The Year in Cable News: Bashir, Baldwin Exits Cap Year of Turmoil for MSNBC

The Year in Cable News: Bashir, Baldwin Exits Cap Year of Turmoil for MSNBC

In a year of major news stories – the Boston Marathon bombing, NSA leaks, the government shutdown – the story behind the story has never been more important. TheWrap takes a look at the networks that brought you these stories 24 hours a day for the past 365 days, their highs and lows, and what you can expect from them in the new year.

Final in TheWrap's year-end cable news series

MSNBC might rather forget 2013.

The cable news network has slipped in the ratings since January, dropping by double digits in primetime and total-day viewers. And in just the past two months, MSNBC parted ways with two prominent hosts in very public, very embarrassing fashion, leaving conspicuous holes in a schedule that has been anything but consistent.

“We had a tough first half year,” MSNBC president Phil Griffin told TheWrap.

Also read: The Year in Cable News: CNN Weathers Turbulent 2013 With New Leadership and Stable Ratings

“I do think that we were hurt a little bit by the excitement and energy and the amount of time that people watched in the last half of 2012 – I think there was what I call a little bit of a political hangover in 2013.”

For a network that is the self-proclaimed “Place for Politics,” a political hangover is the very last thing MSNBC could want. The trouble is, Americans have continued to sour on politics – President Obama ends the year with a record 55 percent disapproval rating, and Congress has seen its lowest average yearly approval rating ever at 14 percent, according to Gallup.

As a result, MSNBC is poised to end the year in third place among the cable news networks in total day viewers, with a loss of 20 percent versus 2012. The network finishes second in primetime, but it has shed 29 percent of its audience from this time last year. The drops are the biggest among the cable news nets.

Also read: The Year in Cable News: Fox News Ends Another Contentious Year at the Top

Spring saw the ugliest ratings for the network. MSNBC came in fourth place in April and May after CNN's Headline News — thanks in large part to HLN anchor Nancy Grace's unrelenting coverage of the Jodi Arias trial. The premiere of “All In with Chris Hayes” in May had modest ratings, but the 8 p.m. show soon hit a slump that dragged down 9 p.m. veteran “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

In August, MSNBC moved Ed Schultz's “The Ed Show” back to the weekday lineup after bumping it to weekends just six months prior. Schultz was suspended from the network back in 2011 after calling conservative commentator Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut” on his radio show.

In June, The New York Times quoted Griffin saying of breaking news: “We're not the place for that. Our brand is not that.”

Also read: MSNBC Moves Ed Schultz Back to Weekdays

Griffin clarified those comments to TheWrap: “I think a lot of people misinterpreted what I said to The New York Times, including The New York Times.”

“I wouldn't say that we don't do news, I'd say that [CNN's] brand is known for that in a way that ours isn't,” he said. “We cover breaking news, and I think that if you go back and look at the breaking news during that period, we covered as well as anybody.”

“And we were right 100 percent of the time, and we felt really good about it,” Griffin added. Both CNN and Fox News delivered erroneous reports during the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

Also read: Megyn Kelly Spanks Piers Morgan in Total Viewers — But Rachel Maddow Wins Demo

Griffin said MSNBC is known first and foremost as the network for progressive political discourse, and he sees little reason to change – even though CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker said recently that he's moving the network into more personality-driven territory.

“They can talk all they want,” Griffin said. “We know we have great, you know, hosts, we have great shows, we have great producers – we've been doing this for a while. [But] I like a challenge.”

He added, “The importance for us is that we've built this strong brand that's diverse and reflects America, and we're going to continue to do it.”

That brand relies on big personalities to helm its talk shows, and with big personalities come big risks. Martin Bashir, a star on British television before he moved to ABC in 2005, hosted an MSNBC show for three years before resigning in November over on-air comments about Sarah Palin.

Also read: Sarah Palin Shocker: She Finds Media ‘Refreshing’ After Martin Bashir Exit (Video)

Just two weeks before Bashir's departure, Alec Baldwin, host of the short-lived late night show “Up Late,” split with the network after yelling a gay slur at a paparazzo. MSNBC suspended Baldwin the next day, and he and the network soon announced in a joint statement that they were ending his show.

After the suspension, Baldwin asked critics to spare his network: “Don't allow my problem to be MSNBC's problem,” he wrote in a Huffington Post blog. “They are good people who work hard at a job, just like many of you.”

After Bashir's exit, Baldwin had taken what some saw as a shot at MSNBC, tweeting, “Some of these cable venues really are Off-Off Television. And their need for a reliable, even forced, homogeneity is more apparent than ever.”

