Why Conservative Columnist Bret Stephens Is Joining MSNBC: "I'm a Contrarian"

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Bret Stephens

The controversial writer, already an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, will contribute to MSNBC and NBC News.

Bret Stephens' hiring as an op-ed columnist for The New York Times in April set the media-politics internet ecosystem ablaze, as The Gray Lady was accused of sullying its reputation as a purveyor of truth and facts.

Stephens is a conservative columnist and has cast doubt on the prevailing theories about climate change, which, some argued, made him a poor fit for a newspaper that is held in such high esteem.

On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced on air — and later confirmed by the company — that Stephens is joining MSNBC as well as NBC News as an on-air contributor.

Asked by The Hollywood Reporter over email why he's signing on as a contributor, Stephens replied: "Superb programming. Shows I watch (and that my mom watches). [MSNBC president] Phil Griffin. Plus I am a contrarian by nature."

Stephens is not the first prominent conservative media figure to appear on MSNBC, which in recent weeks has given a Saturday morning show to radio host Hugh Hewitt, a 4 p.m. show to former Bush administration communications staffer Nicolle Wallace, and a contributor deal to George Will, who, like Stephens, will appear on NBC News.

"I think there's always merit in getting out of our ideological silos and being exposed to points of view with which we don't always agree," Stephens told THR Thursday.

The Times lost some subscribers in response to the Stephens appointment, and it's possible that MSNBC and NBC will lose a few viewers as well. But, like the Times, the networks are betting that increasing the diversity of voices on its airwaves will ultimately lead to a better news and analysis product. 

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