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Jesse Ventura: MSNBC Tried to Shut Me Up

When it came to the topic of the media though, Gov. Ventura had an inside look on a conspiracy that was out in the open – MSNBC’s effort to shut down all voices against the Iraq War. The way they took Phil Donahue and Ashleigh Banfield off the air because of their views on the Iraq War is well documented. Now, Ventura explains his experience with MSNBC at the time:

Ventura: Well, the great example is myself. When I came out of office, I was the hottest commodity out there. I was the voice of the independent. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox got in a bidding war for me. MSNBC won. I went to do my show, they were putting together a five-day-a-week show for me, and then all of a sudden, a phone call came to one of my subordinates, and they said, "Is it true that the Governor doesn’t support the war in Iraq?" This was right before, as the Iraq war was going on, getting ready to hype up. And they said no. There was a deafening pause at the other end. They said, "Does New Jersey know about this?" And the person said, "I don’t know." And then they said, "Is there a chance he’d change his mind?" And this person that worked with me four years at the Capitol, he said, "I don’t think so." Because he said, the Governor’s pretty staunch when he gets, you know, you’d really have to sway him. And the war ain’t gonna sway him. Well, it turned out they wouldn’t put me on the air. They paid me for all three years, they pulled my show, and I sat and collected paychecks and I couldn’t say anything because my contract said I couldn’t do any cable nor any news shows for three years. Yeah.

Uygur: That’s really interesting because that’s exactly what they did to Ashleigh Banfield. When she made the speech against the Iraq War, they literally put her in a closet and paid the rest of her contract so she couldn’t talk to anyone else.

Ventura: Yep. And they did it also, if you recall, to Phil Donahue.

Uygur: That’s right.

Ventura: They had just hired Phil. Phil was their highest-rated show when they pulled him. Have you ever heard of a network pulling its highest-rated show? Never. And remember, this was at the time that MSNBC was trying to be Fox Lite. They weren’t liberal like they are now.

Uygur: Right. So, you know, I remember they put out a story at the time saying that you wanted to do the show from Mexico and that that’s why they didn’t want to do it.

Ventura: That’s a complete lie. All I did was I said the show, I wanted to do the show from Minneapolis because… And my reasoning was this. Not only was it my home and I didn’t want to relocate, and I had the power to do it, but second, I told them, look, all these shows take place on the East Coast and the West Coast. Why not get a Midwestern perspective for a change?

Uygur: So, but then what happened there? Because you know, MSNBC…

Ventura: They wouldn’t put me on because of my opposition to the Iraq War.

Uygur: I hear you, but so then MSNBC, you think, is not putting you on, and not putting all those people on because they’re against the Iraq War, but now their primetime, at least, not their morning but their primetime is progressive. So what do you think changed?

Ventura: Ratings. They finally realized they were never going to beat Fox, so then they made… Well, if you saw, when Keith Olbermann first came on, he was conservative. Then all of a sudden he made an about face 180 degrees and became a liberal.

Uygur: I’m sure he would contest that.

Ventura: Well, he might contest it, but at the moment he was hired, they were still a conservative station.

Get the full interview and transcript here.

The fact that MSNBC did this is fairly indisputable. The question is why? This is the same MSNBC that conservatives now claim is completely liberal (apparently a three hour block of conservative programming in the morning doesn’t count). Of course, there was a management change so that made a huge difference. But why did MSNBC care so much about shutting down opposition to the war back then? Have those executives at the time been held accountable enough? Have they ever explained whether they got direction from further up the management ladder at GE?

If there was real, independent media in this country, wouldn’t they be asking those questions? Maybe part of the problem is that everyone else in television did the same thing. Is Fox News going to complain about the media shutting down opposition to the Iraq War? Does CNN have clean hands? What did they do to voice dissenting opinions at the time? How about ABC? NBC? CBS? Any of them?

Ironically, MSNBC now employs the only people that might ask such questions on television. So, there goes that. Finally, isn’t that an amazing fact in and of itself? That MSNBC now has the only hosts in all of television that could challenge the media to not blindly support more wars? What happened to fair and balanced? Where is this so-called liberal media? All I see is a wall of conservative media organizations that helped to push us into wars before — and will do it again.

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Cenk Uygur

Cenk Uygur

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