Also read: Joan Rivers Defends Alec Baldwin … With a Barrage of Slurs (Video)

“It was unfortunate,” Griffin said about the exits. “I believed in both of those hosts.”

“They're no longer here. That happens. I think you've got to judge us on everything – how we handled it, going forward,” he added. “I don't think there's another network that takes responsibility for the words that come out of [their] hosts shows, what they say. If there's a mistake we address it – I don't think another network does what we do.”

“I think that that's something to be proud of and we are proud of it.”

Also read: Ronan Farrow Makes His Post-Hire MSNBC Debut; Talks Sinatra Paternity Revelation (Video)

Going into 2014, Griffin believes the midterm elections will turn viewers back on to politics and help MSNBC regain lost ground. In the meantime, he says his focus is on developing new talent – like Ronan Farrow, who will host his own hour starting early next year – and expanding MSNBC's outreach online.

“If you don't evolve, you die,” he said.

  • Michael Difani

    MSNBC is the only channel I watch at times….I may be a third generation s. California Democrat but I am not in lockstep with every liberal Democratic platform. After over 5 yrs. in the army in the early 60s I became an anti-'Nam war protestor in mid-'65 when LBJ really escalated the war. I'm against Demo. guv Brown and his bullet train plan for the Central Valley…we have massive traffic congestion in s. Calif. It has to be dealth with.

    • Marg

      I voted you down for being still stupid enough to listen to the Anti Americans over at PMSNBC! They are all Communists/Socialists and America haters!

      • teddybunnies

        amazing that's how a lot of individuals feel about ignorant, arrogant FOX news

    • D

      Thank you for sacrificing for our country, first of all, when 90% of our citizens just sit comfy in front of their TVs and complain. And yeah for MSNBC….I watch CNN as well, but MSNBC rocks!

    • deb1958

      Thank you Michael for your service first of all. I always watch MSNBC and CNN! Just can't stomach the disrespect spewed on FO, for the pres. for the country as a whole. They are so Biased and Racist. Can't stand to even flip through the channel!

    • teddybunnies

      amen Michael I also served during the late 60and it was a mess. my husband and I are not in lock step with every democrat either. we also watch MSNBC because we can't stand the biased views of FOX. they are adept at talking out of both sides of their collective mouths.

  • Mike Burke

    Must see TV….Chris Hayes and guest giggle over the guest urging that perhaps Phil Robertson might try anal sex ….he just might like it.

    This is what MSNBC has become. A congo line of far left fruits.

    • wayoutleft

      They're a bunch of insecure Billyburg (geek section of Brooklyn) bicyclists. The thing Chris Hayes does best is ride a bicycle to get his tofu at the Korean market.
      Hayes believes what all urban Democrats believe: That they can laugh at everybody else because they have the interests of the poor, downtrodden ppl at heart. But Hayes and his ilk hypocritically understand that their little overpaid media gigs would come crashing down at the advent of anything like economic justice. So the Dem Ministry of Propaganda continues its smashingly successful project of dividing the rural and urban poor with race. Read Joan Walsh at Salon: White hatred of whites right out front.

    • govenor man

      al jazeera america and bbc america are the only real news on cable the rest are a joke

  • Marg

    MSNBC, known as PMSNBC by everyone who love to laugh at the zoo animals they call hosts, should just change their name to either “The New Black Entertainment” Channel or ” Obama A*s Kissing Done 24 Hrs a Day” Channel!

  • KenM

    Melissa Harris-Perry – The new flag-bearer for MSNBC's unintelligent intolerance of anyone not Left of Center.

  • stan

    this isn't a news organization is just a political arm for the far left. I would not watch NBC or MSNBC it was the only channel on the TV. News organizations are supposed to report the news not critique it or give their personal political viewpoint. The reason Fox news is far and above all the others, is because it is fair and balanced

    • nononsense57

      you aren't the only one who doesn't watch it…as proven by the basement viewership numbers

    • deb1958

      Are you kidding me! Fox news doesn't critique or give personal opinions. ROFLMAO!!!! That's all they do. So much disrespect for our president and our country coming from that foxhole!! And news organizations are definitely not suppose to get on there and tell out right lies as news!!! Which fox does!!

