David Zurawik

Martin Bashir out at MSNBC in wake of Palin remarks

Martin Bashir, the embattled MSNBC show host who on Nov. 15 urged a crude and graphic form of punishment for Sarah Palin, resigned from the channel Wednesday.

MSNBC could afford to do nothing less than force Bashir out in the wake of his hateful speech.


Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, tried stonewalling the mounting criticism even after Bashir delivered an on-air apology, but the words and actions were too gross and hateful to allow Bashir to return.

In the Nov. 15 remarks, Bashir attacked Palin for calling the national debt a form of slavery for American citizens. After describing in graphic detail how slaves were punished on one plantation by having other slaves urinate and defecate in their mouths, he urged that same punishment for Palin whom he called an "idiot" and a "dunce."


The former ABC "Nightline"co-anchor, had not been on-air since Nov. 22, with MSNBC saying he was on vacation.

Bashir issued a statement to Mediaite Wednesday announcing his resignation:

"After making an on-air apology, I asked for permission to take some additional time out around the Thanksgiving holiday. Upon further reflection, and after meeting with the President of MSNBC, I have tendered my resignation. It is my sincere hope that all of my colleagues, at this special network, will be allowed to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself or my ill-judged comments. I deeply regret what was said, will endeavor to work hard at making constructive contributions in the future and will always have a deep appreciation for our viewers – who are the smartest, most compassionate and discerning of all television audiences. I would also wish to express deepest gratitude to my immediate colleagues, and our contributors, all of whom have given so much of themselves to our broadcast."

Griffin then issued a statement as well:

"Martin Bashir resigned today, effective immediately. I understand his decision and I thank him for three great years with MSNBC. Martin is a good man and respected colleague – we wish him only the best."

I have written about and discussed the case on Sunday morning cable TV. You can read and see videos of that here, or via the related items in this post.

I believe Bashir had to go, and I weep not for his dismissal. What he did and said is Exhibit A for the way cable TV news has debased the conversation of democracy.

Griffin can save his "respected colleague" talk. He's as responsible as Bashir for this kind of hateful speech.


Under Griffin's leadership, MNSBC has become the leading proponent of such ideologically-charged, rabble-rousing rhetoric.

They don't do news at MSNBC any more. They just do propaganda. And you can only attack your ideological enemies so long before you find yourself in the realm of hate speech, as Bashir did.

I hope this event will help Comcast come to understand how deeply Griffin and his cynical programming strategy have damaged the brand of NBC News and the network in general.

You can fire 10 Bashirs and issue 20 phony "respected colleagues" PR statements, and it won't start to repair the harm you've done to what NBC News once stood for.