MSNBC President Says MSNBC Is 'Progressive' But 'Not Ideologically Driven'

July 25th, 2011 5:14 PM

In an interview, MSNBC president Phil Griffin made some rather strange characterizations of his network, insisting that it "come[s] from a progressive stance" while it is simultaneously "not ideologically driven."

Those two concepts would seem contradictory in the minds of most people--but not to Griffin, who seems to believe that his staff of "smart people" who "do their research" is up to the task.

Griffin made his remarks in an interview with Mediaite, a site overseen by former MSNBC exec Dan Abrahams. 

Mediaite: In public comments you have taken more ownership of, “Yes, our audience wants a more liberal progressive point of view, and we’re okay with that, and we’re owning that.”

Griffin: Our audience has a progressive point of view. Now, it’s not an ideology, because we differ often in how we get there, but it’s challenging all the status quo and trying to figure out how to make the world better. It’s challenging what’s going on in Washington. We’ve got smart people, and they do their research. But yes, we do have a sensibility and we embrace it, but we’re about ideas.

Among a multitude of other gaffes, Griffin's "smart people" include Ed Schultz, who called Laura Ingraham a slut on air, Chris Matthews, who compared the Tea Party to the Muslim Brotherhood, Rachel Maddow, who defended former Rep. Anthony Weiner, and Lawrence O'Donnell, who proudly proclaimed America as socialist. To top it off, Rev. Al Sharpton will soon be joining their rankings as well. With a bastion of liberals in its primetime slots, the "progressive point of view" becomes more of a series of Democratic talking points, but Griffin still insists the network is "not ideologically driven."

Mediaite: Is there a concern that you limit yourself with that opinion and that point of view? That “one side of the story is not enough”?

Griffin: You can’t say it’s purely that one point of view. We come from a progressive stance, but that’s a wide berth. One of our best nights in the last few months was last December when everybody was debating whether or not to repeal the Bush tax cuts. If you watched our coverage then, it was crazy. From Joe to Chris to Lawrence to Rachel, everybody had a different take on whether we should do it or not.

So that night, every show was getting huge audiences because that’s what they expect from MSNBC, to be challenged. And we don’t send out a memo and say how people should react. We’re not ideologically driven.

Griffin also emphasizes that all his hosts have different points of view that fall under the "wide berth" of progressivism, but the time given to opposing views is extremely limited.

Mediaite: But if I go back and I look at the guests that have been on air for the last week, and I see apart from Michael Steele and one or two other people, I don’t really see many dissenting opinions.

Griffin: I’d say you see a few. I can name the shows and what they are. Sometimes it’s not easy, because people don’t want to come on because they’d like to point us in a different direction, but that’s not our goal. I like dissenting opinions. We’re breaking a different kind of ground, and we’re threading a needle, but it’s worked.

Having reportedly fired former host Cenk Uygur for criticizing the White House too much, eliminating dissenting opinions seems to be exactly part of MSNBC's progressive plan, one that is about as ideologically driven as it gets.