In what appeared to be a rare display of actual diversity, MSNBC and NBC News have signed New York Times columnist Bret Stephens while betting that increasing the diversity of voices on their airwaves will ultimately lead to a better news and analysis product.
The news was announced on Wednesday, June 28, and later confirmed by the company even though the Times had hired Stephens as an op-ed columnist back in April, which led to complaints that the liberal “Grey Lady” was “sullying its reputation as a purveyor of truth and facts.”
According to an article by The Hollywood Reporter's Jeremy Barr: “Stephens is a conservative columnist and has cast doubt on the prevailing theories about climate change, which, some argued, made him a poor fit for a newspaper that is held in such high esteem.”
Asked by The Hollywood Reporter over e-mail why he's signing on as a contributor, Stephens replied:
Superb programming. Shows I watch (and that my mom watches). [MSNBC president] Phil Griffin.
Plus, I am a contrarian by nature.
“Stephens is not the first prominent conservative media figure to appear on MSNBC,” Barr noted, “which in recent weeks has given a Saturday morning show to radio host Hugh Hewitt, a 4 p.m. show to former Bush administration communications staffer Nicolle Wallace and a contributor deal to George Will who, like Stephens, will appear on NBC News.”
"I think there's always merit in getting out of our ideological silos and being exposed to points of view with which we don't always agree," Stephens said Thursday.
However, Barr stated, “the Times lost some subscribers in response to the Stephens appointment, and it's possible that MSNBC and NBC will lose a few viewers as well.”
As NewsBusters reported earlier Thursday, Stephens used his first appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe to hammer the White House’s "attack on the media" and defend the Cable News Network by calling the growing scandal just “a mistake.”
The somewhat conservative columnist claimed: Trump is “accusing us of something else. He's accusing us of dishonesty, and that's the way he operates. And that’s why I was so alarmed by the decision to CNN to cashier three reporters behind this Scaramucci report, which turned out to be wrong or insufficient.”
When co-host Joe Scarborough asserted that Anthony Scaramucci “handled himself” in the controversy “very well, by the way,” Stephens agreed that the political figure “handled it with a great deal of grace.”
Scarborough then added:
Nobody is saying that what Donald Trump is doing now is right. In fact, we think it's extraordinarily dangerous. Called the media enemy of the people. It’s Stalinist.
But at the same time if you look in middle America, if you -- he has a more willing audience, a more receptive audience because the media got it wrong for the entire 18 months of his campaign.
Fellow co-host Mika Brzezinski then chimed in: “So what really matters on stories that’s important to them? What has this president accomplished for his base for the people who are concerned that the media’s not telling the truth? Let's spell it out? Let's see. What have we got?”
“Look, this is just the thing,” the conservative panelist responded. “I think the media would be happy to report accomplishments. I'd like to know what they are.”
Brzezinski echoed the concept by asking: “Yes, where are they?”
Earlier in the discussion, Stephens noted: ”You made a mistake. You move on.”
However, he stated:
But the White House sees this as an opportunity to confirm a hypothesis for its supporters, for its followers who are not making the distinction who think that CNN is out willfully to get the president, not simply to report the news.
In addition, a CNN Editor's Note posted on Thursday evening told the network's readers: "That story did not meet CNN's editorial standards and has been retracted." Further, "[L]inks to the story have been disabled. CNN apologizes to Mr. Scaramucci."
Then, on Monday evening, Fox News's Howard Kurtz reported: "Three journalists (have) quit CNN in fallout from (the) retracted Russia story.”
If Stephens really wants to be viewed as a conservative member of a panel, he should probably brush up on several things, including Donald Trump's accomplishments in office and the way the president has been treated by the press. Otherwise, he's just another RINO (Republican In Name Only).