The Rev. Al Sharpton, the renowned civil rights activist and outspoken protester, has a new role: TV host.
Sharpton has been named as the host of a new MSNBC series, “PoliticsNation,” which will debut Monday. Producers say Sharpton will lead participants in a “lively and informed discussion of the top headlines, bringing viewers his take on events in his signature style.” The hour-long series will air weeknights at 6 p.m.
Sharpton has been a consistent presence on the cable network for years and has worked as a guest host of “MSNBC Live at 6 P.M.” and “The Ed Show.” But the announcement of this new role led to speculation among some commentators and bloggers that the gig might be a reward for his support of the merger between MSNBC parent company NBC and cable giant Comcast.
Conservative commentator Carl Horowitz of the National Legal and Policy Center called Sharpton’s association with MSNBC a conflict of interest.
The merger was approved by the Federal Communications Commission in January after being opposed by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and activists who contended that NBC had a poor record on putting African Americans in front of and behind the camera.
MSNBC President Phil Griffin said that Sharpton’s lobbying for the merger was totally unrelated to the hosting job and that any suggestion of a possible conflict of interest was “baseless.”
“The Rev. Sharpton’s success led to my decision to give him the hour, period,” Griffin said. “His life experience has prepared him for this position. He’s been on our air for 15 years. We have a history of taking guests and developing them as hosts,” he added.
Sharpton said in a statement: “I am very happy and honored to join the MSNBC team as we collectively try to get America to ‘lean forward.’ It is a natural extension of my life and work. We all learn from our pain and stand up from our stumbling and one must either learn to lean forward or fall backwards. I’m glad they have given me the opportunity to continue my forward lean.”