This is a rare moment where I’m disappointed that MSNBC doesn’t have better ratings. If it did, publishers would be scrambling to tell the incredible! true! story! of how the most successful cable news network in America hit ratings paydirt by hiring some of the most insufferable jackholes in media. Olbermann, Baldwin, Bashir — the critics said it was madness to bring together egos as combustible as that, but somehow MSNBC harnessed the energy for a ratings moon shot. It’d be the cable-news equivalent of “The Bronx Zoo,” the inside story of how a championship team gelled through conflict, swagger, and general jerkiness.
“The decision has been made. He’s gone,” an insider at the cable channel told me. “The [parent company] Comcast guys have decided. Word is spreading through the building.”
Baldwin’s dismissal was decided on partly because of his diva-like behavior toward co-workers, a source said.
Besides demanding a humidifier because he claimed the air at 30 Rock was too dry, Baldwin alienated staffers when he demanded a separate makeup room being used by a woman with cancer who is sensitive to hairspray.
When Baldwin was told he couldn’t have his way, he allegedly bellowed at the top of his lungs, “I don’t give a f - - k if she has cancer or not, I want that f - - king makeup room.”
So that explains why Baldwin’s confrontation with the photographer earned him a pink slip even though half the MSNBC line-up routinely says nastier things about Republicans, albeit in more delicate terms. It’s not about the photographer; they wanted him out because, as the entire world already knew, the guy seemingly can’t control his anger and wasn’t delivering big enough numbers to make the production team willing to grudgingly tolerate him. That’s the difference between him and Olby.
Does this mean Bashir’s job is safe, then, so long as he’s more courteous to MSNBC staff than Baldwin was? Or does it mean he’s out too on the logic that what he said about Palin was more grotesque than Baldwin’s mindless slur of the photographer? It’d be funny if Bashir ended up as the guy who got canned from MSNBC for hating Republicans a little too much, just because I’ve always had a sense that his shrill, nasty leftism is partly an affectation driven by him wanting to ingratiate himself with the MSNBC audience. He’s a true-blue liberal, no doubt, but some of his attempts to demonize the right are so cartoonishly desperate that I can’t quite believe they’re completely on the level. He’s trying to give his viewers the strongest dose of right-bashing that he can in hopes that it’ll make him a star; what he said about Palin was a byproduct of that. If Roger Ailes bought the network tomorrow and declared that MSNBC’s ideological line is now pro-conservative, I think all of the hosts would quit except maybe Bashir. He’d think about it. A little.