Special Report

NBC News ‘Punk Faggot’ Scandal Erupts

Phil Griffin, Brian Williams, Al Sharpton, and Comcast: Nightly News anchor and "Reverend Al."

By 3.16.12

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The cast.

Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, NBC's cable sibling.

Brian Williams, anchor of The NBC Nightly News.

Brian Roberts, the Chairman and CEO of Comcast, owners of NBC Universal.

The Reverend Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC's Politics Nation.

And Quicken Loans, one of the original seven national sponsors of The Rush Limbaugh Show that pretentiously dropped Rush's show.

That would be the same MSNBC host Reverend Al Sharpton -- hired by MSNBC president Phil Griffin -- caught on this video clip from Evocateur, a documentary film of the late television host Morton Downey, Jr. Sharpton, seen here on the set of Downey's television show, is heatedly shouting to an audience member:

You ain't nothing, you a punk faggot. Now come on, do something!

That video, provided on YouTube courtesy of Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller, is in fact an excerpt of a trailer for the film on Downey produced by Ironbound Films. The entire trailer can be found here at the Ironbound site. 

The clip of the MSNBC host hired by Mr. Griffin has now surfaced along with a series of Sharpton audio tapes -- found here. Beginning with this reference by Sharpton to the black then-mayor of New York, David Dinkins.

David Dinkins.… You wanna be the only n….on television, the only n….in the newspaper, the only n…to talk.…Don't cover them, don't talk to them, cause you got the only n…problem. Cause you know if a black man stood up next to ya they would see you for the whore that you really are.

Other tapes are littered with derogatory references to "Greek homos," "Chinamen," "Koreans sell us watermelons," and so on.

But there's one video that has not gotten attention.

That would be this one, which features NBC News anchor Brian Williams speaking to the National Action Network Conference

That would be the National Action Network, a progressive group founded by: Al Sharpton. Whom Williams refers to in warm and familiar terms at the end of the tape as "the Reverend Al."

The controversy over the relationship between Sharpton and both MSNBC and NBC News anchor Williams has erupted in the wake of the drive by leftists -- with MSNBC and Media Matters in the front of the pack -- to strip Rush Limbaugh of his sponsors because of the Fluke affair -- and hence push his program off the air.

As president of MSNBC, Griffin is directly responsible for Sharpton's hiring, as well as the relentless attack on Limbaugh's free speech rights. The accusation that MSNBC is terrified of free debate was an accusation made as well by the recently dismissed MSNBC commentator and longtime conservative Pat Buchanan. Buchanan discussed his firing by MSNBC with Fox's Sean Hannity here and here.

I called Mr. Griffin's office directly to get his comments on the Sharpton hate tapes. I was politely shuttled to MSNBC's Vice President of Communications, Jeremy Gaines. Who dutifully inquired as to my concerns.

This is what I said: 

Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for getting back.

As you may know, I did a piece on MSNBC and Al Sharpton today. 

With all the controversy over free speech, now amplified by the Limbaugh episode, the firing of Pat Buchanan etc., I thought a piece on Phil Griffin was in order. I want to see if I can pin down what are his ideas about "standards".

I have found, for example, this video clip of Rev. Sharpton calling someone a "punk faggot."

On top of his "Greek homos" remark, this seems to indicate a toleration by MSNBC of remarks many would see as an indication of homophobia. On top of the audio that has Mr. Sharpton spewing the "n-word" and calling the then-Mayor of New York a "n…..whore" I am curious as to Mr. Griffin's idea of standards for MSNBC.

Is Rachel Maddow, for example, aware that one of her fellow hosts called someone a "punk faggot" on national television?

You should know that I have also contacted Brian Roberts of Comcast to ask some of these same questions.

I am personally a strong believer in free speech. I believe audiences decide what and who they will listen to or watch. But it appears Mr. Griffin has a different view and I confess I'm somewhat confused as to what that is. There is a report that Mr. Griffin has said the Buchanan book did not belong in the public discourse. Is calling the Mayor of New York a "n…..whore" and a member of a television audience a "punk faggot" acceptable discourse for an MSNBC host?

Thanks.

I'm sure this is an uncomfortable line of questioning. But under the circumstances, it's a necessary one.

Mr. Gaines has replied, and here is his statement in its entirety on behalf of Phil Griffin and MSNBC:

As we said when we hired Rev. Sharpton, we didn't hire the Al Sharpton of 1989, we hired the Al Sharpton of 2011. As he has said as recently as on last Sunday's "Meet the Press," he has changed over the years and no longer uses the heated rhetoric of two decades ago. We have been clear and consistent in our actions, we hold our hosts accountable for what they say on our air.

I also contacted The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, through the show's spokeswoman,

Erika Masonhall. That e-mail said:

Hi Erika…

This is Jeff Lord with The American Spectator.

As you may know, I did a piece on MSNBC and Al Sharpton yesterday.

