Scarborough disputes MSNBC host chosen for ‘diversity reasons’

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Joe Scarborough is pushing back against The Daily Caller’s report this week that MSNBC is replacing the anchor of the lead-in to “Morning Joe” with an openly-gay host because the network wants the franchise to be seen as more “diverse.”

TheDC broke the news Thursday that MSNBC planned to replace “Way Too Early” host Brian Shactman with anchor Thomas Roberts, who is married to a man and has become known recently for the emphasis he places on gay issues.

On Friday, MSNBC confirmed the change of hosts. But in a statement, Scarborough disputed that Roberts was chosen for “diversity reasons,” which is how TheDC’s source inside MSNBC characterized the change.

“Despite internet speculation, he was chosen based strictly on merit and not politically correct considerations,” Scarborough said.

“Way Too Early” airs every weekday morning before “Morning Joe” — the show hosted by Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

“Mika and I were excited to have Brian as host of ‘Way Too Early’ last year because of our admiration for him,” Scarborough said of Shactman. “We will miss him but know Thomas will do a great job as well. Mika and I worked with Thomas in Oklahoma City after last spring’s tornado and became fans.”

Still, MSNBC president Phil Griffin praised Roberts for the brand he has developed for himself, which has become synonymous with Roberts’ pro-gay advocacy journalism.

Officially announcing the change on Friday, Griffin said, “Thomas’ unique personality and point of view are just the right mix to lead-in to ‘Morning Joe.'”

“Thomas has really found his voice in the past year and joining the ‘Morning Joe’ table gives him the opportunity to further develop it,” Griffin said.

Roberts has been outspoken during controversies involving gay issues. Most recently, he took a stand against the comments made by “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson. During the 2012 media storm over comments the leader of Chick-Fil-A said about gays, Roberts said pro-gay patrons who still go to the restaurant amount to a “chicken-eating Judas.”

In 2011, Roberts accused Republican Michele Bachmann of wanting to “extinguish” gays. Last month, he said that “many people consider President Obama to be the first gay president.”

Roberts will host “Way Too Early” from 5:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. starting Jan. 13. He will also contribute to “Morning Joe” from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.

“I am flattered to join this morning family,” Roberts said Friday.

Shactman, a former CNBC and sports reporter, said he decided over the last several months in discussions with Griffin that, “I don’t want politics to be my only focus.”

“I want to continue to branch out, making sure my career is not solely defined by that,” Shactman said, explaining he will announce his “next venture in the very near future.”

Roberts hosted the daytime “MSNBC Live” at 11 a.m. since 2010. The network said it will announce a new host for that show “in the coming weeks.”

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