MSNBC is a news organization that has been the focus of several controversies.
- 1 Controversies
- 1.1 Assertions of left-wing bias
- 1.2 Assertions of pro-Obama bias
- 1.3 Phil Donahue cancellation
- 1.4 Michael Savage dismissal
- 1.5 Don Imus dismissal
- 1.6 Rise of the New Right documentary
- 1.7 Olbermann suspension
- 1.8 Tucson shootings
- 1.9 Mitt Romney Video
- 1.10 Romney-Ryan Chant Video
- 1.11 Bias against Romney and for Obama week before 2012 presidential election
- 1.12 Up Late with Alec Baldwin cancellation
- 1.13 Host Martin Bashir resignation
- 1.14 Host Melissa Harris-Perry and guest panel ridicule Mitt Romney's adopted black grandson
- 1.15 Biracial Super Bowl Cheerios Ad Tweet
- 1.16 Cinco de Mayo Celebration
- 1.17 Assertions of bias in coverage of financial issues
- 1.18 Comment about Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
- 2 Criticism of individuals
- 3 See also
- 4 References
Assertions of left-wing bias
Commentators have described MSNBC as having a bias towards left-leaning politics and the Democratic Party. In November 2007, a New York Times article stated that MSNBC's prime-time lineup is tilting more to the left. Washington Post media analyst Howard Kurtz has stated that the channel's evening lineup "has clearly gravitated to the left in recent years and often seems to regard itself as the antithesis of Fox News". In 2011, Salon.com noted that "MSNBC’s prime-time lineup is now awash in progressive politics."
That same year, Politico referred to MSNBC as "left-leaning". In reference to changes in the channel's evening programming, senior vice president of NBC News Phil Griffin said that "It happened naturally. There isn't a dogma we're putting through. There is a 'Go for it.'"
A study conducted by Harvard University on media bias during the 2008 presidential election found that "A positive tone pervaded (on MSNBC) coverage of candidates from both parties. Nearly half (47%) of the stories about Democratic candidates were positive, vs. 19% negative and 34% neutral. Coverage of Republican candidates was not quite as rosy but still more stories were positive (38%) than neutral (33%) or negative (30%)."
In the February 2008 issue of Men's Journal magazine, an MSNBC interviewee quoted a senior executive who said that liberal commentator Keith Olbermann "runs MSNBC" and that "because of his success, he's in charge" of the channel. The New York Times has called Olbermann MSNBC's "most recognizable face". In September 2008, MSNBC stated that they were removing both Olbermann and Chris Matthews as live political event anchors, and replacing them with David Gregory, due to growing criticism that they were "too opinionated to be seen as neutral in the heat of the presidential campaign".
Olbermann continued to broadcast Countdown both before and after the presidential and vice-presidential debates, and both Matthews and Olbermann joined Gregory on the channel's election night coverage. In September 2009, a Pew Research Poll showed that Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to rate the channel favorably and Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to see MSNBC unfavorably.
On November 13, 2009, in the days leading up to the release of 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's book "Going Rogue", MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan used photoshopped pictures of Palin on the channel's Morning Meeting program. Ratigan apologized a few days later stating, "I want to apologize to Governor Palin and all of our viewers. On Friday, in a very misguided attempt to have some fun in advance of Sarah Palin's upcoming book Going Rogue, our staff mistakenly used some clearly photoshopped images of Ms. Palin without any acknowledgment."
In October 2010, MSNBC began using the tagline "lean forward", which was described by some media outlets, including msnbc.com, as the network embracing its politically progressive identity.
A poll conducted by Farleigh Dickinson University concluded that MSNBC viewers are among the most uninformed. Dan Cassino, analyst for the PublicMind poll said "People who tune into ideological media are motivated to hear their side of the debate and so you can have someone who watches MSNBC be so used to hearing about protests coming from the right that they automatically believe that Occupy is mostly a Republican protest." 
Assertions of pro-Obama bias
Some Democratic Party supporters, most notably Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Bill Clinton advisor Lanny Davis, criticized MSNBC during and after the 2008 Democratic primaries, as covering Barack Obama more favorably than Hillary Clinton. A study done by the Project for Excellence in Journalism showed that MSNBC had less negative coverage of Obama (14% of stories vs. 29% in the press overall) and more negative stories about Republican presidential candidate John McCain (73% of its coverage vs. 57% in the press overall).
