The revolving door in Washington is usually thought of as the easy transition from political office to lobbyist jobs. More and more, however, the revolving door is the one that connects the political world and paid contributor gigs with television networks. The need for transparency has never been greater than it is now.
MSNBC is doing some housecleaning. Some of the network’s paid contributors are members of Joe Biden’s transition team. It seems like just yesterday that I wrote about a presidential historian who failed to disclose his relationship with Team Biden to MSNBC’s viewers. Oh, it was just yesterday. Today it looks like a purge is underway. Presidential historian Jon Meacham beclowned himself, probably out of arrogance more than anything else, when he participated in a panel discussion on the night of Biden’s victory speech. Meacham wrote the speech but failed to acknowledge that little tidbit when he opined about how wonderful the speech was. And, just like that, he was shown the door. He’ll be allowed to come back on the network and deliver his hot takes on the issues of the day but he won’t be paid for them – at least until after Biden’s inauguration.
There is no need for MSNBC to kid anyone. It’s a no-brainer that Meacham will get his old job with the network back once Status Quo Joe is sitting comfortably in the Oval Office. Why would the network give up a commenter with inside connections?
The network’s split with three more paid contributors has been announced. It turns out one of these contributors happened to be mentioned in a post I wrote yesterday and in one that Jazz wrote today. Zeke Emanuel is a member of the Biden coronavirus task force. His involvement in fleshing out the Biden campaign’s coronavirus response didn’t just begin yesterday when Emanuel’s departure from MSNBC was announced, though. He was allowed to remain a paid contributor though we know he released a paper on the virus and vaccine distribution back in September, as Jazz wrote about. Emanuel will also be an unpaid guest commenter on the network and be allowed to come back as a paid commenter after Biden’s inauguration.
Today a legal analyst, Barbara McQuade, and a political analyst, Richard Stengel have been shone the door. McQuade is a member of Biden’s legal agency review team. Stengel will be on the agency for global media. They, too, will be welcomed as unpaid guests but they must disclose their relationships with Team Biden. It’s just all so cozy, isn’t it? MSNBC and NBC claim to have rules that must be followed by contributors. Other networks do it, too. And, both sides of the political aisle do it.
NBC News and MSNBC do not allow their on-air contributors to endorse or run for office while appearing as a paid analyst on the network. According to the Washington Post, NBC News does not allow staff to work for a political campaign or political action committee while being paid by the network.
While many networks have similar rules, others often allow their personalities to engage in informal political activities on behalf of campaigns that seem to push the boundaries of traditional mainstream journalistic ethics.
And, in some cases, the lines have been blurred even further. For example, Fox News hosts like Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro have appeared on-stage at rallies with President Donald Trump, while other Fox stars have routinely made paid speaking appearances at Republican Party events and fundraisers. And on CNN, paid contributor Ana Navarro hosted a fundraiser for Biden this year, while Van Jones has acted as an informal advisor to the Trump White House on criminal-justice reform matters.
The Swamp is alive and well and on your television screen.