Lost in most of the coverage of the Mark Halperin suspension from MSNBC on Thursday: “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough’s anger at his show’s new producer.
Scarborough’s remarks only made it into some of the stories, most of which focused solely on Halperin – editor-at-large for Time magazine and apparently a regular contributor to MSNBC talk shows. He was the focal point because he called President Obama an off-color name on “Morning Joe” Thursday morning. And while Halperin didn’t mean for it to go out over the air, it did anyway because whoever was responsible for hitting the seven-second delay button was asleep at the switch – metaphorically speaking.
And that’s what angered Scarborough – even more than one of his guests taking such a risk with profane language while cameras and mikes were live. As long-time observers of television, we have to admit we were more interested in how this remark got on TV than the fact that it was made in the first place. And we’re always fascinated when a TV personality – such as, in this case, Scarborough – bears his anger on TV.
“Delay that. Delay that,” Scarborough said, presumably to producers in the control room, as soon as the remark was made. “Did we delay that?” asked Scarborough, who likely then got a “No” answer in his ear piece.
“We’re going to have a meeting after the show,” Scarborough said, sounding like he wanted to rip someone’s head off – probably the one belonging to executive producer Alex Korson, who recently replaced Chris Licht after Licht took a job at CBS. “You are supposed to know how to do the job,” Scarborough said, presumably addressing Korson. “I would tell you what I think of you,” Scarborough continued, “but you don’t know what button to push!” [You can watch the video here on The Daily Beast.]
As everybody knows by now, Halperin was “suspended” by MSNBC, which means he won’t turn up on any MSNBC talk shows any time soon, if ever. Then, later in the day, it was reported that Time magazine reprimanded him, but didn’t fire him.
The White House reacted too. “What he said was obviously stupid and tasteless, and he exercised poor judgment,” said David Axelrod, the president’s political adviser, according to this story on Politico.com.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said he called MSNBC personally to complain. The president himself had no public comment on the remark.
And of course Halperin apologized on “Morning Joe” and he continued apologizing all day long.
Our take on it is this: It was refreshing. Why? Because, for once, a pundit’s real feelings made it on the air. Sure, it was a crude comment, but it was unfiltered. And Halperin can dissemble all he wants about how much he regrets saying that word to describe how he thought the president behaved in his televised news conference a day earlier. But the truth is out: Halperin thought the president of the United States was a “d**k.” Crude? Yes. A crime? No – at least not in this country.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that Halperin is the author of “Game Change,” the best-selling book about the 2008 presidential campaign that Obama won. “Game Change” will soon be a TV movie on HBO with, among other people, Julianne Moore playing Sarah Palin and Ed Harris as John McCain.