This is the tale of two journalists.
One has won multiple Emmy awards going back to the turn of the century, including an investigative series at the end of the Bush 43 years titled, “Bush Administration’s Bait and Switch on TARP and the Bank Bailout.” Another report revealed fraud around multi-billion dollar Halliburton contracts in Iraq, which earned her ample praise from the left. Sharyl Attkisson also was one of the first journalists to fly combat missions over Kosovo.
The other journalist is the former editor of The Nation magazine. He hasn’t won any Emmy awards and invariably finishes a distant third in his 8:00 p.m. MSNBC time slot in a three horse race. Chris Hayes hasn’t flown in any combat missions as a journalist, but was hit by a modest rock covering the Ferguson riots this past August.
During the Obama administration, Attkisson — who reported for CBS News for over two decades — captured a prestigious Edward R. Murrow award for “Gunwalker: Fast and Furious,” and was nominated for an Emmy for “Green Energy Going Red” (which focused on the failure of government-financed Solyndra) and an Investigative Emmy nomination for “Benghazi: Dying for Security.”
By contrast, Hayes once won something called the May Sydney Award for his 2012 piece that declared fossil fuel companies must surrender $10 trillion in unburned gas and oil reserves to avert global disaster. And that’s about it on the trophy shelf.
So when juxtaposing the two careers in terms of experience and accomplishment, and after watching Hayes’ interview with Attkisson — which included the host asking his guest if she was angling for a job at Fox News — the only thought that comes mind is the following:
He has some balls asking that question. And no, that’s not meant as a compliment. Hayes questioning someone as decorated and objective as Attkisson if she fabricated an allegation against the government (for hacking her computer) was somehow motivated because she needed to enhance already one of the most — if not the most — extensive resumes in investigative journalism would be like Arsenio Hall asking Johnny Carson if he knew how to effectively interview a guest.
Cojones, indeed. Especially coming from the guy known in the industry for singlehanded sinking his network’s primetime lineup from his barely-watched 8:00 PM position. No sympathy for the host following his show, however, as more than a few MSNBC insiders concede the biggest push to put Hayes in the most important time slot on the network came from Rachel Maddow, the real decision-maker for “The Place for Politics” at 30 Rock.
Know this: Attkisson could pretty much work anywhere she wants, and doesn’t need to fabricate any stories in order to enhance her LinkedIn profile. And when her new book hits shelves this Tuesday, it will be on the best-seller list. Guaranteed. Why? She has the credibility that comes from dogged reporting regardless of which party controls the White House. All the aforementioned awards during the Bush and Obama administration prove that.
We’ve often explored why MSNBC struggles so mightily, particularly lately — a disturbing development considering an election was just held. Is the presentation outside of its morning show an echo chamber, which doesn’t make for compelling television? Yes. Is the decision to go almost all opinion — even during dayside — making it impossible to discern one program from another? Yes.
But here’s one more point to consider: How high is the quality of the guests? Are those guests diverse from a political perspective?
The answers are “not high at all” and “no”. Rarely does a big-name Republican outside of a periodic Rand Paul interview ever appear on the network. There’s only so many times David Corn (Mother Jones), Joan Walsh or Ezra Klein can be booked. For any GOP member, there’s simply no upside when the audience is small and the hosts are agenda-driven with blinders on.
Hayes landed a rare big interview on his program Friday night. It could have been fair, tough, and the kind of deep-dive he once excelled at when hosting Up on weekend mornings.
Instead, the host simply became the caricature his network has become when calling into question the career motives of a guest with a resume he can only dream of having.
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