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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Update: MSNBC and Greta Van Susteren have agreed to part ways.

MSNBC is now a pasture for pseudo-intellectual conservatives. Climate denier and Iraq War booster Bret Stephens is just the latest right-wing hire at the network.

In recent months NBC News Chairman Andy Lack has overseen a hiring spree of right-wing pundits and former Fox News personalities. The stable includes Hugh Hewitt, Megyn Kelly, Charlie Sykes, Greta Van Susteren, and George Will. They join other conservatives at the network: Elise Jordan, Steve Schmidt, Michael Steele, Rick Tyler, Nicolle Wallace, and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough. This is to say nothing of NBC News contributor and Trump apologist Mark Halperin; and given their frequent appearances, it may be just a matter of time until David Frum, a speechwriter for then-President George W. Bush, former George W. Bush chief of staff Andy Card, and neocon Bill Kristol join the network as well.

Compared to CNN’s boorish Trumpists or the state media apparatchiks at Fox News, the common thread among MSNBC conservatives is a certain pretentious shine. They’re frequently just arguing that President Donald Trump is the wrong type of conservative, when in fact Trump is the apotheosis of everything conservatism has been careening toward for some time. (The exception is Hugh Hewitt, who is now just a huge Trump booster after vacillating during the campaign.)

Many of these hires have direct, intimate connections to Bush, the most disastrous president in decades. Card, Frum, Jordan, and Wallace worked in the Bush administration, and Stephens, Kristol, Will, Scarborough, and Hewitt were all huge cheerleaders for the Iraq War. And that history matters. Two major media institutions, including a newspaper of record, are now paying Stephens essentially just to troll liberals with climate denial and to push America towards a war with Iran.

You can separate Lack’s hiring spree into two buckets: pundits and brands. Neither offer much value in the long run. In this media environment, opinions are cheap (including mine!). Everyone has one and most of them stink. There’s no long-term return on opinions (and no lack of people wanting to get on TV to share theirs).

Adding brands like Megyn Kelly or Greta Van Susteren is equally pointless. It’s no wonder that both of these shows have failed. There’s simply no audience for them outside the Fox News bubble. Particularly with Kelly, NBC News executives seem completely unaware that her entire show at Fox News was built around racial dog-whistling (with occasional moments of bucking the party line).

Also, as Ryan Grim noted, it is the progressive shows that Lack hasn’t touched that are succeeding the most.

Rather than spending all this money on right-wing pundits and big names, the true value-add for news networks now is reliable and aggressive journalism. That’s hard to do. It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. But it’s ultimately what will define NBC News and MSNBC.

 

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9 responses to “Bret Stephens And MSNBC’s Hiring Spree: The Network Keeps Moving Right”

  1. Dapper Dan says:

    MSNBC is still too difficult for trump to watch. He just loses his cool and goes on a Twitter tantrum everytime they say something mean about him. What a snowflake

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  2. Julius Hayden says:

    Perhaps Trumps watching MSNBC’ regressive pundits will make up for my switching to CNN or just turning the noise off.

  3. Beethoven says:

    I don’t have a problem with Nicolle Wallace, Michael Steele, or Steve Schmidt. While they do advocate a conservative viewpoint, it is more like the conservatives of William F. Buckley and Nelson Rockefeller than the current alt-right. And Nicolle Wallace, when she is acting as a reporter rather than an advocate, does an excellent job.
    But Hugh Hewitt and Greta Van Susteren can’t seem to speak without pushing an ultra-conservative agenda. I remember one incident when Van Susteren was interviewing someone, supposedly as a reporter, but she was asking the type of questions that you would expect from Donald Trump’s defense lawyer, not from an impartial reporter. Joe Scarborough or course has been a strong conservative advocate from the beginning, but recently has started criticizing Trump, which of course has brought out a flood of abuse from Trump, so I don’t expect Scarborough to be a Trump apologist any longer. And Megyn Kelly, now that she has left the entertainment show where her looks were more important than her reporting skills, has to show that she has reporting competence, or she won’t last long on the job.

    • Joancdavis says:

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  4. pjm19606 says:

    For MSNBC it’s the classic conflict between principles and profits, and it looks like the latter is winning.

  5. notafoxfan says:

    I have watched msnbc for quite some time,but I do admit to switching to cnn and on occasion, fox, to see differing viewpoints..i was quite surprised when m. kelly was hired,and at present, i understand her ratings are not that good..when greta came on, I watched a few times, but I was not impessed and she maintained her fox news style and opinions (her former co worker geraldo rivera says that why msnbc fired her and he wants her back at fox!)mr hewett is a “strange duck” as he was interviewed often during the trump campaign and went back and forth between endorsing him and criticizing him..Michael steele does seem more balanced in critiques and kudos, and I have been surprisingly impressed with nicolle Wallace..my favorites at msnbc are Laurence odonnell and Rachel maddow, and even chris hayes, as they seem to “get it all out there” and back up what they are discusssing …cnn still has too many surrogates of trump on their discussion panel, and when j. lord comes on, I change channels!..face it however,mr trump cannot do without the media as has played to them for years,long before he ran for president, and the media,not just fox,seems to hang on every word and every tweet whether we want it or not!!l

  6. Roses are Red,
    Violets are Blue,
    I’ll switch to CNN
    before I will watch
    some of you!

  7. Whatever says:

    So is it just Fox in a new incarnation? Hard to keep track of these things.

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