It’s come to this.
On Tuesday, MSNBC announced that it would be organizing a live, “prime time” event exclusively starring Donald Trump and hosted by Trump’s personal friends Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinksi. Needless to say, both political insiders and MSNBC’s viewers are shaking their heads in disbelief.
The decision to give Trump free promotional airtime on the network was announced by Morning Joe‘s Senior Producer Jesse Rodriguez.
NEWS: Joe & Mika will moderate a town hall with Donald Trump airing in prime time tomorrow at 8pmET @MSNBC
— Jesse Rodriguez (@JesseRodriguez) February 16, 2016
The Republican front-runner will seemingly get the stage to himself. MSNBC has so far not announced a single other candidate would be appearing, nor did they suggest any were invited. He will be met with questions lobbed to him by Scarborough, who has used his influence to shill for Trump and may even be helping his campaign from behind the scenes. Recently, Trump thanked Scarborough, one of MSNBC’s few conservative pundits, for “supporting” him when the rest of the media had attacked him.
When not preparing to question Trump on a “prime time” spectacle, Scarborough spends his time online promoting Trump as a strong leader.
Perceived strength in the face of perceived weakness from America's leaders. What do you think? https://t.co/JNwIhgrdN0
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) February 16, 2016
— Suzy Welch (@SuzyWelch) February 16, 2016
This obvious bias has led many fans of MSNBC to wonder what on earth the network is thinking? It also has reporters, used to covering candidates with some semblance of objectivity, scratching their heads.
CNN will have all six GOP candidates appear at town halls on Wed and Thurs. Meanwhile, MSNBC’s Joe and Mika hosting one Wed with just Trump.
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) February 16, 2016
"this primary season" – not quite the same thing as free airtime for Trump & Kasich on eve of SC primary https://t.co/cb3IwkRb11
— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) February 16, 2016
Just Trump? https://t.co/CYbcDwWbEn
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) February 16, 2016
As depressing and petty as it sounds, MSNBC may have chosen to promote Trump to spite their archenemy, CNN.
MSNBC has spent the last few weeks desperately trying to defend Scarborough amid accusations that he is too cozy with Trump. Things came to a head when CNN reporter Dylan Byers outed Scarborough as having celebrated Trump’s New Hampshire victory with the candidate in his hotel room. Notably, CNN plans to run a town hall event featuring two of Trump’s biggest rivals, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, on Wednesday, so this may be an alliance between MSNBC and Trump to hurt CNN’s ratings by hosting their very own special.
Sadly, that means Trump will get carte blanche to spew his vile hate speech to a gushing Scarborough. It’s unlikely that Trump would have agreed to appear on the left-leaning network if he thought there was any chance he was going to be pressed to answer difficult questions.
For their part, MSNBC says they will balance Trump’s “prime time event” with something they call “long form interviews” with other candidates. They point to one they will be airing with Kasich on the same night as Trump’s town hall. But they haven’t specified when they plan on airing other interviews candidates, nor if those interviews even exist.
Cable networks aren’t required to give equal time to each candidate (a situation Trump has routinely exploited), but holding a prime time glorified Donald Trump campaign ad is a very bad look for a network that is hoping to appear neutral. It also seems to skirt the line between a campaign donation. In a race where buying television ads can cost a campaign millions of dollars, how fair is it that MSNBC just handed over an hour or two of their most valuable ad space to Trump’s campaign?
There are already rumblings of a potential boycott, and MSNBC may just discover that there are limits to what its viewers will tolerate.
Feature image via MSNBC