After giving a nearly six-month tryout for the Internet talk show host Cenk Uygur, the cable news channel MSNBC is preparing to instead award its 6 p.m. primetime slot to the Reverend Al Sharpton. MSNBC President Phil Griffin offered Uygur a well-paid, but lower-profile on-air slot, but Uygur rejected the offer, saying the decision to demote him was politically motivated.
Democracy Now! invited Uygur on its program to tell his side of the story. Uygur is known for aggressively interrogating leading Washington figures and challenging the political establishment, which he alleges made some MSNBC executives uneasy. He said Griffin had called him into his office in April and told him he had been talking to people in Washington, and that they did not like Uygur's tone.
"It is corporate media... It is not just MSNBC. Do you think the CNN hosts can aggressively challenge government officials? I don't think so," says Uygur says, who also blogs at several liberal websites and hosts a popular Internet and radio show called "The Young Turks."
MSNBC spokesperson Jeremy Gaines provided Democracy Now! with the following statement: "Cenk's claims are completely baseless. In fact, we were working on a new contract, to develop him into an even bigger television talent. We did have numerous conversations with Cenk about his style, not substance. It's unfortunate that he's decided to depart in such a negative fashion."
This is not the first time a journalist has accused MSNBC of applying subtle, yet clear pressure to shape its political programming. Jessica Yellin covered the White House for MSNBC and ABC News in 2002 and 2003 at the onset of the Iraq War. In 2008, she told Anderson Cooper that news executives meddled with how she covered the war.
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