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Your Liberal Media

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A useful reminder that MSNBC, the ostensibly liberal cable news network, is still overrun with mediocre, culturally reactionary white guys:

Cable news analysis hit another low when Donny Deutsch, an advertising and branding executive who for years had his own CNBC show and was recently hired by MSNBC to host a weekly political talk show, said of Elizabeth Warren, whom he has predicted will lose 48 states should she become the nominee: “I think she’s delightful, I think she’s wonderful, I’m a big fan, I just don’t think she has what it takes to beat this president the same way … an idealized version of Joe Biden [does].” When challenged by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, Deutsch got defensive: “I am understanding Donald Trump, the way he connects with this country, and the strength he exudes. We need to exude a stronger strength.” Deutsch exuded his own stronger strength by affirming that he is “a guy who’s done this for 30 years and watched human behavior.”

In this, if nothing else, Deutsch was correct: He has been doling out weird gender essentialism for eons. In his 2005 book Often Wrong, Never in Doubt, Deutsch wrote, “I cannot remember a time in my career when I was not having either a flirtation with a woman in the office, or a friendship, a fantasy, or all of the above. I am at my best when women are there to energize and excite me.” More recently, he told Nicolle Wallace of Joe Biden: “I love him onstage next to Trump. I love his height. I love that he threatened to get into a fistfight with Trump.” Back in 2008, Deutsch loved vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in a different way, as a “new feminist ideal:” “I want her watching my kids … I want her laying in bed next to me,” Deutsch said at the time, arguing that “women want to be her, men want to mate with her.”

The problem here is not simply that Matthews and Deutsch still have their high-paid media jobs, despite lengthy records of mediocre analysis, grotesque speech about women, and relative cluelessness about race. It’s that their jobs are crucial to how the story of the presidential race will be told to the millions of people who watch them.

This is the suffocatingly grim reality: Even after the peeling off of a layer of the political media’s most prominent interlocutors during #MeToo — including Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin, Bill O’Reilly and Matt Lauer —television coverage of the 2020 election is still being led by men who have sketchy histories around gender and power. Even after a midterm season in which women — many of them women of color, some of them very progressive — won elections in historic numbers; even in the midst of a presidential crisis during which poor, black, brown, and immigrant communities have been made more vulnerable than ever, and have been brought closer to the center — finally — of left political engagement and activism; even given all of this, so many of the voices interpreting the events around us still belong to the guys who’ve been clumsily telling us what to think about politics for ages.

I wouldn’t want MSNBC to be the liberal equivalent of Fox News, and I don’t think such a network would find much of an audience in any case. But it would be nice if many of its prominent commentators didn’t deliver the kind of commentary you’d expect from televisions personalities getting paychecks from Rupert Murdoch. At this rate I expect MSNBC to give Mark Haperin another show.

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