Days of our lives at MSNBC: Is Al Sharpton in and Cenk Uygur back?
Al Sharpton's not quite in; Cenk Uygur may not be forever out; and Mitt Romney is a "mood ring."
Those are a few of the takeaways from an appearance Tuesday by MSNBC President Phil Griffin and hosts Rachel Maddow ("The Rachel Maddow Show"), Chris Matthews ("Hardball") and Lawrence O'Donnell ("The Last Word") before assembled journalists at the summer edition of the biannual Television Critics Association press tour. They were at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Since the recent departure of Uygur, host of the Web and talk-radio political show "The Young Turks," from the 6 p.m. Eastern time slot on MSNBC, rumors circulated of the "imminent" hiring of radio host and combative civil-rights activist Al Sharpton as his replacement.
Asked about this, Griffin said, "No decision has been made yet. Last May, he was a regular on 'The Ed Show,' and he filled in for Ed [Schultz], and he did a very good job. And he....
If Sharpton does get the gig, he'll have a supporter in Matthews. He said, "I mean, he's not all the way there yet, but if he gets the job, I think he'd do well."
Speaking of Uygur, he left MSNBC claiming Griffin told him "people in Washington" objected to his forceful on-air style, sometimes critical of the channel’s favorite president.
Uygur interpreted the "people" as being some sort of political operatives, though Griffin says he was referring to producers who book talent.
Despite being offered a contract that included weekend appearances -- but not a weekday slot -- Uygur walked away.
The outspoken progressive then gave several interviews criticizing MSNBC and even appeared on "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" on Current TV, the new incarnation of the show Olbermann formerly anchored on MSNBC before his firing in January.
While Uygur has indicated he will never return to MSNBC, Griffin appeared to leave that door ajar.
"We wanted Cenk to stay at MSNBC," Griffin said. "I think Cenk fits our sensibility. I thought he did a great job. ... (Six o'clock) is a very complicated hour, given that on the East Coast, you've got local news and national news.
"So we were working on a new contract that was going to have him on, on the weekends. He was going to contribute during the week and be part of our stable. I was disappointed that he didn't stay. Hopefully, one day, we'll work it out that Cenk comes back."
A reporter asked the hosts to predict who would be the next president, and only one gave a definitive answer.
O'Donnell: "Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States."
Maddow: "Oh, I make horrible predictions, so whatever I say, you can probably bank against it. My guess would be that President Obama would be reelected. That would be my guess. But that is less to do -- it has mostly to do with the strength of the Republican field right now."
Matthews: "I don't know."
Matthews then went into a lengthy discourse on the effect of the down economy, how the respective parties make their cases to the electorate, how he's not pleased with the way capitalism is working now, and how there should be a big public-sector hiring push to rebuild crumbling infrastructure (particularly in Republican districts, evidently to score political points).
Then he concluded with this examination of President Obama's political fortunes: "To answer your question, I think it's opened up. I think it's open to the American people who they want for president next time. Right now, the opponents -- this president is one of the luckiest human beings I've ever come across.
"He ran against two guys with marital difficulties. Then he ran against Alan Keyes for the Senate seat. He ran against Bobby Rush, probably the toughest opponent he ever had, and he lost. He ran against McCain when he was in his -- not his best years. He was sort of over the hill.
"So, he's always been lucky. He may end up running against Romney, who I do think is a mood ring, or run against this guy, Rick Perry, who I don't know what he is exactly -- but I don't think he's authentic -- or against [Michele] Bachmann and just have a hoot.
"But he's a lucky, lucky, lucky pol. And that's important."
Incidentally, Matthews called former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush a "real political talent," words Maddow then also applied to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. So, if the GOP wishes to pick a candidate to impress the folks at MSNBC, apparently either of those guys would do.
-- Kate O'Hare
Media critic Kate O’Hare is a regular Ticket contributor. She also blogs about TV at Hot Cuppa TV and is a frequent contributor at entertainment-news site Zap2it. Also follow O'Hare on Twitter @KateOH
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Photos: Phil Griffin, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell, Chris Matthews, MSNBC; Cenk Uygur.
Credits: Chris Haston | NBC; TheYoungTurks.com