Thursday, July 21, 2011
9045: Guess Who’s Coming To MSNBC.
From The New York Times…
Sharpton Appears to Win Anchor Spot on MSNBC
By Brian Stelter
After giving a nearly six-month tryout for the Internet talk show host Cenk Uygur, the cable news channel MSNBC is preparing to instead hand its 6 p.m. time slot to the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Mr. Sharpton’s imminent hiring, which was acknowledged by three people at the channel on condition of anonymity because the contract had not been signed, is significant in part because MSNBC and other news channels have been criticized for a paucity of minority hosts in prominent time slots. Mr. Sharpton, who is black and is a well-known civil rights activist and radio host, has been guest hosting in the 6 p.m. time slot for the last three weeks.
There had been uncertainty about the 6 p.m. slot ever since the channel’s marquee anchor, Keith Olbermann, departed in January, prompting Ed Schultz to be moved to 10 p.m. from 6. Suddenly Mr. Uygur, who had been made a paid contributor to MSNBC months earlier, was handed 6 p.m., a big coup given that he had earlier campaigned to have his progressive Web show “The Young Turks” picked up by MSNBC.
He earned solid but not stand-out ratings; in late June the channel’s president, Phil Griffin, decided to try out Mr. Sharpton, and offered Mr. Uygur a new contract that included a weekend show, but not a higher-profile weekday show.
Mr. Uygur, who by most accounts was well liked within MSNBC, said in an interview that he turned down the new contract because he felt Mr. Griffin had been the recipient of political pressure. In April, he said, Mr. Griffin “called me into his office and said that he’d been talking to people in Washington, and that they did not like my tone.” He said he guessed Mr. Griffin was referring to White House officials, though he had no evidence for the assertion. He also said that Mr. Griffin said the channel was part of the “establishment,” and “that you need to act like it.”
MSNBC is home to many hosts who criticize President Obama and other Democrats from a progressive point of view, but at times Mr. Uygur could be especially harsh.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Griffin denied Mr. Uygur’s accusations and sounded disappointed that he had decided not to accept the weekend position. “We never told Cenk what to say or what not to say,” Mr. Griffin said.
The “people in Washington,” he said, were MSNBC producers who were responsible for booking guests for the 6 p.m. hour, and some of them had said that Mr. Uygur’s aggressive body language and overall demeanor were making it harder to book guests. “The conversation was, ‘Hey, look, here’s how we can make it better’ — about physical things on the show,” Mr. Griffin said.
Mr. Uygur’s audience on “The Young Turks” Webcast, which is separate from MSNBC, is younger than the audience on cable television, Mr. Griffin added, suggesting that the two demographics require different manners of speaking. Mr. Uygur stood by his account, saying in an e-mail, “That conversation on that day was not about body language.”
Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, said in an e-mail Wednesday that his staff did not raise any concerns about the show “with Phil Griffin or anyone else.”
“I didn’t agree with everything said on the show, but certainly didn’t have any problem with it,” Mr. Pfeiffer added.