MSNBC President Claims 'We're Not Trying to Push Democratic Talking Points'

Howard Kurtz quoted MSNBC president Phil Griffin in two stories in Monday's Washington Post, and both quotes seriously strained credulity. In a front-page story on how politicians campaign on cable news, Griffin tried to argue that they're not simply a Democrat talking-points factory and promoter of Democrat candidates. Oh no, claimed Griffin, just because Republicans choose to decline their invitations doesn't mean they're in the tank for the DNC:

The reality, said MSNBC President Phil Griffin, is that "politicians want to hit their base." But "we're different than Fox," he added. "We ask for people to come on from both parties all the time. We can't control who comes on. A lot of people choose not to, and they choose to go to Fox....We have so many different voices. We're not trying to push Democratic talking points, as some people accuse us of."  

Kurtz didn't mention that Keith Olbermann never has Republicans on his show, or note how a host like Ed Schultz can have a leftist candidate like Bill Halter on repeatedly, and plug his web site. Then there was a mention of MSNBC's lame "Lean Forward" motto in Kurtz's Media Notes column:

"A rather halfhearted attempt by MSNBC to gloss its same-old lefty line with a coat of empty post-ideological babble," Daniel Foster writes on National Review Online.

Nonsense, says MSNBC President Phil Griffin, recalling that he got the idea watching Bryant Gumbel lean forward in his chair. "Lean forward has so many meanings," he says. "One is, be engaged. Don't be scared. Don't lean back and be dismissive. Be passionate. Don't lean right, don't lean left. It's a sensibility."  

Kurtz has to know he's publishing a walking, talking contradiction here. "Answering the charge that they're trying to gloss over their lefty lineup with post-ideological babble, Griffin said, 'Nonsense, we're merely saying be passionate, don't lean right, don't lean left.'"

Kurtz didn't offer Foster's NRO put-down in its full glory. Here it is:

Besides being ripe for parody — in response, Fox News should change its tag-line to ‘Start With Your Weight On Your Back Foot, Swing From The Shoulder, And Rotate Your Torso Through The Punch’ — the ‘Lean Forward’ concept seems a rather half-hearted attempt by MSNBC to gloss its same-old lefty line with a coat of empty post-ideological babble (sort of like ‘Yes, We Can!’), while still deploying the right signal words to its core liberal audience. In an announcement for the campaign, network VP Sharon Otterman says “MSNBC wants to be the champion for those who believe in progress,” and that the taglinge “captures the cultural momentum for progress that resonates strongly with our audience.” Who could she be talking to here?

“Lean Forward” isn’t a re-branding, it’s a confession via euphemism that MSNBC will continue to be what they’ve always been. 

If you watch the odd promo Foster includes, about how we're the "United States of Come As You Are," and our diversity is what unites us (as if MSNBC's all about bringing people together, with Keith Olbermann singing Kumbaya), there's a clip of two men getting "married" at the same time the announcer says we have "certain unalienable rights."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis