Noah Oppenheim has a problem on his hands. The president of NBC News was forced to hold an emergency meeting with Washington DC-based staffers who are up in arms over the reported hiring of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki by MSNBC. The main complaint is that her hiring will tarnish the brand. I know. I laughed, too.
The deal between Psaki and MSNBC is not official yet. It’s described as a handshake agreement so far. Psaki is leaving the White House, though, and it may be as soon as a departure date in May. Jen Psaki is a progressive partisan’s dream press secretary. She is the darling of liberal media, the recipient of glowing puff pieces and even noted for “Psaki bombs” during her press briefings with White House correspondents. As the Biden administration continues down an historically unsuccessful path, though, there has been a notable absence of those Psaki bombs of late. Sometimes Psaki is even held accountable by a few reporters besides Peter Doocy of FNC. Her trademark smirk and a bit of her arrogance has faded. Even her daily digs at Fox News have eased up.
Psaki is putting in her time with the Biden administration and like others before her is now looking to cash in on her elevated political profile. Where else would she go but to MSNBC?
Oppenheim is busy reassuring NBC’s Washington bureau that Psaki going to MSNBC was not his decision to make. He pointed out that NBC News is a separate outlet and it covers the news (wink, wink) while MSNBC offers a lot of opinion-based programming. Psaki will be on the opinion side.
Oppenheim, attempting to quell the anger, reaffirmed the distinction on the call between NBC News and MSNBC’s opinion programming, some of the people familiar with the matter said.
Oppenheim, who does not oversee MSNBC, told the journalists that NBC News did not have a role in hiring Psaki. And he noted to those on the phone that they work for the NBC News brand and that the hires made for MSNBC’s opinion arm should be viewed as unrelated to their work, the people said.
“Here’s what he was saying: They have perspective programming. This was done on the perspective programming side. Not anything that reflects on NBC News,” one of the people, who was on the call, explained.
“People wanted answers on what NBC’s role was in this and NBC News had no role in this,” the person added. “This is MSNBC’s perspective programming.”
Psaki isn’t just going to be hired as a political analyst, as has happened for past White House staff, but she is being given her own show that will stream on its Peacock platform. MSNBC hired Symone Sanders, the former senior spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris, to host her own weekend show. This is the trend being put in place by Rashida Jones who took over as president of the network a little more than a year ago. She increased the Morning Joe show by an hour and filled Brian Williams old slot with Stephanie Ruhle. Jones is increasing the delivery of opinions rather than hard news coverage at MSNBC.
Though the journalists at NBC News want to be taken seriously in their news coverage, a problem arises in the fact that some of NBC’s staff also have shows on MSNBC. Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, Hallie Jackson, for example, work for NBC but host shows on MSNBC.
Psaki was questioned about her next gig by Kristen Welker, chief White House correspondent for NBC News, about crossing ethical lines by continuing as press secretary while reports surface about being hired by MSNBC. How can she ethically interact with NBC reporters, for example, if she will soon be one of the family? She wouldn’t comment but CNN was told that Psaki has recused herself from interviews on NBC News and MSNBC.
It isn’t unusual that a cable network would jump at the chance to hire a White House insider. This has been a common practice for decades, perhaps most notable during the Clinton administration, at least in my lifetime. Look no further than George Stephanopoulos to see the blurring lines between political operatives and the media. Donna Brazile is also regularly a member of the roundtable discussion on Stephanopoulos’ Sunday show. She is said to be in Kamala’s inner circle of advisors. Remember Chris Matthews and his long tenure at MSNBC? His political activity goes back to the Jimmy Carter days. Republicans do it, too. Currently, former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany works for FNC. Former Trump and Bush insiders regularly contribute to programs. Even Lara Trump was hired as a contributor for FNC.
Journalists, especially in Washington, are thin-skinned these days and have huge egos, as a general rule. They often insert themselves into a news story instead of doing straight reporting. Remember Jim Acosta’s preening during the Trump administration? He has his own show now on CNN. Americans no longer have much trust for the media in general. We’ve seen too much, especially after the past administration’s term in office.
The media often colludes with Democrats and that was certainly apparent during the Trump administration. Russia, Russia, Russia. I look forward to all the serious coverage of the dealings of Biden, Inc. and the general mental and physical health of Joe Biden during this administration. Just kidding.
It is reported by CNN that Oppenheim told the journalists on the call he held to ignore the noise surrounding Psaki’s hire. He told them to continue doing their jobs as normal. It’s all just business as usual, you know. How odd that now suddenly some NBC people are concerned about the ethical appearances. That ship sailed a long time ago.