The Rev. Al Sharpton's new MSNBC gig stirs speculation [Updated]
Executives for the network said that Sharpton, a frequent guest on the cable network who had been working recently as a guest host of “MSNBC Live at 6 p.m.” and “The Ed Show,” will lead a “lively and informed discussion of the top headlines [and] bring viewers his take on events in his signature style.” The hourlong series will air weeknights at 6 p.m.
Speculation had increased in some media circles over the last several weeks that Sharpton would be rewarded with a show on MSNBC for his support of the merger between MSNBC parent company NBC and cable giant Comcast. The merger was approved by the Federal Communications Commission in January after being opposed by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and others who contended that NBC did not put enough African Americans in front of and behind the camera.
A spokesman for MSNBC said last week that “Comcast plays no role in either the independent decision making of MSNBC or the selection of its hosts.”
Sharpton and MSNBC executives aren't talking, but both sides released statements.
Said MSNBC President Phil Griffin: “I’ve known Rev. Al Sharpton for over a decade and have tremendous respect for him. He has always been one of our most thoughtful and entertaining guests. I’m thrilled that he’s now reached the point that he’s able to devote himself to hosting a nightly show.”
Sharpton said: “I am very happy and honored to join the MSNBC team as we collectively try to get America to ‘lean forward.’ It is a natural extension of my life and work. We all learn from our pain and stand up from our stumbling and one must either lean to lean forward or fall backwards. I’m glad they have given me the opportunity to continue my forward lean.”
[Updated at 2:30 p.m.: Griffin said in an interview that rumors calling Sharpton's new show a reward are "baseless." He said Sharpton's success as a guest host on "The Ed Show" and the network's 6 p.m. news established him as being worthy of having his own show.
"His success led me to give him the hour," Griffin said. "Period."]
-- Greg Braxton
Photo: The Rev. Al Sharpton. Credit: Frank Winters / Getty Images