MSNBC's on-air slogan during the week of the 2008 presidential election, "The Power of Change", was criticized as being overtly similar to Obama's campaign slogan of "Change". Following the 2008 presidential election, conservative talk-show host, John Ziegler worked on a documentary called Media Malpractice.... How Obama Got Elected, which was very critical of the media, especially MSNBC's role, in the election. While promoting the documentary, he engaged in an on-air dispute with MSNBC news anchor Contessa Brewer, on how the media, especially MSNBC, had portrayed Sarah Palin.
After Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann made controversial on-air comments during the 2008 Republican National Convention, NBC News correspondent David Gregory replaced them, but Matthews and Olbermann continued working as analysts. On November 4–5, Matthews teamed with Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson, Gregory, and Olbermann to cover the presidential election.
During MSNBC's coverage of the Potomac primary, Matthews said of presidential candidate Barack Obama, "I have to tell you, you know, it's part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often."
This led many on the right to assert that both he and MSNBC were biased toward Obama.
Phil Donahue cancellation
Phil Donahue's 2002 program Donahue was canceled in late February 2003 during the buildup to the Iraq War. Despite earlier statements tying the cancellation to low ratings, Donahue was MSNBC's highest rated show that month.
A leaked NBC internal study revealed that the studio was concerned that Donahue would act as "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity".
Michael Savage dismissal
During the spring and early summer of 2003, MSNBC featured a weekend talk show hosted by conservative radio host Michael Savage. In July of that year, Savage responded to a prank caller on his show by calling him a "pig" and a "sodomite", and telling him he "should get AIDS and die". Savage's show was canceled and Savage was fired from the channel shortly afterward (with some reports placing the termination immediately after the episode in question went off air).
Don Imus dismissal
In early April 2007, Don Imus, whose radio show Imus in the Morning was simulcast on MSNBC, described members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team, as "some nappy-headed hoes". The comments sparked outrage, as many considered them to be racist and sexist. After sponsors began to withdraw advertisements from the show, MSNBC canceled the simulcast. Imus, as well as NBC News, apologized to the Rutgers Basketball team for the remarks.
Rise of the New Right documentary
In June 2010, a documentary airing on MSNBC and hosted by Chris Matthews titled Rise of the New Right drew significant criticism from conservatives and the Tea Party movement. The documentary features interviews with Dick Armey, the former House Majority Leader, Orly Taitz, a leading figure in the "birther" movement, and radio host Alex Jones. The documentary also showed the Michigan Militia's survival training camp and hit the campaign trail with Kentucky Senatorial candidate Rand Paul.
After the documentary aired, FreedomWorks, which is chaired by Dick Armey, issued a letter calling for a boycott of Dawn and Procter & Gamble, which advertises during Hardball with Chris Matthews.
On November 5, 2010, MSNBC President Phil Griffin suspended Olbermann indefinitely without pay for contributing $2,400 (the maximum personal donation limit) to each of three Democratic candidates during the 2010 midterm election cycle. Contributions to political campaigns, under NBC News policy, are not allowed without prior permission. On November 7, 2010, Olbermann posted a thank you message to supporters via Twitter. The same day, MSNBC announced that he would be back on the air starting November 9.
Two weeks later, Griffin announced the suspension of Joe Scarborough for the same offense, as the Morning Joe host had donated $4,000 to Republican candidates in Florida. Like Olbermann's suspension, Scarborough's suspension was brief, and he returned to the airwaves on November 24.
During the news cycle following the 2011 Tucson shooting, conservative talk-radio host Mark Levin threatened to sue Chris Matthews and several other MSNBC commentators who suggested that he might have influenced the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. Levin also defended Republican politician Sarah Palin from MSNBC punditry linking her political rhetoric to the heated political atmosphere surrounding the killings.
Paul Bond of The Hollywood Reporter wrote "MSNBC was crucial in driving the narrative that the killer was egged on by violent political rhetoric, particularly from Palin". Bond also wrote "even after it was learned that the shooter was an atheist, flag-burning, Bush-hating, 9/11 Truther who enjoyed joking about abortion (not exactly the portrait of a Palin supporter), MSNBC still did not let up on that story line".
