MSNBC has been spending this past week sprinting away from diversity in television journalism just as fast as it possibly can. After Melissa Harris-Perry boycotted her own show because she was tired of being deliberately pushed out of the network’s creative process, she formally left this week. MSNBC confirmed she had been let go on Sunday. Now MSNBC has cancelled a planned weekend show with Alex Wagner, another woman of color. This, after the axing of her weekday program during a restructuring of the network, could make Wagner’s position as part of MSNBC untenable.
Add to that list Jose Diaz-Balert, who has suddenly been dropped from MSNBC’s coverage of the Florida primaries, despite the fact that Diaz-Balert lives in Miami and hosts a show on the network. Last Fall, rumors started to circle that Jose Diaz-Balert’s show The Rundown would be cut from the network , leading to heavy criticism from Latino leaders. While the network has kept his show, Diaz-Balert himself hasn’t been seen hosting it regularly and hasn’t been appearing at his regular time slot.
And these are by no means all the new majority hosts and anchors who have been sidelined by the network for no as of yet explained reason. Love him or hate him, Al Sharpton was demoted from regular nightly anchor to occasionally appearing on Sundays. And the casualty list doesn’t just stop at anchors: pundits of color have taken a hit at MSNBC as well. A list compiled shortly after Harris-Perry’s departure named Michael Eric Dyson, Karen Finney, Goldie Taylor, and others who the network has either fired or let go in recent months.
There is of course the argument that MSNBC’s more partisan shows weren’t making it enough to tread water (and its ratings were in fact suffering), so it had to retool itself into a breaking news style network to be able to compete more with the rest of cable. But there are a few problems with that theory. The network is still hiring partisan conservatives, like former Ted Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler (the same guy who Cruz fired over the Rubio-Bible imbroglio). Tyler was hired almost immediately after being let go by the Cruz campaign. One can take an educated guess at Rick Tyler’s ethnicity. And Joe Scarborough, himself a carpet-bagger who replaced respected progressive Phil Donahue, continues to host the lowest rated morning news show on cable without any planned interruptions, schedule changes, or cancellations from network executives.
Maybe this is simply what to expect after MSNBC itself became an acquisition of one of the most sickening and powerful manifestations of evil ever to curse this earth. In 2012, Comcast bought Microsoft’s 50-percent share in MSNBC.com. And the conspiracy theories about cancellations helping Comcast’s politics are too numerous to link to here. But if we take that as truth and forget to examine the rest of the story, we miss out what actually might be happening. There are plenty of hosts and anchors still left on MSNBC not exactly friendly to Comcast politics, but they all tend to have one thing in common: an ethnicity that doesn’t threaten a crowded boardroom so much. The true crime might be that speaking truth to power is fine with MSNBC, but only if you’re white.
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