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Would MSNBC actually fire Joy Reid, the racist and homophobic host of the 7 pm hour?
According to Jon Nicosia, a former editor at Mediaite, that’s the plan. Nicosia reported on January 6 — oh, the irony — that a Comcast source told him that MSNBC has decided it will take Reid’s primetime show away from her by mid-spring:
As was the case with Chris Cuomo at CNN, Reid has allies at Comcast, however, she is now viewed as "unmanageable" by many. Also, similar to Cuomo, it appears those allies have found out she has been "less than truthful about past incidents" 2/ (more to come).
— Jon Nicosia (@NewsPolitics) January 6, 2022
The news then trended online Thursday, trailing only words like terrorists, insurrectionist, white, and Ted Cruz. MSNBC later called the report “bogus.”
So what’s going on here?
First, MSNBC publicly denying that it plans to demote or fire a sitting host means little. A network would not confirm a move months out, especially since, if it had said nothing, the media industry would interpret a “no comment” as confirmation anyway.
So, MSNBC’s denial doesn’t mean anything. Networks lie. They hire PR reps for that sole purpose. However, that doesn’t mean MSNBC will go through with firing Reid. I am skeptical it will.
There’s little question that some MSNBC producers and executives are fed up with Reid. She’s toxic and treats those around her poorly. She also regularly embarrasses the network. Even MSNBC has some shame.
Reid has exposed herself as grossly uninformed about topics she discusses. For example, she tried to connect Gov. Ron DeSantis to a horrific child sex trafficking network last April, even though she didn’t have any evidence to support her claim. Then, there was this piece of brilliance:
Here's the thing: the reason there's a thing called @FiveThirtyEight is because 538 was the margin in FL when the Republican SCOTUS reversed the 2000 election during a recount, making Dubya the president. That's the kind of margin where races can flip. That's not what's up now.
— Joy-Ann (Pro-Democracy) Reid 😷 (@JoyAnnReid) November 10, 2020
If certain people behind the scenes had their choice, they likely would fire Reid. But the situation is more complicated than that.
Decision-making in television is rather simple. A network weighs talents’ upside and downside, then often settles for the safer route. That’s why so many original thinkers now host independent podcasts.
Reid’s show, called ReidIn or something, loses badly to Fox News and CNN head-to-head in the 25-54 demographic. She’s not a ratings hit, and she has a lot of baggage, an often calamitous combination for would-be network hosts.
Yet MSNBC does not have a replacement who would guarantee a viewership upgrade. Daily viewership averages suggest that MSNBC’s list of potential replacements wouldn’t increase or decrease Reid’s average, but hold flat. MSNBC has failed to recruit a bench that liberals over 65, the network’s core audience, would watch.
On one hand, MSNBC could, say, put Mehdi Hasan at 7 pm instead. He would draw similar ratings on a cheaper contract with less baggage. Most networks would probably choose that option.
Probably not MSNBC though. Why? Because Reid holds the decision-makers there hostage. Metaphorically speaking, we think.
If MSNBC fired Joy Reid, she would undoubtedly call the network racist — and she would keep doing so until someone powerful enough listened. Then other Big Media outlets — the New York Times, Slate, Media Matters, CNN, The Atlantic, Meadowlark Media, Jemele Hill’s Twitter account — would further repeat that narrative.
MSNBC might even find itself with a lawsuit on its hands. Something about a toxic work environment and racist hiring practices. Sounds familiar, right? This strategy is as tiresome as it is predictable.
It’s also effective. Or at least it has been.
MSNBC is not a network willing to endure the publicity storm that would result from accusations of racism. MSNBC knows that firing a black woman would be the story, no matter how justified the cause or how racially-diverse the person it hired as a replacement.
The network is essentially in a no-win situation. If MSNBC replaced Reid with a black woman, Reid and her ilk would claim MSNBC sees all black women the same, that it can just replace one black woman with another. However, if the network replaced Reid with anyone other than a black woman, The View and other shows like it would run specials about MSNBC’s systemic racism and sexism. No matter what, the vultures are coming.
A network cannot fire a black woman without taking a hit or two of its own. (Unless that woman is Sage Steele or Candace Owens, of course.) The boomerang always comes back. That’s the current power dynamic of the industry, and it extends beyond MSNBC to its parent company, Comcast.
So in the end, none of the usual factors will have any bearing on Joy Reid’s fate at MSNBC. Joy Reid has made herself nearly bulletproof by being who she accuses her opponents of being: a racist, privileged, politicking elite who would never succeed based on her own merits. And the cowardly executives at MSNBC just shut up and take it.