MSNBC Chief Should Suspend Self, Not Scarborough, Olbermann

If anyone deserves to be suspended, it's Phil Griffin.

By SHARE

Keith, I know you can’t do this so let me do it for you: Your award for “Worst Person in the World” should go to your boss, MSNBC President Phil Griffin. He has now suspended you and your colleague Joe Scarborough--both of you well-known for your biased opinions from the left and the right. Er, well known to everybody but Griffin evidently. What Rockefeller Center closet has this guy been living in?

Griffin suspended both Keith Olbermann and Scarborough for making contributions to political campaigns. Which make MSNBC the most ridiculous and hypocritical news organization since ... the ridiculous and hypocritical NPR of just a few weeks ago. You may remember NPR CEO Vivian Schiller firing Juan Williams for—well nobody’s quite sure why he was fired other than for Talking While Conservative.

It started when Griffin evidently rolled out of bed one day--maybe groggy, maybe hung over, maybe just in a bad mood--and realized that his highest-profile liberal celebrity was … uh, liberal. To the point that he even donated some money to Democratic candidates, the scoundrel. Then somebody pointed out that Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, was, uh, still a Republican! And he was also donating money to candidates. (You’ll be surprised to know that all of his contributions went to Republican candidates. Well, you won’t, but Griffin was.)

[See editorial cartoons about the Democrats.]

This is news? No, it is the height of the mainstream media’s silly contention that they offer just-the-facts objective reporting.

As a former reporter, I can say that I tried my best to maintain professional neutrality, to objectively report on what I saw, but only an infantile psyche believes that personal prejudices don’t influence the way a reporter covers a story. Reporters choose to ask certain questions, and not to ask others. They choose to interview certain people, and not others. They (or their editors) select certain photos to accompany a story, and from the dozens of shots taken from any particular angle, you can find just about any facial expression or body language to suggest whatever it is that you want to suggest. While the better reporters try to avoid adjectives, and all the implicit editorializing that comes with it, they must still choose the active verbs around which they string their sentences. All of this converges to create subtle bias in most news stories, especially political news.

Let’s not kid ourselves, however--even that kind of restraint has fallen by the wayside. How many times did you hear the national and diverse cross-section of Americans who protested Obamacare relentlessly described in the media as “angry and divisive.” I opposed Obamacare, and I don’t appreciate being referred to as bitter and divisive. Except by my wife. And even then it’s only because she refuses to let me buy the new hands-free Xbox.

[See editorial cartoons about Obamacare.]

This self-delusion is one of the reasons that the public views the mainstream media with such skepticism. Many of my former colleagues like to believe their unpopularity is because they speak truth to power and people don’t like to have their illusions popped. My colleagues should start popping their own illusions. Fox News is the universal target for the largely liberal-leaning mainstream media. With a delicious dose of irony, Fox is accused of being biased.

Fox, however, has yet to suspend Sean Hannity for being openly conservative. And nobody tries to paint Hannity as a neutral observer of the political scene. Meanwhile, you’ve got MSNBC--home to Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews--pretentiously and transparently making a scene over benching Olbermann. And now Scarborough. All in the name of objectivity.

Really? If anybody deserves a suspension, it’s Phil Griffin.

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