Before it became apparent that Tucson shooter Jared Loughner "did not watch TV" and "disliked the news," a number of political pundits scolded Fox News and Sarah Palin for "amplifying violence" in the aftermath of the deadly Tucson killing spree. One of those pundits was MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, and The Daily Beast's Wayne Barrett suspects those remarks got him fired from the cable news network.
Barrett's evidence? On yesterday's episode of Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough seemed to suggest that MSNBC did some serious soul-searching following the massacre. And the way Scarborough guarded his words suggested he was hiding a big secret. To provide a little context, the panel of Mike Brzezinski and Gabriel Sherman had been discussing how Fox News was re-evaluating its heated rhetoric following the shootings, and Scarborough suddenly piped in:
"By the way and this is all I will say," he declared, as if he was about to reveal a state secret, or at least an MSNBC secret.
"Not just Fox News. Everywhere."
Sherman and Brzezinski thought Scarborough was making a cultural comment and went on about how the murders of six at a shopping center meeting with a congresswoman "caused everyone to talk" and were a "moment of public discussion," missing Scarborough's very particular point.
So Morning Joe let his Starbucks do the talking and started spelling it out, in a loud, slow, and insistent voice. "NOT… JUST… AT… FOX NEWS."
"I know, but..." chimed in Brzezinski.
"Let me just say it again," Scarborough said. A bad-boy smile lit his face. "NOT… JUST… AT… FOX NEWS." Mike Barnicle started laughing out loud, and Scarborough's grin grew. "Let's… let's… go to Mike Barnicle right now."
Putting two and two together, Barrett notes that the massacre happened on January 8 and the date of Olbermann's departure was January 21. And immediately following the killings, Olbermann gave a thorough scolding to Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, ordering their respective constituents and audiences to "repudiate" them. Here's the clip:
If Sarah Palin... does not repudiate her own part, however tangential, in amplifying violence and violent imagery in American politics she must be dismissed from politics. She must be repudiated by members of her own party and if they fail to do so each one of them must be judged to have silently defended this tactic that today proved so awfully foretelling and they must in turn be dismissed by the responsible members of their own party.
Was that the straw that broke the camel's back? We don't know. In a statement to TV Newser, MSNBC pushed back against the idea:
“Joe was making the point that many media outlets, not just Fox News, were prompted by the Tucson shooting to re-evaluate the rhetoric. Joe has discussed the need for civility in the political discourse many times on ’Morning Joe,’ particularly in the days and weeks following the shooting.”
If you'd like to see Scarborough's "bad-boy smile" start the clip at the 5:40 mark:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.