The most incisive post-suspension comment on the whole David Shuster/Chelsea Clinton/”pimped out” brouhaha has been written by Cenk Uygur, co-host of “The Young Turks,” and can be found on the Huffington Post.
“Would anyone raise an eyebrow if Bill Maher made the same comment as David Shuster? Would HBO consider suspending him? Not in a million years. His role is clear. Provide funny, irreverent commentary that is often controversial. Shuster can’t say that religion is stupid and full of crap. Maher says it all the time.
“The problem is MSNBC doesn’t know which universe it’s in. Among cable news stations, it’s stuck between Fox News Channel and CNN. They haven’t decided what their identity is. I’m not even sure they realize they have this problem.”
May I interject? Being a huge fan of MSNBC’s nervy attitude and general feistiness, I would be hugely depressed if they made a decision in the wake of the Shuster slapdown to try and become CNN. Back to Uygur…
“Fox lets their hosts say any damn thing they want. And they have said the most damnable things. Bill O’Reilly made fun of homeless vets the other night. The man has never served, supported sending kids to die in Iraq and then laughs at them when they come back and don’t have anywhere to go (he even blames homeless folks for not watching his cable program — they don’t even have homes, let alone cable!). Yet, he is untouchable. Where’s his suspension?
“Fox doesn’t do suspensions. They chalk it up to talk show hosts doing what they do. Of course, they turn around and pretend to be a news organization the next day. But most people have caught on to their scam. And what they do is accepted with a wink and a nod. They’re the folks who can and do say anything at all.
“CNN, on the other hand, is straight news. Wolf Blitzer isn’t going to give you his opinion on a damn thing, if he has one on anything (I secretly believe that Blitzer is a robot). When is the last time Anderson Cooper said anything interesting? How about Paula Zahn? Right, they moved her out because they told her to not give her opinions and then were pissed when she lost in the ratings game to people who do — and then hired someone else to do the same exact thing.
“Lou Dobbs is the obvious exception at CNN, but he’s grandfathered in and turned crazy later in his career after it was too late to remove him (i.e. he had already gotten popular by the time they realized what he was doing). Now, they move all of the people with opinions to CNN Headline News. This is CNN’s compromise in how to deal with news/talk programming.
“But MSNBC hasn’t come up with a compromise yet. So, they have Keith Olbermann blasting away at the administration (bless his heart). They have some anchors pretending to be news folks. They have some real reporters (like Shuster, ironically) filling in as talk hosts. Then they have Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough who don’t really know what they’re doing over there.
“What is Chris Matthews? Is he a reporter? A journalist? A talk show host? A commentator? An interviewer? What is the right role for an interviewer? Can he give opinions?”
HE response: Matthews can do and should do all these things and more. He’s the greatest free-associating blabbermouth provocateur on the airwaves right now. A brilliant shoot-from the hipper, an old-school boomer newshound, a Bill Maher facsimile, a sardonic preacher, a print guy from way back, an agitator, a stalker of evasion, a carrier of the old-liberal Kennedy nosalgia flag and a bullshit spotter par excellence. Even with his mistakes and sometimes too-effusive garrulousness, let Matthews rip!