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MSNBC brushes aside critics, confirming Rev. Al Sharpton as host of its 6 p.m. hour



al-sharpton-large300.jpgHard to know why MSNBC waited so long, but it confirmed today the hiring of activist Rev. Al Sharpton as host of its 6 p.m. hour, leading a new show called PoliticsNation, officially debuting on Monday.

The news comes about a month after the hour's previous host, Cenk Uygur, went public with his dissatisfaction in being asked to move to weekends in favor of Sharpton. Uygur has said he suspects he was moved for criticizing President Obama too much on the liberal-leaning cable channel, but some there say he wasn't very successful in luring the audience from his online show The Young Turks and struggled to appeal to their older viewership.

al_on_america.jpgSharpton also makes a little bit of history, becoming the first anchor of color hired full-time to host an evening show on a major cable newschannel in recent history. The liberal channel's lack of anchor diversity in evenings has always been a little jarring, especially since Pat Buchanan -- a commentator with a history of spreading prejudiced, borderline racist messages -- has had a prominent role as an analyst for years.   

I wonder how MSNBC president Phil Griffin worked out agreement with Shaprton allowing him to keep up his activism off camera but stick to NBC News standards. Scarborough and former anchor Keith Olbermann were both suspended for making unauthorized donations to political candidates; how will they handle a political leader who still runs an advocacy organization speaking out on issues h may have to cover as an MSNBC anchor?

Tulane University professor Melissa Harris-Perry, who is black, has also substitute anchored on the channel, a usual route to earning an anchor gig. And another academic, Michael Eric Dyson, is also reportedly under consideration.

Unfortunately, none of these people are actual TV journalists, leading to an odd, growing disconnect between the channel's daytime news coverage and nighttime opinion shows.    

MSNBC's press release on the hire is below:

REVEREND AL SHARPTON TO HOST “PoliticsNation” ON MSNBC, airing at 6 pm ET Weeknights Beginning August 29th
NEW YORK – August 23, 2011 – Reverend Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist and minister, has been named host of “PoliticsNation,” a nightly program airing weeknights live at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC. The announcement was made by Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC. “PoliticsNation” will debut on August 29. In his new role, Sharpton will lead a lively and informed discussion of the top headlines, bringing viewers his take on events in his signature style.

“I’ve known Rev. Sharpton for over a decade and have tremendous respect for him. He has always been one of our most thoughtful and entertaining guests,” said Griffin. “I’m thrilled that he’s now reached a point in his career where he’s able to devote himself to hosting a nightly show. ‘PoliticsNation’ is going to be an incredibly strong kick-off to our evening schedule.”

amd_sharpton.jpgIn addition to being a frequent guest on MSNBC throughout the network’s history, Rev. Sharpton has also served as an occasional guest host on several programs, most recently on “MSNBC Live at 6PM” and “The Ed Show.” He joins the network at a time where MSNBC has experienced tremendous ratings growth, consistently topping CNN in primetime programming.

"I am very happy and honored to join the MSNBC team as we collectively try to get America to ’Lean Forward,’" said Sharpton. "It is a natural extension of my life work and growth. We all learn from our pain and stand up from our stumbling and one must either learn to lean forward or fall backwards. I'm glad they have given me the opportunity to continue my forward lean."

With over 40 years of experience as a community leader, politician, minister and advocate, the Rev. Al Sharpton is one of America’s most-renowned civil rights leaders. Sharpton’s highly visible career began at the tender age of four when he preached his first sermon. A successful civil rights career soon followed, helping Sharpton hold such notable positions as the Youth Director of New York’s Operation Breadbasket, Director of Ministers for National Rainbow Push coalition, and founder of his own broad-based progressive civil rights organization, the National Action Network (NAN), one of the leading civil rights organizations in the world. Since its inception in 1991, NAN has expanded to encompass chapters throughout the United States and maintain important regional offices in Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, GA; Detroit, MI; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Las Vegas, NV; and Los Angeles, CA. Sharpton was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 2004. Rev. Sharpton also hosts a nationally syndicated radio show that broadcasts in 40 markets, five days a week. He resides in New York and has two daughters, Dominique and Ashley.

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 7:16pm]


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