Mitt Romney Video
Anchorwoman Andrea Mitchell was caught showing a doctored video clip of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a rally in Pennsylvania. In the edited version it has Mitt Romney saying how amazing it is to get a custom made sandwich, using a touch screen ordering device at a Wawa convenience store. What viewers didn't see or hear was nearly three minutes of Romney discussing the extensive amount of paperwork faced by an optometrist he'd talked to in trying to get the post office to change his address. He expressed mock amazement at Wawa's efficiency to underscore how the private sector is often more efficient than Government. 
Romney-Ryan Chant Video
On Morning Joe, a discussion about Romney relying on his running mate Paul Ryan's popularity was begun with a clip from a Romney Rally that showed the crowd chanting. In the clip Romney instructs them to chant "Romney-Ryan". According to the subtitle added by the show, they were chanting "Ryan", which along with the introduction to the clip, made it appear that Romney was injecting his own name into a "Ryan" chant. A caller called into TheBlaze TV’s “Pat & Stu” saying she was at the rally and they were chanting Romney.
Reporters who attended the event from the website BuzzFeed, and the NewYork Times both confirm that the crowd was chanting Romney, and he added the name of his running mate. In response to criticisms Joe Scarborough Tweeted that they were chanting Ryan, and that he would "take note of those who link to the lie". Lauren Skowronski, a spokeswoman for Morning Joe, sent out an email claiming that, "the tape clip was untouched and was played as it was recorded", though the "Ryan" subscript was clearly added to the clip.
Bias against Romney and for Obama week before 2012 presidential election
A study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that MSNBC's coverage of Romney during the final week of the 2012 presidential campaign (68% negative with no positive stories in the sample), was far more negative than the overall press, and even more negative than it had been during October 1 to 28, when 5% was positive and 57% was negative. On the other hand, their coverage of Obama improved in the final week before the presidential election. From October 1 to 28, 33% of stories were positive and 13% negative. During the campaign's final week, 51% of MSNBC's stories were positive while there were no negative stories at all about Obama in the sample.
Up Late with Alec Baldwin cancellation
Host Martin Bashir resignation
Host Martin Bashir resigned after making a controversial comment about Sarah Palin. On November 15, 2013, Bashir criticized Sarah Palin for comments that she made comparing the Federal debt to slavery. Bashir attempted to counter Palin's comparison by referencing the cruel and barbaric punishment of slaves described by slave overseer Thomas Thistlewood, specifically a punishment called "Derby's dose" which involved forcing slaves to defecate or urinate into the mouth of another slave as punishment. Bashir then concluded by saying "When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate."
Host Melissa Harris-Perry and guest panel ridicule Mitt Romney's adopted black grandson
Political commentator Melissa Harris-Perry and her guest panel, in a look back on 2013 segment on her show, showed a picture of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his extended family. Mr. Romney was holding on his knee his adopted grandchild, Kieran Romney, an African-American. Harris-Perry and her guests, including actress Pia Glenn and comedian Dean Obeidallah, joked about coming up with captions for the photo. Glenn sang out, “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same.” Obeidallah said, “It sums up the diversity of the Republican Party and the [Republican National Committee], where they have the whole convention and they find the one black person.” Afterwards, Harris-Perry issued an apology in a series of Tweets.
Biracial Super Bowl Cheerios Ad Tweet
On January 29, 2014, a tweet was posted on MSNBC's official Twitter feed suggesting conservatives hate biracial families: "Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family". Led by conservative blogger and news contributor Michelle Malkin, many conservatives tweeted pictures of their biracial families with the hashtag #myrightwingbiracialfamily. Many criticized the network for its constant race-baiting and desire to spread negative stereotypes, while others pointed back to many similar incidents by the network as part of a disturbing culture.
MSNBC later deleted the tweet, posting a new one with an apology, stating the original tweet did not represent the network's position. MSNBC Executive Editor Richard Wolffe also tweeted that "The Cheerios tweet from @msnbc was dumb, offensive and we've taken it down. That's not who we are at MSNBC". Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus sent a letter to the network's president Phil Griffin stating he will encourage all conservatives not to participate on the network until there was a public apology. Griffin apologized a few hours later, stating the person who had posted the tweet had been fired. Priebus accepted the apology, saying they will continue to monitor the network's pattern of unacceptable behavior to see if it actually changes.