With all the attention NBC/MSNBC has been devoting to the Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke incident, I wanted to see if I can pin down Brian Williams' idea of standards for NBC News and its cable sibling, MSNBC. He appears on both networks, as do other NBC News personalities like Andrea Mitchell.

In light of all the coverage directed at Mr. Limbaugh, I am curious as to why the lack of coverage of moments like this one featuring MSNBC host the Reverend Al Sharpton calling someone -- on television -- a "punk faggot." This is on top of the audios I have listed in the above column in which Rev. Sharpton refers to "Greek homos" and spews the "n word." Collectively these things certainly leave the impression that NBC News, its parent company Comcast, and MSNBC in particular -- are turning a blind eye to what many would consider outrageous examples of both homophobia and racism.

I have also sent this inquiry to MSNBC president Phil Griffin and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.

My questions for Mr. Williams:

• I have a video of you appearing at an Al Sharpton event (here). The "punk faggot" video certainly existed before your appearance, as did common knowledge of Rev. Sharpton's "Greek Homo" remark and his spewing of the "n-word" in an attack on then-New York Mayor David Dinkins.

Rev. Sharpton is now a host on your network. Do you feel he is representative of the standards set by people like General Sarnoff [Note: this refers to General David Sarnoff, the legendary early leader of NBC], Huntley and Brinkley, John Chancellor, Tom Brokaw -- and now yourself?

• Why did you appear at this Sharpton event? Did you not know of your host's proclivity for these kind of remarks? Do you routinely make appearances of this nature at eventts where the host has a well recorded problem with what many would call homophobia and highly charged racial utterances?

• In light of the fact that NBC News and MSNBC have extensively reported on the Rush Limbaugh episode, why has there been no reporting of Reverend Sharpton's remarks in terms of how they would affect his presence as an on-air host at MSNBC?

Erica, thanks for your patience. My deadline is 4pm tomorrow, Thursday. I'm sure these are uncomfortable questions for Brian Williams. But clearly the subject of what is/is not appropriate conduct by hosts of radio/television shows has been raised by Mr. Limbaugh's critics. Reinforced by the dismissal by MSNBC president Phil Griffin of commentator Pat Buchanan over what has been said to be writings that do not belong in the "civil discourse" of American politics. There has been a move to force sponsors from Mr. Limbaugh's shows -- shows no more controversial to conservatives than Mr. Williams's broadcasts and those of MSNBC are to liberals.

The need to clear the air on NBC News standards, and those of MSNBC and Comcast, is apparent.

Thanks.

Ms. Masonhall did not respond for Mr. Williams, nor did Mr. Williams himself. (And also note: Yes, I typed an extra "t" on “events." Ah well. Spelling was good for me… typing not so much. Then again, it's not exactly like hiring a TV host who has a problem with "punk faggots"…)

A third e-mail was sent to the Chairman and CEO of Comcast -- the owner of NBC/Universal and of MSNBC. Brian Roberts is the ultimate boss of Phil Griffin, Brian Williams, and Reverend Sharpton.

That letter to Mr. Roberts' headquarters at the address supplied by Comcast read:

Hi....

This is Jeff Lord from The American Spectator.

I had a piece today on the apparent double standard with Comcast's MSNBC and their approach to free speech. Much has been made at MSNBC over Rush Limbaugh, yet I have found audio tapes of MSNBC's Al Sharpton castigating former Mayor Dinkins of New York using the "n" word, essentially spewing the "n word" in a speech. In another he refers to "Greek homos" and in still another "Chinamen" etc. The tapes are found here.

I'd like to talk with Brian Roberts about Comcast standards. The recent dismissal of longtime conservative commentator Pat Buchanan generated a press report that MSNBC president Phil Griffin didn't think Buchanan's recent book belonged in the public discourse. Yet somehow, when an MSNBC host -- on tape -- repeatedly uses a racist slur and refers to "Greek homos" etc. -- this seems to be of no concern to Comcast.

Mr. Roberts is the boss here. I would like to understand what seems to be a considerable disconnect when it comes to Comcast standards.

I will be working on an article on Mr. Griffin.

Thanks.

There has been no response from Comcast's Mr. Roberts.

THIS BLATANT DOUBLE STANDARD has drawn the attention of the ever-vigilant Brent Bozell over at the Media Research Center. Mincing no words, Bozell has called for Griffin's resignation.

Bozell focuses on another MSNBC talk show host, Ed "Laura Ingraham is a Right-Wing Slut" Schultz. And does so again in a second letter to Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts .

Began Bozell bluntly:

Dear Mr. Griffin,

Your network, working on marching orders from Media Matters, is on a mission to take Rush Limbaugh off the air. Far from being an independent journalistic enterprise, MSNBC is the very essence of a political lapdog of the far left."

