Why MSNBC “Lacks” Confidence in Lawrence O’Donnell

Looks like NBC News President Andrew Lack is getting his purge on.

Lawrence O’Donnell, the host of MSNBC’s The Last Word, will likely be ousted in early-June. O’Donnell has done an exemplary job over the years of exposing the full extent of Donald Trump’s political depravity; it appears that he was too good at what he did, as Lack reportedly wants rid of O’Donnell in order to curry favor with the pathetic 45th President.

I predicted back in January that by the end of the year, O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes and Joy Reid would be pushed out the front door of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. It was obvious from Lack’s decision to woo Fox refugee Greta Van Susteren into the fold that his strategy was to turn the network into Fox Jr., the logic of that strategy be damned. By running O’Donnell off the air, Lack moves closer to realizing his dark vision.

O’Donnell may not be the only MSNBC figure headed out the door very shortly:

According to a report from the New York Post’s Page Six, MSNBC president Phil Griffin, who built MSNBC’s successful prime time line up, is facing a contract expiry in two weeks. So far, he hasn’t been renewed…

Sources close to MSNBC speculate to Heat Street that Lack suspects Griffin is behind the detailed takedown of his management in a wildly-circulated HuffPost piece that came out earlier this month. The piece, authored by former MSNBC contributor Ryan Grim, details how many employees within MSNBC are confused by Lack’s hostility to progressive programming…Lack, who’s famous for his titanic ego and love of executive perquisites, may also be loath to share any credit for MSNBC’s success with Griffin. The HuffPost‘s Yashar Ali reported last week that Lack bristles at any suggestion that the left’s aversion to Donald Trump may be behind MSNBC’s ratings surge. He prefers to credit his programming gifts. Lack’s ego puts Griffin — the architect of MSNBC’s programming strategy over the last decade — in a tight spot.

It has been speculated that part of what’s motivating Lack is a desire to boost the bottom line of MSNBC’s parent company. Perhaps. It’s just as likely that Lack is simply trying to remake the channel in his own right-wing image; Hugh Hewitt and George Will are his kind of people, O’Donnell and Maddow simply aren’t.

There is talk that Lack wants to move Brian Williams, the disgraced former NBC Nightly News anchor, into O’Donnell’s soon-to-be-former slot. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Lack’s ultimate goal is to move Williams into Maddow’s slot. Remember, Maddow has for years lamented the reluctance of right-wingers to come onto her program. Williams would likely not have that problem; his bland and inoffensive style would appeal to right-wing guests and viewers alike.

I have long praised Maddow as an American treasure, but the ouster of her predecessor, Keith Olbermann, in 2011 demonstrates that nothing lasts forever in cable news. There are millions of Americans who see Maddow and her remaining progressive colleagues as heroes, but there are a powerful few who see MSNBC’s evening lineup as political threats whose voices must be silenced at all costs. Lack is effectively operating on behalf of those powerful few.

O’Donnell deserves credit not only for stripping the bark off Trump, but also for bringing needed attention to the water protectors who fought valiantly to protect their treaty land from the threat posed by the Dakota Access pipeline. Future generations will honor O’Donnell for spotlighting this story; he demonstrated uncommon valor and courage in covering the standoff at Standing Rock.

No one will ever say that Andrew Lack has uncommon valor and courage. They’ll just say he had no taste at all, and caused a cable-network colossus to fall.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.