Is MSNBC The New Fox News?

4798 MSNBC President Phil Griffin labels his network's sensibility as progressive, but the cable news channel could also be described these days as simply pro-Obama.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell and Chris Matthews speak during the Television Critics Association's 2011 summer tour, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Aug. 2, 2011, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
In the final week of the 2012 election, MSNBC ran no negative stories about President Barack Obama and no positive stories about Republican nominee Mitt Romney, according to a study released Monday by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

MSNBC's afternoon and primetime hosts kept their sights on Romney and the Republicans during the election cycle, while spending considerably less time holding Obama accountable on issues like civilian casualties from drone strikes, use of executive power and the Afghanistan conflict, the nation's longest-ever war, which escalated under the current White House. Instead, the network's top partisan hosts -- with the exception of former Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough -- seemed to circle the wagons around the Democratic president during his reelection bid. 

Former President Bill Clinton remarked earlier this year that MSNBC "really has become our version of Fox," the conservative cable network owned by Rupert Murdoch and run by veteran Republican operative Roger Ailes. While such comparisons invite charges of creating a false equivalency between the two networks, it's generally accepted in political circles that MSNBC hosts are likely to favor Democrats as Fox News hosts pull for Republicans.

That perception of MSNBC has gravitated into pop culture, too, with even NBC comedians recently piling on. Last month, "Saturday Night Live" mocked MSNBC hosts' reaction to Obama's poor first debate, which the show dubbed the "worst thing that ever happened anywhere." Jay Leno joined in last week on "The Tonight Show," joking that "the economy is so bad MSNBC had to lay off 300 Obama spokesmen."

But it's one thing for a self-identified progressive network to back a Democratic president against a Republican challenger. Campaigns in a two-party system are zero-sum games: Criticizing one side benefits the other. Now, post-election, the question is whether MSNBC continues cheering Obama on -- or takes him on.

Some MSNBC hosts surely know how to hit the president and the party from the left. In June, Rachel Maddow explained how Obama "triple-downed" on the Bush administration's use of drones, and three years earlier, she threw Obama's own words on indefinite detention back at him. Over the past year, weekend host Chris Hayes has spoken out on deportations of undocumented immigrants, the foreclosure crisis and indefinite detention, while recently taking Obama adviser Robert Gibbs to task over his dismissive response to the killing of a 16-year-old American, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was the son of American-born cleric and al Qaeda representative Anwar al-Awlaki.

Griffin acknowledges that his hosts are more likely to agree with Obama on policy matters than with Republicans, but rejects comparisons to Fox News.

"This channel has never been the voice of Obama. Ever," Griffin told The Huffington Post. "People want to talk about Fox. Fox is the voice of the Republican Party."

Clearly, there are differences, such as Fox News giving significant airtime to contributors like political consultant Dick Morris, who acknowledged after the election that he had tailored his analysis to cheer up Republicans, and Karl Rove, perhaps the most powerful Republican operative. And although MSNBC hosts were upset by Obama's initial debate debacle, they didn't sugarcoat the performance.

"We hire smart people with a progressive sensibility," Griffin said. "I tell them to go think for themselves. We don't have talking points."

Source: Huffington Post | Michael Calderone
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