      • Individual Immunity

        Yet they bury both cnn and msnbc in the ratings. Msnbc has now slipped embarrassingly into 3rd (that's right, even with the full backing of Microsoft and NBC the network is tanking in last place!) Their viewership continues to dwindle and their hosts continue to get into trouble. The network's highest rated show has lost a third of its ratings in only 1 year! Msnbc is in free fall. Now that you've told us all off-topically that you hate the very successful FOX, how about dealing with the actual subject of this article (although you'd love to avoid it) and explain to us why msnbc is in the ratings toilet, did you and your cat stop watching? That's half of their audience right there…

    • teddybunnies

      and yet they let rush linbaugh get away with the slanderous, libelis names he called Sandra Pluck when she had tried to speak before the committee(which was comprised only of men) that was about to tear down women's health organizations. what ever Limbaugh says is golden according to fox news

    • Kevin Pritchard

      fair and balanced my ass

      • meandmyvoices

        Your boyfriend looks a little puny. Is he the catcher…? Bawahahahahahaa

  • Journalist1

    MSNBC is not worth watching. It makes Fox look fair and balanced. There are not any journalists left.

  • nononsense57

    MSNBC is a pro-communist skank network. It's fast becoming a comedy channel.

  • hasanbiinsober

    First, get the MS away from the NBC…Harris-Perry is a comic book character along with most of the other yak-yak hosts, trying ANYTHING for controversy and a ratings point. Eventually Soros will get tired of writing checks because nobody is watching or the handful of sponsors will feel a real backlash…Have a nice day………..

  • Individual Immunity

    Watching msnbc is pure trainwreck television. On any given day a host will make an outrageously ignorant sexist or racist comment as a desperate stunt to gain ratings and prove in their demented minds that the Republicans are always evil (it's happening again now as I type this) but their venom always backfires humiliating msnbc and doing further major damage to the credibility of nbc news. Before msnbc, viewers only imagined nbc news anchors were left wing totally biased braindead idiots, now that they have talk shows that let them spew their bile on msnbc the wondering is over, they confirm everyone's worst suspicions about their shoddy unprofessional news product. Even the left considers the network a joke, the young turks criticize it every day. How long will nbc put up with this massive blood loss to their reputation? msnbc is killing nbc news and helping their competition bigtime, maybe they're just too dumb to realize it…If Media Matters defeated FOXnews (what a laughable delusion that is!) what invisible magic is behind the total collapse of msnbc? Did they have something to do with that too? ROFLMAO!

    • JudtheStud

      If msnbc doesn't perform a major course correction and try something new like serious unbiased journalism or switching to pop culture without the daily talking points from the White House or the DNC telling all their on-air talent what to think and say they're doomed. This current msnbc suicidal formula was all tried years ago. Remember Air America, the left's answer to “evil” and hugely popular conservative talk radio? They thought the could buy ratings by having Soros and all his buddies pouring millions down that rathole. There's no national audience for left-wing radio propaganda (NPR would have gone extinct decades ago if it wasn't for taxpayers being forced to fund it)

  • Guest

    They should add MHPerry as another moronic host that should be fired. Enough is enough.

  • govenor man

    any american news on cable is the worst crap there is, i cant believe that the 2 foreign owned news service blows them out of the water, how can al jeezera and bbc do such a better job with news, reporting has become a lost art in this country, nothing but celebrity garbage and opinions are the bulk of news. FOX, MSNBC AND CNN, YOU GUYS SUCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!

  • Kevin Pritchard


    • JudtheStud

      With illiterate “ALL CAPS” fans like you no wonder msnbc is in last place and considered a laughingstock by the entire cable industry! ;-) If you can't live without it you better plan on suicide, at this rate of decline the network will be off the air within the next 5 years unless they completely change formats. Look how well Current tv did running nothing but pro-obama propaganda, it led them to an early extinction! Even cnn has learned from their mistakes and is trying to be less left-wing to broaden their audience, piers morgan's days on the network are numbered according to internal leaks, his ratings are a disaster. Ratings trump ideology in the television business and obama is a sinking, less and less popular brand, sadly for you there's just no audience for their socialist Kool-Aid drinking channel…

      • Kevin Pritchard

        dude you is not a stud but a TROLL in sheep's clothing .

        • meandmyvoices

          You “are”…..

    • Individual Immunity

      Smoke less crack and try using spellcheck before posting your next message.

      • Kevin Pritchard

        sorry I'm immune to your stupidity …if anything FOX is the Kool Aid of the neocon republic of stepford wives and old dogs

    • meandmyvoices

      Get an education, lay off the crack and get a job

      • Kevin Pritchard

        i got a job and a degree just no tie for sick demented assholes like you bitch so do as Kylie Minogue and Get OUTTA MY WAY