It start at 1:30.....Joe Needs To Go
MSNBC prez defends convention team
Joe Scarborough got into an on-air tiff with David Shuster
DENVER — Amid a spate of awkward on-air conflicts among MNSBC anchors at this week’s Democratic convention, some staff members say there are sharp internal disputes at the cable network over whether its opinion and personality-driven political coverage has crossed the line.
“The situation at our channel is about to blow up,” a high-ranking MSNBC journalist told Politico on Wednesday.
Two other MSNBC sources said some of the testy on-air exchanges between Keith Olbermann — whose quick-witted and often caustic commentary has fueled ratings growth — and other network personalities were a public glimpse of much more intense behind-the-scenes turmoil.
As replays of the conflicts became YouTube hits, MSNBC President Phil Griffin gave his first public defense in a Politico interview.
“MSNBC does not have an ideology,” Griffin said. “We hire smart people who are passionate about their love of politics and love of news.”
“Do I want them to have squabbles?” Griffin asked. “No. But I understand they’re human.”
In addition to Olbermann, MSNBC personalities Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough and David Shuster were involved in Denver controversies.
On Monday evening, Olbermann interrupted Scarborough while he was talking about McCain being competitive in the polls. “Jesus, Joe, why don’t you get a shovel?” Olbermann remarked.
On “Morning Joe” the following day, a clearly agitated Scarborough went off on Shuster during a discussion of Iraq, which quickly devolved over several cringe-worthy minutes into personal attacks, such as Scarborough telling the world how his colleague missed the show three times by oversleeping. "Are you Rip Van Shuster?” Scarborough asked. “Have you been sleeping for the past couple of months?”
But Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, became enraged when Shuster made a reference to “your party.” Asked by Scarborough what his party was, Shuster said he was an “independent.”
"I feel so comforted by the fact that you're an independent,” Scarborough said, in a mocking tone. “I bet everybody at MSNBC has independent on their voting cards. Oh, we're down the middle now.” (Shuster left the set, but returned later to hug it out, "Entourage"-style.)
That night, Scarborough told NPR that he “get[s] frustrated by people who have an obvious partisan bias that don't proclaim that bias.”
The old debate over election coverage bias was given new life on Sunday, when Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell — who’d remarked during the primaries that Fox News was the “most objective” network — told a panel of Sunday show anchors, including NBC’s Tom Brokaw, that “MSNBC was the official network of the Obama campaign."
“I’ve got to laugh a little bit,” Griffin said, over the notion that MSNBC has an agenda, while Rendell is “the voice of reason.”
“Ed Rendell, bless his soul, has an agenda,” Griffin said. “Period.”
Even with Obama as the presumptive nominee, it was MSNBC vs. the Clinton team again, a battle that played out throughout the primaries.
During Tuesday night’s broadcast, both Olbermann and Matthews took shots at Howard Wolfson, the Clinton campaign’s former communications director, criticizing him as a Republican collaborator because of his work as a Fox News analyst.
Matthews called Wolfson a "little toy soldier waiting on the shelf," while Olbermann compared him to “Tokyo Rose,” the woman who delivered propaganda over the airwaves during World War II.
“I think these antics have seriously damaged NBC's brand,” wrote Wolfson in an e-mail to Politico.
On Wednesday, Wolfson criticized MSNBC on the air, too.
"I'm not gonna take any lectures on how to be a good Democrat from two people who spent the last two years relentlessly attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton every day," Wolfson said Wednesday on Fox News.
Also on Wednesday, the New York Post reported that Olbermann was an obstacle in allowing McCain adviser-turned-NBC political analyst Mike Murphy to get on the air during the convention. Murphy was bumped from Monday’s convention coverage due to “technical difficulties,” the Post reported. He also didn’t appear on Tuesday.
“I’m told I’ll be on the air tonight,” Murphy said, when reached by phone Wednesday.
And so will Olbermann and Matthews, anchoring on a big night when Bill Clinton hits the stage. But last night the two volatile hosts bickered, with Matthews jumping into the frame as Olbermann introduced House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).
"You made that sound, Keith,” Matthews said, raising his voice. “I can do the same to you. That's what I thought, and I said it."
Some sources who have worked with Olbermann at MSNBC describe him as a difficult colleague, and one source said that there are tensions with Matthews.
Regardless, Griffin said he has faith in his convention anchors — including Olbermann, a scourge of the right — for both the final days in Denver and next week in St. Paul, Minn.
“Look, when Keith anchors, he plays it straight down the line,” Griffin said. “This is our team. They’ve served us well. We love ’em, and we’re going to be at the Republican convention, and it’s going to be great. And I don’t have any hesitation