Cinco de Mayo Celebration
On May 5, 2014 during the show "Way Too Early", a segment was done about the historical background of Cinco De Mayo and featured Louis Burgdorf dancing around the set in a sombrero, shaking maracas and drinking tequila, which host Thomas Roberts referred to as "go-go juice". The segment came under quick criticism for its mocking of Mexican heritage and use of false stereotypes. MSNBC apologized the next day, saying there was no intention to be disrespectful and that while the props were planned, Roberts and Burgdorf acted the way they did on their own. The two hosts also apologized, although they partially deflected the blame back at their producers for allowing the segment to begin with.
Assertions of bias in coverage of financial issues
In his book Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC, Michael Arria wrote that the issue is not so much left wing or right wing as MSNBC and other media serving their own financial interests. Arria said that an example of ignoring news that threatens its own financial interests was that MSNBC was silent about the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.
Comment about Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
In January 2015, Arsalan Iftikhar of TheMuslimGuy.com was on MSNBC to discuss Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's denunciation of supposed Muslim "no-go zones" in London. Iftikhar commented that Jindal, who is Indian-American, "might be trying to scrub some of the brown off his skin" ahead of a possible 2016 presidential run. Host Alex Wagner did not challenge the comment. MSNBC later released a statement saying: “We found this guest’s comments offensive and unacceptable and we don’t plan on inviting him back.” 
Criticism of individuals
- Chris Matthews: Matthews, host of the MSNBC TV show Hardball with Chris Matthews aired an interview with former GOP Chairman Michael Steele on Sunday April 23, 2012. In the interview, Matthews incorrectly stated that Mitt Romney is a "flat-earther" and does not believe in evolution. He also called the GOP "the Grand Wizard Crowd", for which he later apologized.
- Alec Baldwin: On November 14, 2013, Baldwin, host of Up Late with Alec Baldwin, allegedly called a reporter who was following him a "cock-sucking fag". Baldwin would be suspended the next day and was eventually fired on November 23, 2013.
- Martin Bashir: On November 15, 2013, Bashir criticized Sarah Palin for comments that she made comparing the Federal debt to slavery. Bashir attempted to counter Palin's comparison by referencing the cruel and barbaric punishment of slaves described by slave overseer Thomas Thistlewood, specifically a punishment called "Derby's dose" which involved forcing slaves to defecate or urinate into the mouth of another slave as punishment. Bashir then concluded by saying "When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate." Bashir was suspended on December 2, 2013, and resigned two days later.
- Al Jazeera controversies and criticism
- BBC controversies
- CNN controversies
- Fox News Channel controversies
- Steinberg, Jacques (November 6, 2007). "Cable Channel Nods to Ratings and Leans Left". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- Kurtz, Howard (2008-05-28). "MSNBC, Leaning Left And Getting Flak From Both Sides". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
- Kornacki, Steve (2011-01-21). "Is Olbermann the victim of his own success?". Salon.com.
- Barr, Andy (2011-04-05). "MSNBC host coaxes Ron Paul to run". Politico.
- "The Invisible Primary—Invisible No Longer". October 29, 2007. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
- "Olbermann Talks Office Politics, Other Politics". mediabistro.com:. January 10, 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
- Kurtz, Howard (September 8, 2008). "MSNBC Drops Olbermann, Matthews as News Anchors". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- Stelter, Brian (2008-09-07). "MSNBC Takes Incendiary Hosts From Anchor Seat". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-30.
- Pérez-Peña, Richard (September 14, 2009). "Trust in News Media Falls to New Low in Pew Survey". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
- "Press Accuracy Rating Hits Two-Decade Low". Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. September 14, 2009.
- Bookman, Jay (2009-11-16). "MSNBC apologizes for showing fake Palin photos". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
- "MSNBC's new slogan: What does it even mean?". The Week. 2010-10-06. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
- Stelter, Brian (2010-10-04). "With Tagline, MSNBC Embraces a Political Identity". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
- Miller, Emily (2010-10-08). "NBC Flees from Lefty MSNBC Cable Network". Human Events. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
- Rapoza, Kenneth (2011-11-22). "Fox News Viewers Uninformed, NPR Listeners Not, Poll Suggests". Forbes. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- "Clinton confidant dismisses MSNBC as no longer fair and balanced". The Hill. 2008-05-05. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "Rendell: Obama coverage was embarrassing". Politico. August 24, 2008. Retrieved August 24, 2008.
- Dangerous Liaison. The New Republic. May 27, 2008. Retrieved August 24, 2008.
