Sen. Bernie Sanders is arguably the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination following his New Hampshire victory, so it may be surprising that the liberal MSNBC is getting criticized for its “antagonistic” coverage of the democratic socialist from Vermont. Some critics feel progressive MSNBC hosts and pundits prefer a moderate Democrat, and provide a laundry list of examples from the primary race to date.
MSNBC host Chris Matthews recently bashed former Mayor Pete Buttigieg for "not wanting to offend" Sanders supporters, and MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd was accused of using "journalistic sleights of hand" to insult Sanders supporters, the same group he called part of a "digital brown shirt brigade" during a separate segment.
Last week, Matthews declared "Bernie Sanders is not going to be president of the United States" and MSNBC host Joy Reid has said it would be “true” if President Trump used attack ads against Sanders that focus on him praising Fidel Castro, warning that he wouldn’t have a chance in Florida during the general election as a result.
“There are just some people who, for whatever reason, whether they're right or wrong, are just not going to vote for a socialist. Period," Reid told viewers on Sunday.
MSNBC anchor Joshua Johnson even appeared to urge colleagues not to help influence Democratic voters this time around after noting the media and DNC pushed Hillary Clinton over Sanders in 2016. But a voter on Tuesday told MSNBC anchor Ari Melber that she specifically voted for Sanders because of the unfair treatment he has received on the network -- and New Hampshire Democrats aren’t the only people to notice a pattern.
Journalist Jordan Chariton covered media for a variety of outlets before launching progressive media company Status Coup. He feels “MSNBC's political campaign coverage has been a merry-go-round of coastal, pro-corporate delusion,” which has resulted in the liberal network appearing to favor other candidates.
“This, of course, isn't a surprise considering executives from its parent company Comcast, which poured in hundreds of millions of dollars to kill net neutrality, hosted Joe Biden's first fundraiser,” Chariton told Fox News.
“From the network bringing on guests to falsely attack Bernie Sanders as ‘anti-woman,’ to millionaire anchor Chris Matthews offering cutting edge analysis of a Bernie Sanders presidency potentially leading to ‘assassinations in Central Park,’ MSNBC's evolution from a network once elevating progressive voices like Ed Schultz and Phil Donahue to a right-wing Super Pac for the corporate-wing of the Democratic Party has never been clearer," Chariton added.
"MSNBC's evolution from a network once elevating progressive voices like Ed Schultz and Phil Donahue to a right-wing Super Pac for the corporate-wing of the Democratic Party has never been clearer."
Back in November, nonprofit magazine In These Times published a story headlined, “MSNBC Is the Most Influential Network Among Liberals—And It’s Ignoring Bernie Sanders.” The magazine analyzed MSNBC’s primetime coverage of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls during a two-month period and found that “Sanders received not only the least total coverage” but also “the most negative.”
Fourth Watch editor Steve Krakauer has been tracking MSNBC’s treatment of Sanders and recently pointed out a series of examples in his media newsletter, including Chris Matthews’ “bizarre, hysterical rant” about executions in Central Park.
"I believe if Castro and the Reds had won the Cold War, there would have been executions in Central Park and I might’ve been one of the ones executed and certain other people would be there cheering," Matthews said on Friday.
Matthews then wondered “what kind of ‘socialism’ Bernie Sanders actually supports, while his fellow panelists awkwardly laughed,” according to Krakauer.
Krakauer also pointed to coverage from far-left Reid, who has been advocating for former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
“Reid went on a tangent implying Bernie Sanders and his supporters' push against super delegates after 2016 was somehow racist,” Krakauer wrote. “The theory … is quite a stretch.”
Krakauer said MSNBC clearly has an “antagonistic relationship” with Sanders but thinks the liberal network will quickly pivot during the general election if needed.
“If Sanders eventually pulls out the nomination, MSNBC (and CNN) will have no choice but to rally to his side in the wake of the alternative,” Krakauer wrote.
But MSNBC’s presumed pivot doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.
The New Republic published a story on Wednesday headlined, “Bernie Sanders Has an MSNBC Problem,” which said the liberal network “has become a serious obstacle, pumping out Republican anti-Sanders talking points with increasing frequency.”
New Republic’s Alex Shepard noted that “Morning Joe” enlisted former Clinton adviser James Carville “to rant about how a Sanders nomination would bring about the apocalypse,” while host Lawrence O’Donnell has downplayed Sanders’ chance of winning the nomination.
“MSNBC is also a prominent stage for the Democratic elites that Sanders has bashed for his entire political career. His primary strategy is built around ignoring more traditional paths to the nomination, snubbing party mandarins who appear on ‘Morning Joe’ in favor of turning out new voters,” Shepard wrote.
Viewers on both sides of the political aisle have taken to Twitter with observations on MSNBC’s treatment of Sanders:
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.