Phil Griffin Talks MSNBC Convention Coverage, Says CNN Is 'Desperate'

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 02:  President of MSNBC Phil Griffin (L) and Rachel Maddow host of 'The Rachel Maddow Show' speak
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 02: President of MSNBC Phil Griffin (L) and Rachel Maddow host of 'The Rachel Maddow Show' speak during the 'MSNBC' panel during the NBC Universal portion of the 2011 Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 2, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

The 2012 presidential election has already become a heated battle. It's no surprise, then, that the fight between rival cable news networks to capture viewer eyeballs is getting just as intense. At the end of August, all three channels will have one of their biggest opportunities yet to grab wayward audiences when they descend on the Republican and Democratic conventions which will formally nominate Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. And, just like the candidates for the White House, the networks are throwing sharp jabs at each other.

For instance, MSNBC Phil Griffin wasn't about to let a recent CNN release promising that his rival would be the only "unbiased" network covering the conventions slip by him. “When you’re desperate, you start calling different things out," he told The Huffington Post on Thursday.

Griffin also had words for Sam Feist, CNN's Washington bureau chief, who described his network as "the only cable news channel that hasn't a picked side in this election."

“Not every voter wants to be told how to vote," Feist recently told The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone. "CNN will give viewers and voters an opportunity to hear both sides."

Griffin dismissed those comments, saying that he would let Feist's "words speak for themselves." He touted MSNBC’s plans for convention coverage, eagerly anticipating the official start of the election season.

The network will air twenty hours of live coverage a day during the RNC in Tampa and the DNC in Charlotte. Primetime broadcasts will be hosted by Rachel Maddow with Chris Matthews, who will be joined by Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, Rev. Al Sharpton, Chris Hayes and campaign strategist Steve Schmidt.

Griffin said his network's personalities would be a major draw. "That’s what we’ve made our name on in the past year and that’s what we’re gonna continue to do," he said. "The opportunity for us is that people will get to see us and how we do politics."

He also spoke about the changes to the network since the last conventions, in 2008.

“We were a distant third,” he recalled. “We were just beginning to find our voice. Rachel [Maddow] didn’t even have a show then. Our line-up was different. We really made a name for ourselves during the conventions and in the run-up to the election.”

MSNBC has surpassed CNN in the interim, and Griffin listed the names of the shows and hosts that the network has added over the past four years. He said that he expects the election will bring in even more viewers, citing a boost in the ratings since Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate.

“I love the position we’re in,” he said, describing the network as being “neck and neck” with Fox News at 9 and 10 p.m. (While certain MSNBC programs have come close at to matching Fox News in the A25-54 demo, the network still trails its rival by some distance in terms of total viewers.)

Griffin pointed out that politics is MSNBC’s bread and butter. “I bet you that we play more speeches than anyone else,” he said. “We’re not doing Whitney Houston for a week. We don’t follow every silly story out there. We do politics and we do it well. People trust us.”

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