Martin Bashir is leaving MSNBC, effective immediately. After his Nov. 15 remarks about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin sparked lingering criticism from media watchdogs and conservatives alike, he announced Wednesday that he’s stepping away after three years on the job.
Bashir joins Alec Baldwin as the second MSNBC personality to exit the network in the last week, though Bashir’s tenure was considerably longer. In November, Bashir called Palin a “world-class idiot” in addition to making other crude suggestions. He received no suspension, as Baldwin did after being caught making alleged homophobic remarks by a paparazzo, but did issue an apology on air.
“After making an on-air apology, I asked for permission to take some additional time out around the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Bashir in a statement released to The Hollywood Reporter. “Upon further reflection, and after meeting with the president of MSNBC, I have tendered my resignation. It is my sincere hope that all of my colleagues, at this special network, will be allowed to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself or my ill-judged comments. I deeply regret what was said, will endeavor to work hard at making constructive contributions in the future and will always have a deep appreciation for our viewers — who are the smartest, most compassionate and discerning of all television audiences. I would also wish to express deepest gratitude to my immediate colleagues, and our contributors, all of whom have given so much of themselves to our broadcast.”
His departure leaves a hole in the cable news network’s 4 p.m. hour. An MSNBC rep could not immediately confirm what the network would be doing with the vacancy in the long term, but Joy-Ann Reid will continuing pinch-hitting, as she has been since Bashir departed for the Thanksgiving holiday. A permanent replacement is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
As for MSNBC topper Phil Griffin, the network president released his own statement crediting Bashir with the decision. “Martin Bashir resigned today, effective immediately,” he said. “I understand his decision and I thank him for three great years with MSNBC. Martin is a good man and respected colleague — we wish him only the best.” (Baldwin’s departure came with a joint statement calling it a “mutual parting.”)
Bashir, who got his start reporting for the BBC in his native U.K., became a bigger presence in the U.S. in the early 2000s. He worked at ABC News until 2010 when he departed for MSNBC. His biggest story to date has been a series of 2003 interviews with the late Michael Jackson that ran as a special and brought in a massive 14 million viewers in the U.K. and 38 million in the U.S.
His remarks about Palin extended well beyond calling the former vice presidential candidate an “idiot.” In response to her remarks comparing the federal debt to slavery, Bashir suggested Palin be forced to endure the treatment of slaves — including having someone defecate in her mouth.
“When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate.”