NEW YORK (AP) — Martin Bashir’s apology for graphic comments about Sarah Palin on MSNBC hasn’t ended questions about whether the remarks deserve punishment from his bosses, giving unwanted attention to a cable network dealing with sinking ratings along with loose-lipped hosts.
Palin, in a Fox interview on Sunday, said MSNBC was guilty of “executive hypocrisy” by not publicly disciplining Bashir for his “vile, evil comments.” Four days after Bashir apologized, MSNBC said it was “handling this matter internally” and wouldn’t comment further.
“It’s a systemic problem,” said Jeff Cohen, an Ithaca College journalism professor and liberal commentator who was a producer for Phil Donahue’s prime-time MSNBC show a decade ago. “It’s a problem at MSNBC. It’s a problem in cable news. It’s a certain coarseness where everything goes. I guess they can keep sanctioning and suspending people, but there’s something wrong when name-calling is considered OK.”
Bashir’s comments about Palin came on the same day MSNBC suspended actor Alec Baldwin from his weekly show for two episodes for his part in an off-the-air episode. Baldwin used an anti-gay slur in a confrontation with a photographer on a New York City street.
Bashir used his weekday afternoon program on Nov. 15 to criticize Palin for her remarks comparing U.S. indebtedness to China to slavery. Bashir cited the diaries of a former plantation overseer who punished slaves by having someone defecate in their mouth or urinate on their face. He suggested the former Alaska governor deserved the same treatment.
The somber anchor, a former “Nightline” host, apologized on his next show on Nov. 18.