Ed Schultz is trying to put a brave face on his demotion from a coveted prime time slot to the wastelands of weekend cable news programming. He’s even claiming he volunteered to do it.
Nobody is buying it, of course, and it looks like the reason Schultz is being put out of sight is because his bombastic, spittle-flecked brand of punditry was getting to be too much even by MSNBC’s standards. And that’s saying something given the number of rabid partisans the network employs:
After briefly moving from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the primetime reshuffling that followed Keith Olbermann’s parting ways with MSNBC in 2011, The Ed Show finally settled in at 8 p.m., and went on to have an impressive year in 2012. The “fat, red-headed guy from Fargo,” as Schultz refers to himself, handily beat the more camera-friendly Anderson Cooper in that timeslot. And while it seems no one ever will top Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, Schultz earned MSNBC its best 8 p.m. ratings among the coveted 25-to-54 demographic since 2009.
“The change may be one of tone rather than numbers,” say Anjali Sareen and Jack Mirkinson at The Huffington Post. This is “a clear demotion” for Schultz — “the 8 p.m. cable news slot is one of the biggest prizes in prime time,” and the weekend is “simply a less prestigious time period” — but it probably says more about MSNBC than Schultz.
His barnstorming, Midwestern, labor-friendly brand of populist liberalism has come to look more and more at odds with the increasingly elite and wonkish tone taking hold on the rest of MSNBC. The network has spent its last year grooming hosts like Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Ezra Klein, all of whom bring a far different approach to their work than Schultz.
“It’s arguable that, just as the Democrats viewed Schultz as the right man for the job during the heart of the Bush years, MSNBC is beginning to view others as a better fit in the age of Obama,” says CJR’s Meyer.
Put more succinctly, when you’re on attack a loose cannon can be useful. When you’re in defense mode, you need a more analytical approach to shilling.