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MSNBC’s top offensive moments, in the hosts’ own words

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Chuck Ross
Reporter

MSNBC has a history of accusing conservatives of racism and then backpedaling.

On Wednesday, the cable channel’s official Twitter account sent out a message about an upcoming Super Bowl ad from Cheerios which shows a handsome interracial family at breakfast, suggesting “Maybe the rightwing will hate it.” (RELATED: MSNBC tweets about ‘rightwing hate’ for biracial families’ after mocking biracial family)

Below is just a partial list of recent incidents in which MSNBC hosts or other affiliates made outrageous statements about conservatives which were then followed up with apologies, suspensions, or firings.

In December, MSNBC weekend host Melissa Harris-Perry and her panel of guests mocked a picture of Mitt Romney, his wife Ann, and their 21 grand children — one of whom is black. One guest on the show said that the picture “really sums up the diversity of the Republican Party.”  Another said, “One of these things is not like the other.”

Harris-Perry issued a tearful apology, which Romney later accepted. “I am deeply sorry that we suggested that interracial families are in any way funny or deserving of ridicule,”she said.

Last November, daytime host Martin Bashir responded to comments made by Sarah Palin on the topic of slavery by saying that someone should treat her the way some slaves were once treated — by urinating or defecating in her mouth. After weeks of debate, Bashir eventually resigned.

On his primetime show “All In,” Chris Hayes had a segment marking the 50th anniversary of former Alabama governor George Wallace blocking two black students from entering the University of Alabama. Hayes ran a chyron that labeled Wallace a Republican even though he was a Democrat.

Hayes later apologized for the error on Twitter writing “This was a stupid, inexcusable, historically illiterate mistake. I should have caught it and apologize for failing to.”

In August 2012, Toure, one of the hosts of MSNBC’s “The Cycle,” claimed Mitt Romney was engaged in the “niggerization” of President Obama. Toure’s comments came in response to Romney’s statements that Obama’s campaign was one of “anger and hate.”

Toure apologized the next day, saying that he should have used a different word.

In April 2012, Hardball’s Chris Matthews walked back a comment in which he called the Republican Party the “Grand Wizard crowd,” an allusion to the Ku Klux Klan. Matthews recanted that characterization later in the same segment.

Also in April 2012, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell came under fire for calling Mormonism an “invented religion.” He also said that Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, “got caught having sex with the maid and explained to his wife that God told him to do it.”

O’Donnell later apologized for his “insensitive phrasing.”

MSNBC’s parent company, NBC Universal, was forced to apologize and was later sued by George Zimmerman for an inaccurate tape splice. In March 2012, NBC aired segments in which Zimmerman is heard saying of Trayvon Martin, the teen he was accused of murdering, “He looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

But the full tape showed that a police dispatcher had asked a question in between the two sentences about Martin’s race. Zimmerman claims that the tape was spliced in such a way to make him seem racist. NBC Universal apologized and fired at least two employees.

In December 2011, MSNBC ran a chyron that read “Romney’s KKK Slogan?” referring to Mitt Romney’s campaign theme “Keep America American.” MSNBC compared Romney’s pitch to a slogan used by the Klan in the 1920s. After the Romney campaign called MSNBC for a correction, “Hardball”‘s Chris Matthews issued an on-air apology.

In August 2011, Ed Schultz accused Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was running for President, of racism when, during a stump speech, he used the phrase “big black cloud”. Schultz and his production team spliced together video footage to make it seem like Perry was talking about Obama, when in fact, he was talking about the huge national debt. Schultz said he regretted the error.

Ed Schultz was suspended for a week in May 2011 after he called conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham a “right wing slut” on his own talk radio show. Schultz later apologized on his MSNBC show, saying he had used “vile and inappropriate language”.

According to Variety, towards the end of 2013, MSNBC ranked 29th in terms of primetime cable television viewers. Fox News ranked 6th.

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