MSNBC‘s joint announcement today with Alec Baldwin’s camp that they had mutually decided to end Baldwin’s Up Late interview show leaves the cable news network with just one on-air talent headache: Martin Bashir, whose apology for graphic comments he made about Sarah Palin hasn’t ended chatter as to whether he should be punished.
This past weekend, Palin, a Fox News analyst, said in an interview with Fox News Sunday that MSNBC was guilty of “executive hypocrisy” in not disciplining Bashir for his “vile, evil comments.” Following Bashir’s on-air apology, the network — which fired Don Imus in 2007 for referring to members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” and suspended David Shuster for two weeks in 2008 for suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign had “pimped out” daughter Chelsea by having her make phone calls to celebrities and convention delegates — told the Associated Press it was “handling this [Bashir] matter internally,” and wouldn’t comment further.
Bashir had used his weekday afternoon program on November 15 to criticize Palin for having compared U.S. indebtedness to China to slavery. Bashir cited the diaries of a former plantation overseer who punished slaves by having someone defecate in their mouth or urinate on their face. Bashir suggested the former Alaska governor was a candidate for the same treatment. After Bashir made that suggestion, the same day MSNBC suspended Baldwin’s show after the host’s off-screen behavior, much debate ensued as to why Baldwin’s reprehensible rant during a heated off-air confrontation merited suspension, while Bashir’s thought-out, and deliberately gag-inducing, suggestion, made on air, did not. Bashir apologized during his next telecast, on November 18.
It’s not the first time a network has suffered a Bashir-induced headache. Back in 2008, the then-ABC News staffer was publicly slapped by that network after joking about “Asian babes” and erections during a speech at a diversity conference. Addressing the Asian American Journalists Association’s annual gala banquet in Chicago, Bashir said, “I’m happy to be in the midst of so many Asian babes,” as his 20/20 colleague Juju Chang sat nearby. “In fact, I’m happy that the podium covers me from the waist down.” He then noted that a speech should be “like a dress on a beautiful woman — long enough to cover the important parts and short enough to keep your interest — like my colleague Juju’s.” Reacted ABC News via a spokesperson, “This kind of remark has no place in any setting, and Martin knows that.” Bashir apologized to the AAJA, writing, “Upon reflection, it was a tasteless remark that I now bitterly regret.”
A week ago Monday, Bashir said on MSNBC, “Upon reflection, I so wish that I’d been more thoughtful, more considerate, more compassionate. … I deeply regret what I said” about Palin. “I promise that I will take the opportunity to learn from this experience,” he said. “My hope is that it will renew in me a spirit of humility and humanity that looks for the good and that builds upon the great things that this country has to offer to all of us, regardless of our political persuasion. This will be my guiding light and compass in the days ahead.”