When #Breaking News happens such as the cruise missile strike on the Syrian air base from which a sarin gas attack is launched, cable news networks break into regularly scheduled programming and start wall to wall coverage of the event. Because the assault happened during prime time, a lot of favorite programming gets bumped. On MSBC that meant that #Rachel Maddow had to give way to #Brian Williams, a venerable anchor who is in exile on that network for lies, he told about his life experiences while working for NBC News.
Maddow’s fan base erupted on social media, decrying the apparent sexism of the move.
On the one hand, Maddow’s expertise, such as it is, is in political commentary. The Trump tax return fiasco would seem to place her competence in doubt, but nevertheless, her ratings have started to explode in recent weeks. A market appears to exist for anti-Trump commentators that before the current administration did not exist. Nevertheless, Maddow’s experience is not in breaking news.
Williams, like Shep Smith on Fox and Anderson Cooper on CNN, is the designated on-air personality for breaking news stories on MSNBC. Whether the story is a military strike, a terrorist attack, or the death of a world famous personality, Williams will assume the anchor chair to explain what is going on and pass things along to the myriad of correspondents scattered across the globe. He has the persona, if not the skills and integrity, of TV journalists of the old school, such as Cronkite (whose reputation has taken a hit) or Brinkley..
On the other hand, it must have been unsettling to MSNBC viewers when Williams referred to the missile launches as “beautiful.” To be sure the launches were, taken out of context, were aesthetically pleasing, but the sentiment left Williams open to the ruthless outrage of social media accusing him of being insensitive to the reality of what happens when those missiles arrive at their targets. Maddow, opined one Twitter commando, would never have referred to a weapon of war as “beautiful.”
Maddow would not have been a good fit for anchoring a breaking news story because she is so relentlessly and openly partisan. To be sure, Williams is a man of the left, but like his predecessors of old, he strives to hide that aspect behind his Midwest accent and the pretense, at least, of being fair and balanced. How Maddow would have handled President Trump’s first military action can only be imagined. However, it might have been worth it only for the fun of watching her try to explain how Putin’s puppet is blasting the hell out of Putin’s other puppet.