It's been an interesting week at MSNBC.
As I reported on Tuesday, CNBC pundit and Morning Joe regular, Donny Deutsch, was hosting the second day of what was supposed to a one-week run of shows at 3pm on MSNBC (filling in for the still-suspended David Shuster). Deutsch did a segment in which he angrily complained about anger in the media, lumping Keith Olbermann in with Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Beck -- telling his audience that they are all "crazy" and shouldn't be taken seriously. He then allowed a guest to refer to Olbermann and Ed Schultz as "the biggest hate mongers in television," without rebuttal. Deutsch later defended Schultz when the attacks continued, but made no apologies for the epithets being hurled at Olbermann by himself and his guests earlier in the segment.
By Wednesday morning, Deutsch's show had been canceled and the segment producer, Gresham Striegel, had been sent home (fired or suspended?). Striegel, it turns out, is a FOX News veteran producer who recently joined MSNBC after leaving Glenn Beck's show.
I'm glad that Deutsch and Striegel were shown the door, but this wasn't an isolated incident at MSNBC. In fact, it wasn't even the first time that day that progressive MSNBC hosts were compared to Limbaugh and Beck on another MSNBC show (more below).
The problem here is not that somebody is criticizing progressive hosts on MSNBC. It happens every day. But if Olbermann, Maddow, Schultz, and even Matthews are going to be regularly attacked on their own network, they should have the ability to fire back. They can't or won't, because they're professionals who actually follow the network rules:
"We have many strong personalities with differing, passionate opinions, but it is important to remember that we are all on the same team," [MSNBC president Phil Griffin] said in the memo. "I want to reiterate my long-standing policy: We do not publicly criticize our colleagues. This kind of behavior is unprofessional and will not be tolerated."
How often do you think Keith Olbermann would like to name Joe Scarborough the Worst Person in the World for his sickening pro-torture rants? Would Rachel Maddow like the opportunity to challenge Mika Brzezinski for her insistence that the "left wing hate nobody is talking about" is to blame for threats of violence against members of congress?
The same day that Donny Deutsch launched his attack on Keith Olbermann, the Morning Joe crew had been playing their usual innuendo game. Here's how YoungChicagoDemocrat described it in a diary:
At around 1 min and 20 Sec Joan Walsh of Salon asks the simple question "who on the Left is comparable to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh."
Cringe-worthy Response by the Morning Joe Gang:
Mika Brezinski: No..No...uh uh...no.
Willie: Don't Do it.
Mika: No Thanks Joan. We're Good (anger).(Spite) I think it is all very obvious.
Joan Walsh: "Is it obvious...?"
Mika: Yeah...If it is not obvious to you I will talk to you off-set. MY GOD!
Joe: We'll talk off-set.
(BRESINKI MAKES FLABBERGASTED FACE)
Mika: SERIOUSLY! IT'S LIKE BLOOP BLOOP BLOOP right in front of you and you are like, "huh...I don't see it".
Joe: I'm not saying anything.
When they came back from commercial, Donny Deutsch had joined them on the set. Gee, I wonder what was discussed during the break? I wonder where Deutsch got the idea to do a segment comparing Olbermann to Beck and Limbaugh?
You can see just how painful it is for Joe and Mika to refrain from openly bashing Olbermann, forcing them to make faces and whine like children. I say, set them free. And let Olbermann go after the daily right-wing hate fest that is Morning Joe, Brewed by Starbucks.
Attacking other MSNBC hosts (directly and through innuendo) has been a serious, ongoing problem with Joe and Mika.
Just over a year ago, Scarborough bitterly complained about people "he's not going to name" who joked about teabaggers calling themselves teabaggers. There wasn't any confusion over who he was talking about:
A week later, Scarborough was back at it. Enraged about an anti-torture guest who had appeared the previous night on Hardball, Joe let this one fly:
I don't usually watch some of the cable shows at night...because you get such bad information. You really do. People come on and they vomit out bad information and they get cheered. They might as well have a, like, applause track. So, a guy went on last night and we're gonna play the clip later. And he actually said a couple of things that were so outrageously wrong, and he a former CIA agent, but he makes money obviously trashing the CIA.
In January of this year, Scarborough took to Twitter, calling Keith Olbermann "reckless and sad," and comparing him to Glenn Beck.
Apparently restrained by professionalism, Olbermann and Maddow don't respond publicly to any of these attacks. And they also refrain from criticizing any of the vile rhetoric coming out of Pat Buchanan almost daily on Morning Joe.
Despite MSNBC president Phil Griffin's promise that this behavior will not be tolerated, there don't seem to be any consequences for Joe Scarborough. Is it any wonder that Donny Deutsch and former Glenn-Beck producer Gresham Striegel thought they could get away with a little Olbermann bashing on MSNBC?
Finally, besides being unprofessional, Deutsch and Scarborough are just plain wrong about extremism in the media. The problem with Beck and Limbaugh is not the anger. It's the lying and the racism. And it's beyond obtuse to use "anger" to create a false equivalency between Olbermann and the haters on the right. It's ironic that Deutsch played a clip of "angry" Olbermann denouncing Representative Joe Wilson for his State of the Union outburst. Deutsch was literally giddy last month when health care reform passed, but then he turns around and ridicules someone who actually made the effort to expose Republican lies about HCR. Because anger is bad, no matter what you're angry about.
MSNBC can do better than turning their daytime programming into another on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand bland news channel. CNN already has that beat covered, and more often than not, it only serves to validate whatever crazy talking point the GOP is selling on any particular day. Joe Scarborough understands that. Donny Deutsch, like Mika Brzezinski, is more likely just a useful idiot. Either way, the result is the same.