August 26, 2013
Rachel Maddow tends bar at an MSNBC event. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Rachel Maddow tends bar at an MSNBC event. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Take your pick. Here’s how Kelefa Sanneh in the Sept. 2 edition of the New Yorker describes the tone of MSNBC programming:

Virtually every other show [aside from "Morning Joe"] belongs to hosts who unstintingly support Obama and the Democrats, with only minor points of disagreement. ([Host Chris] Hayes criticizes Obama for his drone killings and surveillance programs, and often conducts friendly interviews with Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who collaborated with Edward Snowden. Melissa Harris-Perry, who appears on weekends at 10 a.m., nearly always defends Obama, and called Glenn Greenwald a “jerk.”) Conservatives are far less visible on MSNBC than liberals are on Fox News, and the right-leaning guests who do appear are typically critics of the conservative movement: Steve Schmidt, the Republican strategist, who says the party is too tolerant of “nuts” and “kooks”; Josh Barro, an advocate for Republican reform who describes himself as “neoliberal”; Abby Huntsman, the daughter of failed presidential candidate Jon, who has described the G.O.P. as a party of “non-inclusion.” The over-all impression is that your average Republican or conservative is simply too fanatical to be part of polite discourse.

And here’s how the New York Times’s Alessandra Stanley one year ago described the tone of MSNBC programming:

The smugness is easier to copy than the wit. MSNBC has a growing cast of anchor-bloviators — hosts like Martin Bashir, Tamron Hall and, of course, Al Sharpton, who rant and then invite like-minded guest commentators to assure them that they are right.

Must-agree TV, in other words.

A few points/digressions:

1) What’s the deal with Greenwald “collaborating” with Snowden? That’s an unfortunate choice of words, for it suggests — yet again, with no evidence — that the Guardian reporter did more than engage in standard journalistic practice in turning Snowden’s leaks into publishable stories.

2) Regarding liberals and conservatives on cable: Sanneh’s evaluation of right-leaning voices on MSNBC is strong. Yet the flip side of the coin isn’t quite as straightforward as the piece suggests: Most liberals would likely vote for a more forceful, party line-toeing crew of liberals on Fox News.

3) The MSNBC conservative shortfall cited by Sanneh means that the network’s anchors and commentators must often be relied upon to explain the opposition’s viewpoints. Before slamming them, that is.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.