Television viewers watching the Republican National Convention were probably puzzled over how demonstrators protesting John McCain could have broken into such a tightly controlled event. After all, this is the world of post 9-11. Rumors soon spread that it was the work of MSNBC. Some on conservative talk radio spread the word. The only problem? It wasn’t true.
The rumor, as I have been able to determine, began with a warning given privately by Secret Service agents to RNC officials in charge of the stage. There had been protestors the night Sarah Palin gave her speech and they expected more for John McCain. When asked how the protestors got into the auditorium, a Secret Service agent allegedly told a GOP staff member that they had been given press credentials by the television network, MSNBC. I was able to talk a GOP staff member who insisted that her friend was the very one who had been told this information but she was now silent about the whole thing.
And probably for a good reason. I contacted MSNBC and they promptly assured me that the story was false. One of the protestors soon surfaced announcing she had gotten into the convention with C-SPAN credentials. So much for a left wing conspiracy.
This non story reveals the “jumpy” relationship between the growing FOX-MSNBC divide. Conservatives see MSNBC as the enemy just as liberals perceive FOX NEWS.
Several years ago, after witnessing the spectacular rise of FOX Cable News, MSNBC, the cable news network of NBC, attempted to cash in. They tried their own version of “fair and balanced” bringing in several conservative hosts and commentators. According to a source high in the network it didn’t work and so the network turned elsewhere. “There was definitely a move to the left and it was an economic decision. And it is working.”
At times the network seems to strain under the burden of its new role. Veteran and beloved NBC correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, one of the most respected reporters in the business, asked Governor Mitt Romney if the nomination of Sarah Palin would not hurt the Republicans in Massachusetts. She delivered her question with a straight face but it had to hurt. Massachusetts, as most high school viewers would know, is not a target state on any Republican electoral map.
Seeking to establish themselves as the liberal television network should have been a daunting task for MSNBC, since according to most viewer polls the whole news industry is considered liberal. And for years public surveys reserved the CBS network for that honor. But MSNBC found the right formula, mixing a little anti-Evangelical Christian smack with Kieth Olbermann’s legendary sarcasm.
After Sarah Palin’s speech Wednesday night, MSNBC’s host Olbermann compared the Republican nominee to Delores Umbridge of Harry Potter fame. If the Secret Service rumor had turned fact, Mr. Olbermann and other ideologue “news engineers” would have needed Harry’s invisibility cloak to get out of their MSNBC headquarters’ building in Secaucus, New Jersey.
But alas, the story is false. And MSNBC carries on, with its credibility intact, building its audience of nascent young liberals and masochistic, curious conservatives. It may not be news anymore but it sure is entertaining.