- October 29, 2008 (2008-10-29). "The Color of News". Project for Excellence in Journalism. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
- Stelter, Brian (2008-11-10). "MSNBC's Tag for Now: 'The Power of Change'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-13.
- Barrett, Annie (June 10, 2009). "Contessa Brewer vs. John Ziegler re: Sarah Palin – 'Cut the mic, please'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
- "Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann". Chicago Tribune. September 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
- "Chris Matthews: 'I Felt This Thrill Going Up My Leg' As Obama Spoke". The Huffington Post. 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2009-10-29.
- "Bernie Goldberg on 'Love Affair' Between Obama and Media — Hannity". FOX News. 2009-01-27. Retrieved 2010-02-23.
- Ellis, Rick (February 25, 2003). "Commentary: The Surrender Of MSNBC". AllYourTV.com.
- "Phil Donahue Gets The Ax, MSNBC Cancels Donahue's Talk Show Due To Low Ratings". CBS News. February 25, 2003.
- Lowry, Brian (July 8, 2003). "Savage gets the boot after on-air anti-gay outburst". Los Angeles Times. p. E1.
- "MSNBC drops simulcast of Don Imus show". msnbc.com. April 11, 2007.
- Weigel, David (2010-06-07). "MSNBC documentary on the 'New Right' profiles birthers, militias, Alex Jones". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
- Weigel, David (2010-06-17). "Tea partyers push back against 'The Rise of the New Right' with boycott". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
- Montopoli, Brian (2010-06-17). "Tea Party Groups Lash Out at MSNBC Over Special". CBS News. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
- Aujla, Simmi (November 5, 2010). "Keith Olbermann suspended after donating to Democrats". Politico.
- Dolak, Kevin; Goldman, Russell (2010-11-07). "Keith Olbermann Can Return to 'Countdown', MSNBC Boss Says". ABC News. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- "Statement Regarding Keith Olbermann" (Press release). NBC Media Centre. 2010-11-07. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- "MSNBC Suspends 'Morning Joe' Host Scarborough for Political Donations" The Wall Street Journal November 19, 2010
- Bond, Paul (2011-01-13). "Radio Host Threatens to Sue Over 'Hardball's' Tucson Tragedy Comments". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- Mirkinson, Jack (January 14, 2011). "Mark Levin, Radio Host, Threatens To Sue Chris Matthews, MSNBC Lineup (AUDIO)". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- Bond, Paul (2011-01-26). "Sarah Palin: MSNBC's Obsession With Her". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- "MSNBC busted for editing Romney comments out of context, backtracks. Sorta. (VIDEO)". The San Francisco Chronicle. 2012-06-19.
- O'Connor, John. "MSNBC Criticized for 'Romney-Ryan' Chant Coverage". Newsy. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
- Barbaro, Michael (September 26, 2012). "A G.O.P. Reunion, With Plans for More Togetherness". NewYork Times. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
- Coppins, McKay Coppins. ""Morning Joe" Mocks Romney For Something That Didn't Happen". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
- "THE FINAL DAYS OF THE MEDIA CAMPAIGN 2012: Final Weeks in the Mainstream Press" (Press release). Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. November 19, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
- "MSNBC not commenting on whether further action contemplated against Bashir", Associated Press via Washington Post (November 19, 2013).
- Williams, Rob. "Martin Bashir says Sarah Palin is an 'idiot' and suggests someone should defecate in her mouth", The Independent (November 18, 2013).
- Grier, Peter (December 31, 2013). "Melissa Harris-Perry apologizes for Romney grandchild jokes: Sincere?". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- Day, Patrick (December 31, 2013). "Melissa Harris-Perry apologizes for Mitt Romney grandchild comments". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
- Staff, Twitchy (January 30, 2014). "75 tweets from biracial families who smacked down MSNBC pics". Twitchy. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- Larson, Leslie (January 30, 2014). "MSNBC apologizes for tweet taunting conservatives over Cheerios Super Bowl ad starrnig biracial child". New York Daily News. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- Logiurato, Brett (January 30, 2014). "MSNBC President Apologizes to RNC After Controversial Tweet, Fires Staffer Responsible". Busniess Insider. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
- An Interview with Author Michael Arria: Inside the Democrats’ Favorite News Network (2014.05.22), Michael Arria and Martha Rosenberg, CounterPunch
- Nicholas, Peter (2008-08-14). "Playing hardball with Matthews". Los Angeles Times.