MSNBC Reporting of Romney Campaign Slogan Was Probably no Accident

COMMENTARY | According to a December 15 post on the Yahoo! News blog, The Cutline, MSNBC has apologized to Mitt Romney for airing a segment earlier this week that connected Romney’s expression “Keep America American” to the Ku Klux Klan.

Anchor Chris Matthews, who was not involved in the initial report, read an apology from the network stating that the decision to air the segment was “irresponsible and incendiary” and “showed an appalling lack of judgment.” While I do agree with MSNBC’s self-evaluation of the matter, and the Romney campaign has stated that it accepts the apology, I don’t believe that the network’s reporting was any sort of accident.

According to a late November report by Reuters, MSNBC grabbed second place last month in Nielson Media Research ratings. It is a spot that the network has long been battling with CNN for. November figures showed MSNBC with 729,000 average prime-time viewers to CNN’s 640,000. Fox News lead both networks handily, with 1.7 million prime-time viewers.

Ratings are hard to hang on to. And whether Americans want to admit their hand in reporting like this or not, controversy does capture our attention. Always. MSNBC’s accusation, regretted or not, netted the attention of columnists and commentators and even Rev. Al Sharpton who approved of the apology, according to a December 15 article in the New York Daily News, stating that, as someone who has been a victim of unproven innuendo and half-truths, he agrees that the report was not proper if you can’t nail down all the facts.

Now everyone is talking about MSNBC. They’re bringing up the network’s reported liberal bias, again. They’re debating the appropriateness of the report. They’re talking about MSNBC. In a world where there’s no such thing as bad publicity, it’s an interesting but understandable move for a network trying to hold on to second place.

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