Can Cenk Uygur help Current TV tackle ex-employer MSNBC from the left?
As much ire as MSNBC draws from conservatives for its lean towards liberal causes in prime time, there are others who say the cable newschannel isn't liberal enough.
One of them is Cenk Uygur (pronounced JEH-nk YOO-gur), host of the popular YouTube and online politics show The Young Turks.
And he has some specialized knowledge; Uygur hosted the 6 p.m. weekday time slot on MSNBC for about six months this year until the channel tried moving him to weekends and he left. (Al Sharpton eventually took over the space with his show, PoliticsNation).
The liberal rap on MSNBC is that the channel's leftist voices are too centrist and too tied to the Democratic party, with onetime staffers for Democratic pols such as Chris Matthews and Lawrence O'Donnell taking up prominent spots in the host lineup.
Now, Uygur will try filling space to the left of those guys, joining fellow MSNBC expatriate Keith Olbermann on the Al Gore-owned Current TV at 7 tonight, hosting The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur just before Olbermann's transplanted Countdown.
"MSNBC is a pro-Democrat channel except when they're not and they air (conservative Republican Joe Scarborough's show) Morning Joe," Uygur said. "Current is an actual progressive channel. So if there is some Democratic politician who is not remotely (liberal), believe me, they're going to get called out on Current."
Current seems to be building a prime time lineup to challenge MSNBC for liberal viewers, using folks who once worked there. The next piece in its puzzle is a 9 p.m. show, The War Room, featuring former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, set to debut in January.
"MSNBC is conservative in the morning, news during the day and quasi-liberal at night," said David Bohrman, who left a top job at CNN to become president of Current. "They put Cenk in a tie and tried to have him be a clone of Keith. That's completely misunderstanding the vibe of the Young Turks."
Instead, Bohrman decreed, no ties and no TelePrompTers for the show, which will try to translate Uygur's 30 million monthly YouTube views into a freewheeling, cable TV version of the Young Turks online home. Despite Olbermann's status as chief news officer at Current, Bohrman said he and CEO Joel Hyatt made the decision to hire both Uygur and Granholm, intent on building Current's cache as a channel with news analysis going where other left-leaning competitors fear to tread.
"It is an absolute fact that almost every decision in politics goes back to money … but on all of cable news, they never talk about the influence of money," Uygur added. "And they take these politicians at face value on what they believe. They don't believe anything; all they want to do is take the money and do the bidding of the people who paid them."
Can current succeed where MSNBC didn't and translate Uygur's online cred into viewership?
Bohrman urges viewers not to judge Current's efforts until all its shows are in place. But this critic will be watching closely, anyways.
Look below for Uygur's own explanation for why he left MSNBC earlier this year.