Republican Candidates Don’t Fear MSNBC

Sean Hackbarth finds the Republican acceptance of a debate on MSNBC interesting.

Despite MSNBC being the network of Leftist loon Keith Olberman, despite it being the network of Chris Matthews, no friend to conservatives, neither the candidates nor the GOP base is crying foul. That’s in stark contrast to the Left going bonkers that Fox News host Democratic debates.

Indeed. Especially since Matthews is one of the debate moderators. At least Fox didn’t propose to have Bill O’Reilly moderate the Democratic debates.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jeff b says:

    You’d have to be pretty obtuse to compare MSNBC to Fox News. Sure, Olberman is on the left, but he’s not a crazy liar like Falafel O’Reilly. O’Reilly’s show is sheer fabulism from start to finish. Countdown is grounded pretty well in fact and history. And Fox News has a long and ignominious history of asking ridiculous questions of Democratic candidates in debate, whereas MSNBC does not.

    The objection to Fox News isn’t that they are on the right of the political spectrum. The objection is that they are a lot of lunatics. Get back to me when you can say the same about MSNBC.

  2. Anderson says:

    Since Matthews is constantly under fire from liberals, he may not be so scary to Repubs.

  3. Steve Plunk says:

    jeff b,

    I would certainly think Keith Olberman is a lunatic. Chris Matthews is borderline.

    O’Reilly is a talk show host, an opinion giver, he’s not news. Using him as an example of a news person misses the mark.

    I’m curious, exactly what were ridiculous questions that they asked?

  4. Hal says:

    Yea, I was just going to make the same point. It’s kind of funny to think that the right inhabits a world where Keith Olberman does the mirror world version of this insanity by O’Reilly. I mean, really. There’s nothing on any of the “leftist” stations that even comes within the same solar system.

    I love the whole diagram thing he pulls out. At first, when I saw this, I thought it was a joke to mock O’Reilly. But there he is spewing like Bircher.

    Still, you gotta thank the gods for this kind of stuff. I say let them live with their delusions. People who can’t accurately gauge their political opponents don’t usually win.

  5. I don’t watch O’Reilly or Olberman, but I have read enough articles/editorials by Olberman to know he is several bricks shy of a load. Both sides have a tendency to see the mote in the other side’s eye rather than beam in their own eye. That is human nature unless you fight against it.

    But the point is that the side who claims it is better to talk, no matter how bad the other side is, is afraid/unwilling/unable to debate on FOX news. The side who is accused of being unwilling to talk to others is willing to appear on MSNBC.

    Sorry, but the GOP wins this one. A precious few (both in numbers because of low ratings and in percentage because of self-selection bias) of MSNBC’s listeners may be persuaded to think about the republican candidate’s positions a second time. But then, I think the republicans have the facts and logic on their side, so that may be why the left doesn’t see much upside in demonstrating their lack of a political position other than ‘Bush bad’.

  6. jeff b says:

    Steve Plunk: example Fox News debate questions from October 2003.

    To Wesley Clark: I wonder if you could take a moment and explain to us why, at the end of your time as the supreme allied commander of NATO, you were not re-upped and why such folks as Retired General Hugh Shelton have suggested you were effectively fired for what he called character and integrity issues.

    In other words “is it true you ate a baby?” Shelton was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and he hated Clark, who was commanding the action in Kosovo, for going over his head to President Clinton. Shelton was also an advisor to the Edwards campaign. To use an opponent’s campaign advisor to smear a candidate during a debate is not respectable behavior.

    To Howard Dean: You have been unstintingly critical of this war, yet, with all due respect, you have commanded nothing more than the Vermont National Guard. You did not serve in the military. How would you, as president, be able to exert any credibility, any command over a post-war Pentagon?

    Etc etc. You can find the videos on Youtube. The basic questions all fall from the same formula. The questioner invents up an attack on the candidate, then asks them to refute the attack.

    Compare that with legitimate debate questions asked by PBS, for example to Dick Cheney: “Tonight we mentioned Afghanistan. We believe that Osama bin Laden is hiding perhaps in a cave somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border. If you get a second term, what is your plan to capture him and then to neutralize those who have sprung up to replace him?”