After listing chapter and verse about Schulz, Bozell concludes:

A copy of this letter is being sent to Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast. Under separate cover we are sending him another letter, calling on him to take responsibility for employing you. We intend to take this message directly to the shareholders of Comcast as well. I doubt very much they want to have anything to do with race-baiting, hate-filled, character-assassinating misogynists.

Oh yes. Quicken Loans. Remember them? Quicken Loans was quick to jump off the sponsorship bandwagon of Rush Limbaugh with this statement:

Due to Rush Limbaugh's continued inflammatory comments -- along with the valued feedback we have received from our clients and team members -- Quicken Loans has suspended all advertising on the Rush Limbaugh radio program.

Got that? They want nothing to do with being a sponsor where a host makes "inflammatory comments." But yes, you guessed it. As of yesterday -- yesterday -- long after Quicken Loans made such a public fuss about not advertising on Rush's show because of a bad joke, Quicken Loans is indeed advertising on MSNBC -- home to Reverend Sharpton of the decidedly no joking around "punk faggot" fame. Not to mention the man of the "n-word" and more.

So, I asked Quicken Loans, through their media contact section of their website, this:

I notice you are running ads on MSNBC and presumably on NBC. 

Quicken Loans withdrew its advertising from Rush Limbaugh's show saying:

"Due to Rush Limbaugh's continued inflammatory comments -- along with the valued feedback we have received from our clients and team members -- Quicken Loans has suspended all advertising on the Rush Limbaugh radio program."

The American Spectator now has video tape of MSNBC Host the Reverend Al Sharpton on a television show calling an audience member a "punk faggot."

We also have audio tapes of this MSNBC host repeatedly referring to the then-Mayor of New York David Dinkins, a black man, as a "n..." and a "whore."

On another tape he refers to "Greek homos."

In view of these inflammatory remarks by an MSNBC host, which many see as both virulently homophobic and racist, the obvious question is: will Quicken be pulling its ads from MSNBC and NBC?

Thanks.

My deadline is 4pm today -- Thursday.

By hitting the submit button, I got this reply:

Your request has been received.

A member of the Quicken Loans public relations team will contact you shortly.

And that promise to contact me "shortly"?

You got it. Nada.

Just like Brian Williams. Just like Brian Roberts.

I know, you knew this would happen, right?

Here's the thing.

You may not have this particular story right here.

It seems that Sleep Train, the very first drop-Rush sponsor listed in the "Rally for Rush" story has now learned the very predictably very hard lesson of what happens when one is seduced by the siren of the organized left and their not so subtle campaigns to crash conservative talk radio.

Pushed by a leftist campaign, Sleep Train foolishly bought the goods and issued this statement:

As a diverse company, Sleep Train does not condone such negative comments directed toward any person. We have currently pulled our ads with Rush Limbaugh.

As I wrote at the time: 

Sleep Train: This gutless company says it has been advertising with Rush for 25 years. They should be ashamed of themselves. Absolutely ashamed. The founder of Sleep Mattress is Dale Carlsen.

Mr. Carlsen may be the salt of the earth, but he is about to give his employee-owned company and his employees an enormous, self-inflicted black-eye. Here's the information you need to reach Dale Carlsen.

And now? What of Sleep Train?

The Los Angeles Times tells us that Sleep Train, thanks to furious Rush Ralliers, has come crawling back to Rush begging -- begging -- to come back on the program.

And Rush said: no.

Specifically, a spokesman for Rush said in response to the begging-to return Sleep Train:

Unfortunately, your public comments were not well received by our audience, and did not accurately portray either Rush Limbaugh's character or the intent of his remarks. Thus, we regret to inform you that Rush will be unable to endorse Sleep Train in the future.

Taken in by the likes of MSNBC's Phil Griffin, unaware of the association between NBC anchor Brian Williams and Comcast/NBC's Al "punk faggot" Sharpton, unaware of the Daily Caller series linking MSNBC to its Media Matters ally, Sleep Train, plain and simple, got skunked.

And now, Dale Carlsen and his company are paying the price for this.

Conservatives, as the late Andrew Breitbart memorably noted in his last CPAC speech, are a different breed than they were in the day when Ronald Reagan's General Electric Theater was forced off the air by the Left in 1962 -- because then-actor Reagan had been critical of the Kennedy administration.

Said Breitbart: "Conservatives used to take it and we're not taking it anymore."

Indeed they don't. They understand exactly what Phil Griffin, Brian Williams (who, as I recall, was an intern in the Carter White House), Al Sharpton, and all their progressive buddies are up to. And they know that Brian Roberts sits at the top of the pyramid as the head of Comcast.

In this space? We believe in free speech. To borrow the phrase, we report, YOU decide.

Will you hear about this story by listening to Phil Griffin's MSNBC or The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams?

What do you think?

There's more to tell. And we will now be telling this story twice a week right here in The American Spectator.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.