Does Mark Halperin Deserve To Be Fired For Calling President Obama A “Dick” On MSNBC?
During a segment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday, Mark Halperin—a political analyst for the program and an editor-at-large at TIME magazine—wanted to let MSNBC’s viewers know exactly how he felt about President Barack Obama‘s press conference on Wednesday. So he somewhat jokingly asked Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski if the network had a policy in place that put the show on a seven-second delay to bleep out any foul language.
“We have it,” Brzezinski said, before confirming with his producer. “We can use it, right?”
Scarborough also acknowledged that Morning Joe does, in fact, use a seven-second delay. “Yeah, sure, come on, take a chance,” he told Halperin. “Have faith…I’m behind you. You fall down, I’m gonna catch you.”
So, Halperin did take a chance and he let everyone out there watching know just how much he didn’t enjoy the President’s press conference. “I thought he was kind of a dick yesterday,” he said.
Almost immediately, MSNBC got on the defensive to try and quell the situation. Scarborough immediately chastised him for his poor choice of words. “Oh my god,” he said on air. “Delay that! Delay that! What are you doing? I can’t believe you. I was joking! Don’t do that! Did we delay that?”
Shortly after, Halperin tried issuing an apology. “Joking aside, this is an absolute apology,” he said. “I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize to the President and the viewers who heard me say that.”
But the damage was already done. MSNBC was forced to issue a statement of their own shortly after the show ended. “Mark Halperin’s comments this morning were completely inappropriate and unacceptable,” the network said. “We apologize to the President, the White House, and all of our viewers. We strive for a high level of discourse and comments like these have no place on our air. Therefore, Mark will be suspended indefinitely from his role as analyst.”
Um, excuse me? Did they really just say suspended? Indefinitely makes it sound a little bit better. But suspended? For calling the President of the United States a “dick” on live TV? Are they for real?
Here’s the bottom line: Mark Halperin should have been fired—and fired immediately—for his actions. But not necessarily for the reasons you might think. First off, Halperin is entitled to have his own opinion on President Obama. Millions of Americans out there probably agree with his sentiment—and, trust us, they’ve probably called President Obama way worse things than a “dick” as a result of it. That’s not necessarily why he deserves to be fired.
It’s not really about the word he chose to use to refer to Obama, either. Over the course of the years, we’ve heard language like this used on live TV dozens and dozens of times. In fact, the whole reason Morning Joe has a seven-second delay in the first place is because Brzezinski dropped an F-bomb on live TV back in 2008. So that’s not really the issue here.
But what does bother me about Halperin’s remark is that he had every intention on making headlines when he sat down on the set of Morning Joe on Thursday. Him calling President Obama a “dick” wasn’t some spur-of-the-moment thing that happened during a heated argument. It was a precalculated idea that Halperin had. He knew the cameras were rolling. He knew that Scarborough and Brzezinski weren’t really serious when they told him that he could saying anything and get away with it. He knew that his choice of words would land on hundreds and hundreds of blogs. And he probably even knew that, at best, he was looking at a suspension for saying what he planned to say. And yet, he did it anyway.
He went on live TV and called President Obama a dick and essentially got away with it without getting fired. We don’t expect to see Halperin on MSNBC anytime soon. In fact, there’s a good chance that we might not ever see him on MSNBC again. But if we were MSNBC, we would have made it absolutely clear that precalculated attacks on the network’s censors would not be permitted by making an example out of Halperin. He should have been fired—and he should have been fired immediately.
Otherwise, what’s stopping someone else from going onto Morning Joe or any other MSNBC program and doing the same thing? Shame on you, Mark Halperin, shame on you, Morning Joe, and shame on you, MSNBC. All of you need to do us a favor and do the right thing.