I was around and active politically in 2001 and know many people who interacted with Scarbrough as this one-time rising political star, the bright faced baby of the 1994 Republican Revolution left Congress with a whimper before his 40th birthday. For those who weren’t around then, Google can tell a story or two. Since 2001, Scarbrough’s public career fueled by NBC Universal and various print publications has been one example of narcissism after another. The politician who quit public office before the age of 40 who whatever reason, has to create ways to be in the spotlight, and Scarborough has given us a master class on how to do this over the last 15 years.
After joining NBC Universal’s MSNBC cable news channel, Scarborough alternated between defensive commentary about George W. Bush to being an outright critic from 2004 to 2008 often depending on whose presence he was in. When Don Imus made his infamous and offensive “nappy headed ho” comments, Scarbrough then laboring in Prime Time with a conservative show on an increasingly liberal network, MSNBC got the break of his media career. Scarborough ended up hosting a show called “Morning Joe” probably because it sounded marketable and the 2008 Presidential Primaries where he featured politico after politico made him a Washington and national sensation.
But Scarborough has never stood for anything – he was a hard-line conservative in Congress positioning himself to the right of Newt Gingrich and the GOP leadership largely because he wanted attention and represented the arch-conservative CD-1. The attention Scarborough sought, he received from the likes of Roll Call and The Hill as well as the Washington-based writers of the daily newspapers.
Once out of Congress his game became doing what he needed to do in order to garner attention and be a relevant talking head. For well over a decade now NBC Universal has enabled Scarborough by overstating his credentials, and allowing him to run wild either in pushing narratives on air that benefit conservatives or his own political ambitions or by cashing in on his access to some Republicans and conservatives to buffer the network against claims of being liberal. Scarborough hasn’t played presenter or network host as much as opinion leader looking for attention by shifting positions and opinions on people time and again.
Scarborough’s latest controversy is just the latest in a long-line of questionable ethical behavior for someone who is a talking head but claims to be an objective journalist. But NBC News has long held a double-standard when it comes to the conservative star they ride – A great example was in 2010 when Keith Olbermann was suspended for contributing to Democrats but only after an outcry was Scarborough suspended for less time for almost three times as many contributions to Republicans. Scarborough’s 2-day suspension amounted to a slap on the wrist and while Olbermann’s suspension was eventually reduced to come into line with that of the Floridian, but chances are had MSNBC’s star conservative not violated the same policy, Olbermann would not have been reinstated so quickly.
The conflicts of interest and appearances of such for Scarborough culminated this election cycle with reports that the MSNBC personality was advising Donald Trump. For years these sorts of rumors and reports have persisted about Scarborough, but NBC Universal has seemingly always backed him. Why? It’s simple – a conservative with access to Republican politicians both helps the parent company and buffers the network against criticism of liberal bias. I’ll admit I stopped watching Morning Joe in early 2012 and haven’t looked back since. For me, actually discussion of issues such as what is given on NPR or CBS This Morning trumps the political hackery of Scarborough’s MSNBC morning show.
This latest controversy involving Scarborough is another black eye for NBC Universal – but don’t expect any action other than perhaps the symbolic two-day suspension. After all the decade plus of enablement has been executed for good reason from the perspective of NBC.