In an article for MediaBistro's TVNewser blog on Monday, Gail Shister ripped into NBC News for the lack of punishment of MSNBC host Martin Bashir after his vicious and disgusting attack on Sarah Palin: "It's no surprise that NBC tries to distance itself publicly from its corporate sibling. In this case, however, its silence has been deafening. How low does the bar have to go before Tom Brokaw speaks up, as he has in the past? More to the point, why haven't any NBC women taken a stand?"
Earlier in the piece, Shister looked at "MSNBC's long history of Foot in Mouth disease" involving its hosts making offensive remarks about public figures and observed: "In every case, the commentator was either suspended or fired. In every case, the perps have been men, and in every case but one, the broadcast slurs have been aimed at women."
With that history in mind, Shister cited other media critics calling for Bashir's suspension – and joined them:
MSNBC "has to decide what its standard is," says Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. "This comment was vulgar and offensive in all sorts of ways. I would have suspended him [Bashir], at the very least.
"It's not in any network's interest to tolerate this kind of coarsening. It cheapens and mocks the whole idea of serious discourse on a news program." MSNBC's stance on Bashir "says, at the very least, that it tolerates this escalation of vulgarity."
To Amy Mitchell, director of the Pew Research Center's Journalism Project, MSNBC's inaction is "surprising, in light of other suspensions it has made in recent years, but it may not be over yet. If the network doesn't take any action, what precedent is being set?"
Free speech has its limitations, even on cable. Sometimes "sorry" is not enough, and l'affaire Bashir is one of those times. Bashir must be suspended.
What makes his remarks particularly heinous is that they were scripted, not spontaneous, meaning, presumably, they were seen by multiple editors before air. That it didn't occur to anyone – including Bashir himself – that he was about to step on a landmine speaks volumes about MSNBC's production process....If Bashir gets a pass, imagine what the next incident will be. Personally, I hope it's spoken by a woman, and about a man. Then we'll see what kind of Pandora's box Phil Griffin has opened.
Shister echoed Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik, who on FNC's MediaBuzz on Sunday demanded: "Where are people like Tom Brokaw and Chuck Todd who claim to speak for NBC News and the brand? Why haven't they called Bashir out and the lack of punishment for him?"