Was MSNBC’s decision not to make former 6 p.m. host Cenk Uygur’s role at the network permanent a product of the cable outlet’s desire to protect President Barack Obama at all costs? On Sunday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” Uygur suggested that was certainly a possibility.
Host Howard Kurtz asked Uygur if he had any evidence that the White House was pressuring MSNBC on his potential successor: Sharpton’s pledge to not criticize President Obama is worth noting. Uygur admitted he didn’t, but pointed to a May 2011 interview in which the Reverend Al Sharpton, Uygur’s likely replacement at MSNBC, encouraged people not to criticize Obama.
“[I] didn’t say that,” Uygur said. “I said people in Washington had a concern with my tone, which is what [MSNBC President] Phil Griffin told me. I didn’t say that he said that it was the White House. Now, you know, who is ‘the people in Washington’? I think that’s a really great question; [it] probably needs some more investigation.
“You know, a friend of mine just suggested that I watch the ‘60 minutes’ piece from a couple of months ago about Al Sharpton. And I found that to be very curious because [’60 Minutes’ correspondent] Leslie Stahl said there — and here I have the quote for you: ‘Sharpton says he’s decided not to criticize the president about anything.’ So the guy who was criticizing the president is out, even though he had really good ratings, and the guy who has decided not to criticize the president about anything is in. That’s interesting.”
In a statement, MSNBC disputed Uygur’s claim that outside influences impacted the network’s decision to let him go. Uygur takes issue with MSNBC’s position.
“Well, look, here’s the thing,” Uygur said. “They say it’s baseless, except they don’t specify what’s baseless about it. They have acknowledged that conversation took place. They just say that insider/outsider conversation, ‘we meant your producer said that,’ which, again, does not seem credible at all, right? So they’ve actually acknowledged every single part of the story. So I don’t know what they’re saying is baseless.”
He continued: “Second of all, yes, there was a lot of money on the table. I’m not a rich guy. I have a Pontiac Grand Am from 10 years ago; the air conditioning doesn’t work. Look, I thought about the money a lot, but in the end, I told my agent, ‘that’s it, we’re done.’ I don’t want to take it and the deciding factor was [that] I got to tell the story.
“Our media is obsessed with access. It’s not just MSNBC, and it’s not personal. I think CNN does it. Fox News is a propaganda outfit entirely. And we’re all worried, ‘Oh, my god, are the politicians going to come on?’ Our job is supposed to be to challenge the politicians, [to] challenge the government. That’s what the press is supposed to do, and I don’t think we’re doing it.”