NBC News executive Andy Lack and his deputy, Noah Oppenheim, have been working to move MSNBC away from a heavily liberal lineup—replacing Al Sharpton with Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, and then, when that didn’t pan out, hiring former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren. But as HuffPost’s Ryan Grim reported on Monday, Lack’s strategy isn’t making much business sense so far:
The Halperin-Heilemann program, which has since been canceled, was a hard-to-watch ratings disaster. Lack moved Van Susteren, formerly of Fox News, into the slot. That show has also been a ratings wreck. Across the board, shows that Lack has put his stamp on and moved to the center or to the right have not performed as well as the ones he has left alone, despite MSNBC’s ability to get the media-industry press to write flattering stories about the network’s “dayside turnaround.”
Meanwhile, HuffPost reported, “Since the election of Trump, MSNBC’s liberal primetime programs hosted by Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell have surged not just in ratings but in the share of the cable news audience they’re capturing.” And yet, MSNBC’s shift to the right is set to continue. Republican commentator Nicolle Wallace, a former aide to President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, is getting her own show. Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt reportedly is in talks for one, too. Neither new host would do anything to address another unfortunate consequence of Lack’s strategy: a serious loss of racial diversity on air. As Grim noted, “the changes ... have coincidentally made MSNBC look much whiter.” One could argue that it’s not very coincidental at all.