this move doesn’t pass the smell test. A sampling of three power-house liberal media organs proves that this is no right-wing conspiracy at play:
NY Times: Sharpton’s push for Comcast Raises Issues About Possible MSNBC Job
The Daily Beast: Sharpton’s Affirmative-Action Win
Will NBC News be so brazen as to go through with this laughable hire? With Ed Schultz’ crazy rants, Lawrence O’Donnell’s sanctimonious propagandizing, Chris Matthews’ schoolboy crush on Barack Obama and Rachel Maddow’s smarmy pandering to Rep. Anthony Weiner, NBC News anchor Brian Williams has to be concerned about the further tarnishing of his brand. With all that is going on at NBC News’ cable outlet, it’s hard to believe that this is the same stalwart brand that legends Chet Huntley and David Brinkley built.
Good night, David. Good night, Chet.