— MSNBC slogan
"Yeah, like what you really need to do when watching Chris Matthews is get
closer to the television!
American 24-hour news network
that was launched in 1996 as a joint venture between NBC
and Microsoft. Its name was a portmanteau of MSN (Microsoft Network) and NBC. MSNBC was the revamp of a channel called "America's Talking", which went on the air in 1994 and was mostly focused on talk shows
. It was, clearly, not a success, and the only show from that era to survive to the present day is Politics with Chris Matthews
(now known as Hardball with Chris Matthews
, a name it gained after a Channel Hop
to CNBC shortly after the shutdown of America's Talking). The big impact of the cancellation of AT was that Roger Ailes ran that channel; he quickly moved to become the head of Fox News Channel
, which naturally is MSNBC's Arch-Enemy
MSNBC was intended by its creators to bring a unique syncronicity between online and cable news, mostly by putting viewer emails on the air. It was a pretty novel idea... in 1996. But once the other two big networks jumped online, MSNBC's high-tech gimmick began to look redundant. The network would spend nearly a decade floundering in last place (in spite of the strength of NBC News behind it), desperately trying to ape the success that the Fox News Channel
was having with opinion-driven pundit shows, while having ratings more comparable to those of CNN
Headline News than with the big players of cable news
. Meanwhile, Prime Time
was increasingly being filled with true crime and prison "documentaries"
. In 2005, Microsoft sold 32% of MSNBC to NBC Universal, retaining only 18% (the website, which is actually a separate unit from the TV network, remained a 50/50 partnership until 2012), and later dropping out completely, giving NBCU 100%.
In the later years of the George W. Bush
administration, however, the network took the popularity of Countdown with Keith Olbermann
and the April 2007 departure of Don Imus as the chance to try a new strategy. It moved its token conservative
Joe Scarborough from the prime-time lineup to Imus's old time slot, and the network's weekday prime-time ended up sliding towards the left and was called "the liberal Fox News" by people who tried to defend Fox News by admitting that while FNC was a right-wing propaganda channel, MSNBC was the same to the left
. It doesn't help that over the years most conservatives on the channel were fired and were picked up by Fox News. But finally, in October 2010, the network adopted a new catchphrase "Lean Forward", which signaled to many analysts that it had dropped all pretense and become essentially "the liberal Fox News". Just don't tell them that.Due to heated political opinions on the nature of MSNBC and the heated opinions of what people think of them; please be very careful when adding examples. Do not use this page simply to gush about, bash or rant about MSNBC, this is not the place to do it.
This network contains examples of:
- The Artifact: Those true crime and prison documentaries? Alive and well and dominating the weekend schedule, with only a few hours of live news in the late morning/early afternoon and a Sunday evening rebroadcast of that morning's Meet the Press to serious things up.
- The true crime and prison documentaries also get ran in marathons on holidays such as Thanksgiving. It would appear that the documentaries are MSNBC's way of letting their employees not work on weekends or holidays.
- Blatant Lies: MSNBC has been repeatedly caught "creatively editing" footage to tell stories that the unedited footage completely debunks. The most infamous example is when they took footage of a black man with an (unloaded) assault rifle advocating in favor of gun rights at a Tea Party rally and meticulously edited out every hint of the man's true ethnicity. They then used the edited footage to warn the public of the dangers of angry white armed racists pervading the Tea Party.
- B Roll Rebus: During their rolling news coverage during the day (when the average viewer is out-and-about).
- Catchphrase: A good number of them on different shows.
- "Now will start in 180 seconds." - Alex Wagner from Now With Alex Wagner
- "Nice try, but we caught ya!" - Al Sharpton from PoliticsNation
- "Let's play Hardball!" - Chris Matthews from Hardball with Chris Matthews
- "This is The Ed Show. Let's get to work!" - Ed Schultz from The Ed Show
- "In the Rewrite tonight..." - Lawrence O'Donnell from The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell
- Deadpan Snarker: All the hosts have their moments, but Martin Bashir is the king of snark at MSNBC.
- Distaff Counterpart: Rachel Maddow was intended to be this to Keith Olbermann, whose show had been in the hour prior to hers.
- Everything Is Racist: At the very least, MSNBC is a bit too eager to blame opposition to Obama on racism. Watch and be amazed at how many different ways there are to say what amounts to, "conservatives don't like Obama because he's black".
