Follow TV Tropes


Creator / MSNBC

Go To

Lean Forward.
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.
  • 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
  • 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." At one point, MSNBC tweeted that the right wing would not like a Cheerios ad because it had a biracial family. Conservative bi-racial families posted pictures of their families to MSNBC's twitter feed so much, the network had to remove the tweet, and Phil Griffin, president of the network, had to apologize on air.
  • Fox News Liberal:
    • Joe Scarborough, 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).
    • Michael Steele, Former GOP Chairman.
    • Now that S.E. Cupp has left for CNN, Abby Huntsman is even more a tepid conservative.
  • Mean Brit: Martin Bashir. So much so to Sarah Palin he had to resign from the network.
  • Meaningful Name: Krystal Ball, political pundit, after "crystal ball". 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 Snark Knight: Alex Wagner.
  • 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.
    • Melissa Harris-Parry, one of MSNBC's hosts, was brutally slammed when she mocked Mitt Romney's adopted grandson, Kieran (who was black).
  • World of Snark: NOW with Alex Wagner