  7. Tano says:

    The problem with Fox is not their shows that are obviously opinion-based, like OReilly. The problem is with their pretend news – their blatant over-the-top bias that they deny with one side of their face, and pretend to just be balancing “liberal” bias at other networks with the other side of their face.

    The networks have a certain level of respect for the journalistic standard of “objectivity” or fairness. They may fail to live up to those standards some time, being human and all that, and like anyone, have underlying non-random perspectives. But at least they try. Fox doesnt try. Their whole reason for being is to be shills for right-wing ideology.

    The comparison is ridiculous.

  8. Anderson says:

    Ever notice how the liberals in the media are lunatics, whereas the lunatic conservatives are “just entertainment” and thus not subject to comparison with the liberals?

    Limbaugh, Coulter, now O’Reilly — just not to be taken seriously? As opposed to Olbermann?

  9. Billy says:

    Absolutely no comparison. The other commenters here are (largely) correct, in that it is not the overt opinion spouting (i.e., Hannity, O’Reilly) that is the problem (to which Olbermann would be a correct analogue), but rather that the putative “news” Fox perpetrates is thinly-disguised party rhetoric, unfailingly framed so as to further a particular right-wing agenda (and there are competing conservative agendas that do not get equal time). “Fair and balanced” is the quintessential example of the newspeak that has become part and parcel to the neoconservative movement, and Fox is its mouthpiece.

    In contrast, MSNBC has (relatively recently) discovered that there is a market in bashing Bush (maybe because about 2/3 of the country wishes anyone else was in charge?), and primarily exists to further its bottom line via advertising rather than to push a particular political agenda. Unquestionably there are individuals there who have personal agendae, but there is NO analogue to Roger Ailes and the overt spin that he insists his employees engage in, in lockstep no less.

  10. Tlaloc says:

    I hate Olberman for contributing to American illiteracy. “Worse, worser, worst”? What the hell is that?

    In English the progression is “bad, worse, worst.” “Worser” is not a word Keith, thanks.

    But beyond that he does strike me as a demagogue. Maybe he’s not nearly as bad as an O’Reilly or a Coulter but that’s a matter of degree rather than substance.

    I don’t see any point in patronizing demagogues, left or right.

  11. glasnost says:

    Keith Olbermann might be in some ways comparable to Bill O Reilly, but MSNBC is not comparable to Fox. I don’t know what the basis is for considering Chris Matthews as anything other than a “friend to conservatives”. He does everything but shine their shoes and make their sandwiches.

    Olbermann is a fluke on MSNBC, held aloft by good ratings. Fox’s entire newsroom is built in parallel to Bill O’ Reilly.

  12. anjin-san says:

    I am not sure why people have a problem with Fox. I think having 7 or 8 hours a day of coverage on stories about pretty blond girls who are missing/dead is important for America.

  13. bains says:

    Jeff b, if Olbermann is soo much better than OReilly, how come he doesnt do what bill does regularly and have an opposing POV expressed on his show?
    Oh, never mind, i just read the rest of your comment… not worth the time.

  14. bains says:

    James, while the GOP is showing the maturity lacking in the Democrat contenders, it means little. Have you noticed how much attention the MSM has paid to the Democrat’s petulance?

  15. With MSNBC’s lack of news programming–every time I turn it on it’s Olberman or a Dateline story about cyber-predators–I could understand if the Republicans ditched the network. They didn’t which tells you something about their MSM media smarts.

  16. Derrick says:

    This is so silly. Liberals biggest gripe as repeated is not Hannity or O’Reilly. The biggest problem is that their news division is a shill for the Right Wing. MSNBC and CNN just aren’t comparable. Name the last time that anyone on the right had any legitimate problems with Fox’s coverage (and the hyper aggressive questioning of Colmes doesn’t count people.) They mix their news and opinion in a way that is completely dis-ingenious. It isn’t a coincidence that mistakes like “Foley-D” or the Madrasas story about Obama keep happening. They just aren’t a legitimate news organization. Whining about Olberman doesn’t really help your case.

  17. lunacy says:

    When’s the last time anyone left of center had any problem with the real news stories on MSNBC or CNN?