MSNBC chief Phil Griffin now admits his network messed up by caving to the alt-right’s demands to fire a contributor over a joke mocking rape apologists.
“Don’t care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scene,” comedian and political commentator Sam Seder wrote in the now-deleted tweet from 2009.
Pro-Trump activist and noted rape apologist Mike Cernovich spotted the tweet and blasted it out last month, launching a campaign to destroy Seder’s on-air career. The outrage-fest was amplified by former Trump adviser and alt-right sympathizer Seb Gorka, who publicly asked MSNBC to comment on the matter.
The joke was clearly a satire of the liberals and Hollywood elites who excuse Polanski’s many allegations of sexual molestation because of his critically acclaimed directorial career (Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, etc.).
“Internally there was disgust over the tweet,” an MSNBC insider anonymously explained to The Wrap.
And so, on Monday, the network that allowed Mark Halperin on air for years—despite longstanding rumors of his predatory sexual behavior in the workplace—swiftly gave Seder the boot.
The backlash against the firing was loud and crossed partisan lines. Right-wing social-media aggregator Twitchy chronicled the outrage of both liberal and conservative users calling bullshit on Seder’s exit. The A.V. Club’s Sean O’Neal rightly observed that MSNBC had given credence to an alt-right movement whose “openly stated goal is the destruction of news outlets just like it through the use of blatantly manipulative trolling techniques that use their own propensity for faux outrage against them.”
MSNBC host Chris Hayes similarly scorned his network, tweeting that “our politics are now dominated by people who have weaponized bad faith and shamelessness.”
Seder himself addressed the firing, defiantly standing by his initial remarks: “I was just asked if I regret my tweet from 2009. I regret laziness led me to delete it. I would never regret criticizing rape apologists.”
And three days later, on Thursday morning, Griffin abruptly reversed course and admitted the network had been suckered by the alt-right.
“Sometimes you just get one wrong—and that’s what happened here,” he wrote in a statement. “We made our initial decision for the right reasons—because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about. But we’ve heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward.”
Seder will be offered a new contract, The Intercept reported, based on sources within the network.
“I appreciate MSNBC’s thoughtful reconsideration and willingness to understand the cynical motives of those who intentionally misrepresented my tweet for their own toxic, political purposes,” Seder said in a statement.
“We are experiencing an important and long overdue moment of empowerment for the victims of sexual assault and of reckoning for their perpetrators. I’m proud that MSNBC and its staff have set a clear example of the need to get it right.”
However, the damage was already done.
Cernovich told CNN earlier this week that the initial firing emboldened him and his hordes to pursue other media targets based on their old tweets.