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Filmmaker Josh Fox Says He Was ‘Blacklisted’ By MSNBC After Becoming Bernie Sanders Surrogate

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox says he was “blacklisted” by MSNBC after he became a surrogate for Senator Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign, and actress Susan Sarandon recently stood up to MSNBC producers so he appeared on the network.

“I was a regular on MSNBC. I was a regular on Chris Hayes’ show. I would go on every couple weeks,” Fox shared, when he appeared on the weekly podcast “Unauthorized Disclosure.” “This was just part of life as me, being able to talk about fracking and pipelines and these kinds of things, and I love that. I love that about my life. I loved being able to go on. I loved to talk to Chris. I loved to talk to Larry O’Donnell and the other people at ‘Morning Joe’ or Alex Wagner that would have me on to talk about these issues.”

“And then, all of a sudden I became a Bernie Sanders surrogate and the phone stopped ringing.”

MSNBC’s Public Relations Department was contacted by email for comment but did not respond.

On February 15, Fox appeared on MSNBC’s “All In,” hosted by Hayes. Yet, according to him, he was not invited. Sarandon was initially asked to do a segment on the Dakota Access pipeline struggle, and she called Fox because she wanted him to be on the show with her.

When Fox and Sarandon arrived at the studio, the producers said they were going to play “the clip” from last time to dredge up comments Sarandon made about Donald Trump in March 2016 during the heated Democratic primary.

Fox said the producers claimed there would not be enough time have him appear with her.

“Susan just did one of the most amazing, honorable, and noble things that anyone has ever done for me, which is say no to them if they wouldn’t put me on. She said, well, I’m not going on if Josh doesn’t go on,” Fox recalled.

Last year, Fox’s documentary, “How To Let Go Of The World and Love All Things Climate Can’t Change,” enjoyed a considerably successful premiere on HBO. It played at the Sundance Film Festival. Fox considers it his best work, however, his publicist could not get any MSNBC show to have Fox on air in June to promote the film.

The “ultimate irony,” Fox noted, was that “All In” produced a special climate series that started the same night his film premiered on HBO.

During this series, the program highlighted rising oceans, disappearing Arctic ice, displaced people, solar energy, drought, water shortages, climate denialism, and wildfires, but there was no segment on natural gas fracking. There was no segment on pipelines. There was very little explicit coverage, which made the connection between dirty energy production and climate change.

Billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer was invited on MSNBC during the series to talk about climate activism. He declined to financially support an anti-fracking ballot initiative in Colorado because, like other liberal-leaning environmentalists, there was a fear it would make Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president more difficult. He also was a huge backer of Clinton and invested millions in turning millennials out to vote for her in the general election.

What happened with Sarandon on February 15 was the result of an increasingly “desperate MSNBC,” which attempted a “ratings grab” by “bringing Susan Sarandon on to try to humiliate her,” Fox asserted. “It’s just unconscionable.”

Indeed, MSNBC producers appear to have done their best to obscure Fox’s appearance in the segment. The segment, “Does Susan Sarandon still think Trump could bring the revolution?” puts all the focus on embarrassing Sarandon.

A description for the segment does not even list Fox: “Chris Hayes talks to the Oscar winning actor for first time since the election and since she suggested that Donald Trump could bring a revolution.”

So it appears the producers stuck to their original plans, which were to entice Sarandon to come on the show by asking her to talk about the Dakota Access pipeline, and then when she got there, they would coerce her into talking about whether she still stood by comments made nearly a year ago during a contentious primary election that were treated as controversial. And, as far as viewers are concerned, the younger man sitting next to Sarandon in the clip might as well be an insignificant handler of the award-winning actress unless their familiar with Fox’s work.

When Hayes pressed Sarandon on her lack of support for Clinton during the election, she responded, “I absolutely feel that analyzing and spending time and energy talking about blaming people or who made mistakes or what should have happened is really wasting your time and energy because what we have now is a populace that is awake.”

“What we have now, I mean, we’re here to talk about what’s happening to the environment. The pipeline didn’t get to the river overnight,” referring to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Hayes later resumed the network’s effort to nail Sarandon on air. “Can you look me in the eyes, both of you, and say yes, 24 days into the Trump administration this is about what I expected it would be?”

“What is the point of even saying that?” Sarandon asked.

“I’m just asking you that. I’m just asking you—we all make judgments about what we – the choices are. And I’m asking you, can you say – look me in the eyes and say, yeah, this is about what I thought it would be, 24 days in,” Hayes responded.

“Can you look me in the eyes and tell me you are doing your job to cover these issues?” Sarandon retorted. “Yes, I can,” Hayes said.

Fox does not think what happened over the past year is Hayes’ fault personally. He believes it comes from “way upstairs.” He thinks this is “white knuckle desperation” on the part of the network that sees cable news’ future in jeopardy. Certainly, revisiting the backlash against Sarandon during the primary was a purely cynical exercise in programming.

But Fox went even further in his criticism. “MSNBC is culpable in the election of Donald Trump. They are culpable in giving the nomination to Hillary Clinton. They are culpable in journalistic malpractice, and they owe people an apology. And they’re losing viewers because of it.”

“America cannot blacklist people, even if you’re on the left, even if you think you’re better, even if you think you’re doing it for the sake of progress or to stop the devil. You don’t do that. We have a history of that in this country. They may hear this radio program and never want to talk to me again. Doesn’t matter. It’s a principle. We do not do that in this country.”

Listen to Josh Fox’s interview, where he not only shares the story of what happened to him with MSNBC but also addresses exploding pipelines, pipeline struggles, the failures of the EPA, how President Barack Obama squandered opportunities, and more.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."