When right-wing conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich put an 8-year-old tweet from MSNBC contributor Sam Seder on blast last month, falsely claiming it was an endorsement of child rape, he bemoaned that the mainstream media would ignore his discovery.
But, perhaps to Cernovich’s surprise, it didn’t.
When MSNBC caught wind of the scandal Cernovich was attempting to incite, the cable news network decided to sever ties with Seder, who has regularly appeared on the network’s shows for over a decade and hosts the podcast “The Majority Report.”
That decision by MSNBC, which has been shedding much of its progressive image since Donald Trump entered the White House, is proving to be a much bigger controversy than the one provoked by Cernovich.
The Seder tweet at the center of Cernovich’s smear campaign reads: “Dont care re Polanski, but i hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/ a great sense of mise en scene.” Seder has since explained that the 2009 tweet was written in the context of a petition in support of director and convicted child rapist Roman Polanski being circulated around Hollywood.
Cernovich, who until this week was best known for his role propagating the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman ran a secret child sex trafficking ring in a pizza parlor, ran with the misspelled headline: “MSNBC Contributor Sam Seder Endorses Polanki’s Sex Crimes in Now Deleted Tweet.”
MSNBC’s response to Cernovich’s interpretation of the tweet was shocking, Seder told HuffPost on Tuesday.
“It’s quite clearly a tweet that is attacking people who were defending Roman Polanski ... based on the quality of filmmaking that he did,” Seder recalled telling the network when they confronted him last week about Cernovich’s comments.
The following afternoon, he received a voicemail from the network saying it was “ending their relationship.”
The network has not returned HuffPost’s requests for comment.
“The idea that [MSNBC] would do this, to me, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what business they’re in.”
For Seder, the decision boils down to a few questions he can only speculate on the answers to: Does MSNBC really think viewers would take Cernovich’s attack at face value? Why would the network not be willing to go up against Cernovich when he so clearly misrepresented the tweet? And why would MSNBC act on this when Cernovich’s campaign had gained so little traction?
The only high-profile figures to share Cernovich’s findings were Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka. When the news broke of his firing, even far-right sites InfoWars and Red State came to Seder’s defense. The only person he could find celebrating his firing aside from Cernovich, he said, was ex-Klan leader David Duke.
“I don’t know what it is about our politics that makes it more reasonable to listen to someone who is a public rape apologist, who has shown, at the very least, white supremacist sympathies, who’s a known smear artist,” Seder said of Cernovich.
Of course, those are also things President Donald Trump has been accused of being. And like Cernovich, the president continually attempts to stoke distrust in the media.
“My most generous interpretation is that [MSNBC] thought they could avoid controversy by doing this, which is ludicrous,” Seder said. A media outlet attempting to avoid controversy is both futile and irresponsible, he said.
“The idea that [MSNBC] would do this, to me, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what business they’re in. Because they’re a media outlet, and even if they wanted to be neutral, people still rely on them to make basic assessments. And this is about as basic as it gets.”
If other networks don’t catch on to the backlash MSNBC is now facing, Seder said, MSNBC could be setting a dangerous precedent.
Cernovich, for one, is already counting Seder’s firing as a major win.
“We are the media now,” he said proudly in a video he filmed of himself walking down the street Monday, peering into the camera behind a large pair of reflective sunglasses.
By MSNBC’s judgment, he’s right.