In the days since its decision to sever ties with contributor Sam Seder, MSNBC says it has listened to the backlash and, in a surprising move, reversed course. Seder, who hosts The Majority Report, is now “welcome” on the network’s air going forward, EW has confirmed, after Seder was previously informed that he had no additional “scheduled appearances” until his contract expired in February.
“Sometimes you just get one wrong — and that’s what happened here,” MSNBC president Phil Griffin said in a statement. “We made our initial decision for the right reasons — because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about. But we’ve heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward.”
The initial decision to not renew Seder’s contract as a contributor was made in the wake of right-wing media resurfacing a controversial joke the progressive commentator and radio host tweeted in 2009, about rape accusations made against Roman Polanski. (The tweet has since been deleted.) “Don’t care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scene,” Seder tweeted in 2009. The comments became controversial after Mike Cernovich, a far-right, pro-President Trump activist, recirculated them.
MSNBC was heavily criticized for what many saw as reading the comments in bad faith, per Cernovich’s framing and not Seder’s intent, which was to satirize the talking points of liberals who have refrained from condemning Polanski. (In 1977, Polanski was charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. He pled guilty to the charge of statutory rape.) All In host Chris Hayes broke with his network on the decision, vocally tweeting support of Seder.
In an interview with EW on Tuesday, Seder sharply criticized MSNBC’s decision to cut ties with him and defended the tweet, saying his only regret was that he deleted it. “We tune in to news companies for them to give us some sense of grounded assessment of what the truth is,” he said. “If MSNBC cannot make an assessment of what words mean, but are cowed by a man who has a reputation … If a news outlet cannot make the assessment of what the reality is in that moment, then there is only ‘fake news’ and this society’s in big trouble.” Seder also said he had not been formally notified of MSNBC’s final decision outside of a voicemail which was not followed up on, leading him to wonder about the status of his role at the network. (He’s employed on a paid-per-appearance scale, and is on his third annual contract.)
Accordingly, Seder expressed satisfaction with MSNBC’s decision to keep him at the network. “I appreciate MSNBC’s thoughtful reconsideration and willingness to understand the cynical motives of those who intentionally misrepresented my tweet for their own toxic, political purposes,” he said in a statement. “We are experiencing an important and long overdue moment of empowerment for the victims of sexual assault and of reckoning for their perpetrators. I’m proud that MSNBC and its staff have set a clear example of the need to get it right.”