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After months of speculation, Pat Buchanan and MSNBC have severed their relationship.
Buchanan made the announcement himself in a blog post Thursday on The American Conservative titled “Blacklisted, But Not Beaten.”
“After 10 enjoyable years, I am departing, after an incessant clamor from the left that to permit me continued access to the microphones of MSNBC would be an outrage against decency, and dangerous,” Buchanan wrote.
An MSNBC spokesperson added: “After ten years, we’ve decided to part ways with Pat Buchanan. We wish him well.”
Buchanan has been conspicuously absent from the network since last October. And his most recent book, Suicide of a Superpower, in which he inveighs against immigration, has been the explanation for his banishment. And Buchanan writes: “The calls for my firing began immediately with the Oct. 18 publication” of his book.
In fact, Buchanan has been a lightning rod for some time. Remarks many considered racist and anti-Semitic made him a frequent target of interest groups including Color of Change and The Anti-Defamation League. (He’s called Hitler “an individual of great courage” and criticized Elena Kagan’s appointment to the Supreme Court thusly: “If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats.”)
Nevertheless, Buchanan is well-liked personally by many colleagues at MSNBC who say that he always graciously accommodated appearance requests despite being on a yearly, rather than a per-appearance, contract. And he had some important allies at MSNBC, notably Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough.
In fact, Buchanan himself credited the show with making him more likable to the wider public.
“He would come in and say, ‘People are hugging me in airports. I could have used you guys when I ran for president,’” recalls a Morning Joe insider. “He went from being this screaming, crazy, right-wing guy to like your grandfather because Joe knew how to use him. He has this unbelievable institutional knowledge of the conservative movement. He has forgotten more than most of these so-called pundits will ever know.”
But having Buchanan on the air became increasingly untenable, says another source. “The elephant in the room is his crazy politics.”
MSNBC president Phil Griffin has described Buchanan’s views as “alarming.”
Buchanan himself never actually acknowledged the suspension while it was happening. Asked about it last January during an appearance on a radio show hosted by evangelical Republican Hugh Hewitt, Buchanan said health problems had kept him out of circulation for several weeks, but that the suspension was news to him. “On Drudge Report, somebody said I’ve been suspended,” he told Hewitt. “I don’t know anything about that.”
Buchanan – a Republican and key advisor in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan – had been a regular contributor on MSNBC since 2002. He was part of the network’s 2008 presidential primary coverage where he often sat next to Rachel Maddow. That odd couple pairing continued – though with much less frequency – when Maddow got her own primetime show in September 2008. Buchanan and Maddow had multiple clashes on The Rachel Maddow Show’s “It’s Pat” segments. One discussion in July 2009 about Sonya Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court became particularly heated. Buchanan called Sotomayor an “affirmative action appointment” and explained that “affirmative action is to increase diversity by discriminating against white males.” Maddow disagreed. And the following evening she fact-checked some of Buchanan’s statement, offering a pointed rebuttal of his assertions that “this has been a country built basically by white folks,” though he did not appear on the program.
The publication of Suicide of a Superpower brought a new round of incoming fire at MSNBC. Abraham Foxman, national director of The Anti-Defamation League, publicly urged MSNBC to reconsider its relationship with Buchanan.
“It is especially disturbing that [Buchanan] continues to be given a platform to espouse his views at a mainstream network like MSNBC, where he is presented as a knowledgeable and respected analyst,” said Foxman in a statement last November. “Buchanan continues to show his true colors by espousing hateful, bigoted statements in his new book.”
It’s unclear how much time Buchanan had left on his MSNBC contract. But many at the network expect him to find a perch on another cable news channel. Said one: “I guarantee you, they let him out of his deal at MSNBC, ten minutes later, [Fox News chairman] Roger Ailes picks him up.”
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