NBC News has a deep bench of journalists, so it’s somewhat surprising to hear that cable channel MSNBC will begin outsourcing an hour of weekday evening programming to Bloomberg TV in January. MSNBC says it will re-air “With All Due Respect,” hosted by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, at 6 p.m. after the program airs first on Bloomberg at 5.
Halperin and Heilemann already are MSNBC contributors, making the move less of a shocker. Still, you have to wonder, what does NBC News hope to accomplish by picking up someone else’s show?
It seems to me that this is the latest step away from what has previously been an overtly progressive MSNBC agenda. The network has rejiggered its lineup in recent months to focus more on hard news, particularly in the afternoon and early evening.
In the fall, MSNBC inserted Kate Snow, who hosts the Sunday edition of “NBC Nightly News,” into the 3 to 5 p.m. weekday slot for “MSNBC Live,” a breaking news and headlines program. Chuck Todd’s new “MTP Daily” program airs at 5, followed by more “MSNBC Live” at 6, leading in to “Hardball With Chris Matthews” at 7.
That 6 p.m. weekday slot used to belong to Al Sharpton, who got bumped to 8 a.m. on Sundays. And politically speaking, Sharpton’s “PoliticsNation" makes “With All Due Respect” look like “The O’Reilly Factor."
The show is not partisan or ideological, but its hosts (and particulary Halperin) have been known to offer blunt political pronouncements that most neutral journalists would shy away from. For example, in an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show Monday morning, Halperin called President Obama’s Oval Office address on Sunday night “bad for the country,” saying “he didn’t do a good enough job — or maybe any job — of reaching out to the Republicans.”
Halperin also has ripped the campaign of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. “I have never in my career dealt with a presidential campaign who is as unresponsive to basic questions,” he said on MSNBC in August. In September on the network, he accused Clinton of using “McCarthyite tactics” against her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
These are not the sorts of things MSNBC viewers are accustomed to hearing on the channel, but they can expect to hear more of them, starting next month.
Halperin is certainly capable of drawing Republicans’ ire, too. He was roundly criticized -- and ultimately apologized -- for an April interview with Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) in which he appeared to question Cruz’s Hispanic bona fides.
But if MSNBC is trying to balance out its weekday programming a bit, “With All Due Respect” should help. Whether it helps MSNBC's problematic ratings -- ratings that drew the kind of changes that are in motion now -- is another question.