- Executive Meddling: The reason Cenk Uygur left the network.
- Fox News Liberal: Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan, MSNBC's token conservatives. Interestingly, the channels' former token conservative, Tucker Carlson, eventually wound up joining Fox News. Apparently, he wasn't the first.
- Scarborough is arguably a much better example, seeing as how he routinely criticizes some of the most prominent right-wingers (Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, most members of the more conservative wing of the party, et. al), but he didn't endorse Obama for President, at least. Scratch that, he could be seen as MSNBC's version of Alan Colmes in a lot of ways, and Scarborough attacks Republicans more frequently and often more angrily than Colmes attacks Democrats. Buchanan, meanwhile, is a bit strange. On one hand, he is unquestionably right-wing on social issues, leading many to believe that MSNBC keeps him around in the hope that he'll say something embarrassing and make conservatives look bad (if so, they may have gotten their wish at least a couple of times). On the other hand, as a paleoconservative, he is opposed to The War on Terror and similar foreign policy entanglements, and he favors protectionism over the free trade supported by the GOP mainstream — both positions supported by many on the left (albeit for different reasons).
- Throughout their run, they have hosted shows by ultra-conservatives Michael Savage and Alan Keyes.
- Buchanan has appeared on so many different MSNBC opinion shows, often in the course of a single day, that people have wondered aloud if he has a bed in 30 Rock.
- The latest addition to the team of MSNBC Conservatives is S.E. Cupp, co-host of The Cycle, the closest MSNBC has to a Blonde Republican Sex Kitten (she's a redhead).
- Heel-Face Turn/Face-Heel Turn: Depends on who you ask. Back in the day, MSNBC tried to imitate Fox News Channel directly by also being a conservative network, giving prime-time slots to the likes of Pat Buchanan, Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough. When this failed miserably (and after the repackaged-Dateline-in-weekday-Prime Time era), they went in the opposite direction, finding success as the polar opposite of Fox News, to the point where pundits began to call it the Most Socialist Network on Basic Cable.
- Karma Houdini: Whatever happened about the story of the disappearance of Joe Scarborough's intern in 2001, about the same time as the Gary Condit story? It seems that nobody even bothers mentioning it anymore. Not to say he's necessarily guilty unless something pops up, but isn't it strange how it wasn't even investigated for very long? Where were you, Nancy Grace?
- Lori Klausutis, the Scarborough office worker, was also the victim of bad timing. After 9/11, we pretty much stopped caring about anything else for quite a while. The media was busy covering the attacks, The Justice Department was busy investigating them, and the rest of law enforcement was busy trying to prevent another one. After the attacks, a lot of media personalities could be heard using some variation of "Can you believe how obsessed we were with something as trivial as Gary Condit?"
- Meaningful Name: Krystal Ball, political pundit.
- Hilariously, that's her real name. Apparently, her parents had an odd sense of humor.
- Product Placement: Morning Joe, "brewed by Starbucks" since June 1, 2009.
- The Rival: Fox News Channel.
- Screwed by the Network: For a news channel, MSNBC is actually quite notorious for this:
- In 2003, when MSNBC was still trying to emulate the conservative Fox News and had yet to brand itself as a progressive network, it fired Phil Donahue for his opposition to the imminent Iraq War despite his high ratings. A leaked internal MSNBC memo basically confirmed that they axed Donahue because he was a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war."
- Then several years later, they abruptly cancelled Countdown with Keith Olbermann – again, a highly-rated show – over an internal conflict with Keith Olbermann, who some bosses felt had gone a little too left-wing for the network.
- Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks hosted his own newshour on MSNBC for a brief time, but voluntarily left after network bosses told him to avoid criticizing the Obama Administration.
- Those Two Guys: Martin Bashir and Dylan Ratigan.
- The Unpronounceable: Joe Scarborough's co-host Mika Brzezinski. At least the first name is easier, unlike her father Zbigniew...
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- A frequent response to the firing of Keith Olbermann, who was host of their top-rated show.
- Also a frequent response to the Wham Line ("We are the establishment") given to Cenk Uygur in July 2011.
- And now more recently when they explicitly compared Mitt Romney's campaign slogan (Keep America American) to the Ku Klux Klan, although they did apologize for that one.