The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

20 April 2008

Scarborough's Abrupt Segment Exit Has Internet Buzzing


Was Libtalker's Slimy Trick Worth Abrupt Exit?

When two cable talk maniacs clash on a network nobody watches, does it matter?

Occasionally, the answer is yes, as is the case with a disturbing recent exchange between "Morning Joe" Scarborough and Air America's Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. It has had the 'Net buzzing for several days.

After Maddow attempted to tie John McCain's campaign to "public sex" between men in bathrooms, Joe lost his cool, removing his mic and exiting the segment early. Should Scarborough have allowed her to to upset him so visibly?

After frequent criticism of both, your Radio Equalizer really doesn't have a dog in the fight. Here are some of our past updates on both Maddow and Scarborough, in fact, it's quite possible this site has been tougher on the latter than the former.

We've long found Joe obnoxious, with ties to the other side that seem a bit too cozy for a supposed conservative. But Maddow's own increasing cable exposure may be leading to a swelling ego and emerging sense of overconfidence.

Memo to Rachel: nobody listens to Air America and MSNBC's ratings are still anemic. Try keeping your feet on the ground.

That said, the guilty party here is clearly Maddow, who once again employs a style she's been honing for some time: extreme rhetoric delivered in a flat, NPR- like manner. It's quite clear she's intentionally developed this technique while watching Randi Rhodes struggle to gain credibility.

But it's still little more than a cheap debate trick, one that her conservative counterparts should have recognized by now. That's where Scarborough blew it: Rachel's trickery is not worth that kind of response.

Via NewsBusters, here's a partial transcript, followed by the video clip:

JOE SCARBOROUGH, “MORNING JOE” MSNBC: But Harold, if you ran for governor of Texas or ran for Senate again, people in Tennessee know you. If there‘s a questionable association, they go, we know Harold Ford, maybe he hung out with a weird guy one summer when he was younger. Whereas if somebody new runs for that Tennessee seat and nobody knows him, then you start saying, OK, who is this person? Who do they hang out with? Who do they associate with?

Barack Obama can‘t be shocked. He was in Washington for one year before he decided to run for president of the United States. People don‘t know him. They know John McCain. They know Hillary Clinton. They don‘t know him. So who he associates himself with is that much more important to voters.

FORD: That‘s why Jeremiah Wright has been such a big issue as well. Joe makes a good point. But I do think the caller‘s question dealt with how far back—how do we know—how long can you punish a candidate or someone running for office for a friendship? At some level, I just think voters are able to get it. Jeremiah Wright will pay bigger than this --- the Weather guy we talked about last night.

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA: Associates and friendships become an issue when political opponents decide to make them an issue. We talked about this before on the show. The Jeremiah Wright...


MADDOW: Joe, let me make my point and then you can dismiss me. Let me make my point first. Jeremiah Wright as a pastor for Barack Obama is an issue. The political associations that John McCain has made with right wing pastors have not been an issue. The issue that has been made about who‘s giving money to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, because their opponents have decided to go after them on that. For example, John McCain had this incredibly controversial relationship with a Florida campaign co-chair, who was caught in a bathroom offering money to a police officer to do something that we can all imagine in a bathroom. Nobody is going to John McCain and saying he was your Florida campaign co-chair; what do you think about men doing that in bathrooms? What do you think about entrapment from police officers? What do you think about public sex?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That‘s what a general election is for.

MADDOW: But nobody‘s brought that up to John McCain at this point, and it‘s a decision made by political opponents. It‘s not something that happens organically because of how long you‘ve been around the block.

GREGORY: Let me get a break in before I run out of time. You can play with the panel every night. Don‘t forget to call us or email us. Predictions from the panel are coming up next.


GREGORY: We‘re back. It‘s prediction time. Time for our panelists to peer into the crystal ball and tell us something that they see. Rachel, Harold, John and Joe still with us. Joe, what are you seeing tonight?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I think I may blow all my time on the predictions to respond to Rachel. I don‘t engage in crossfire type debates and certainly I don‘t want to talk about what people do in bathrooms. I do want to say though that anybody—and you can ask Harold Ford. You can ask anybody that‘s ever run for political office, that the thing you want to do is define your opponent.

You define opponents that people don‘t know more easily than defining opponents that have been in public service for a quarter of a century. It was the only point I was trying to make. And again I don‘t do cross-fire, so if we want to yell back and forth, then Rachel will have to find somebody else.

MADDOW: Joe, I wasn‘t trying to yell back and forth with you. I was starting to make my point and you cut me off before I started my first sentence. You waited for me to start. I started and you jumped in.

SCARBOROUGH: I don‘t mean to be condescending, but I can say that anybody that‘s ever run for political office before knows that there‘s a big difference between John McCain and defining him, who has been in public service for 25 years, and defining Barack Obama who was in Washington, D.C. for one year before he decided to run for president.

Note that near the end, we can hear Scarborough removing his microphone and walking off the set before the segment's completion.

While it's tempting to pick on "Morning Joe" for allowing Maddow to get the better of him, your Radio Equalizer believes instead this concern should be extended to every conservative who appears on a cable talk show. How well do you know your opponents? Are you familiar with their tricks?

Better- prepared guests are likely to see these sneak attacks coming a mile away, eliminating future walk-offs and any resulting negative fallout.

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site.

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  • Brian,
    I want you to look at the transcript. Joe made his comments without interruption. (Count the number of words.) Rachel began a response (count the number of words) and there wasn't crosstalk. Joe attempted to interrupt her and Rachel was having none of it. Joe did not like it when someone would not be intimidated. If you need further evidence, please watch Morning Joe.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20 April, 2008 21:50  

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