MSNBC Rehires Contributor Sam Seder: ‘Sometimes You Just Get One Wrong’
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MSNBC pulled an abrupt about-face on Thursday, announcing that it had rehired a contributor just days after it fired him when far-right activists drew attention to an inflammatory tweet he posted in 2009.
“Sometimes you just get one wrong — and that’s what happened here,” Phil Griffin, the cable network’s president said in a statement on Thursday announcing that the cable network had rehired Sam Seder, a political commentator and host of the “Majority Report” podcast.
The episode began late last month when Mike Cernovich, the far-right activist, resurfaced a tweet sent by Mr. Seder in 2009 that was meant to mock supporters of the film director Roman Polanski.
Mr. Seder’s tweet, which has since been deleted, was posted shortly after Mr. Polanski, who pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old, was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 in connection with that crime.
As some spoke out to support Mr. Polanski, most prominently the French culture and foreign ministers, Mr. Seder posted a cutting parody of a statement defending the director.
“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,” Mr. Seder’s tweet said.
Eight years later, Mr. Cernovich, an activist who pushed the #Pizzagate conspiracy theory, helped draw attention to the tweet and began to hound MSNBC’s media relations department and other journalists about Mr. Seder.
Mr. Cernovich did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On his podcast, Mr. Seder accused Mr. Cernovich of attempting to silence his frequent criticism of President Trump and the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
After MSNBC fired Mr. Seder, thousands of people signed a petition in protest, arguing that Mr. Cernovich had acted in bad faith, taking Mr. Seder’s tweet, which was meant to be satire, out of context.
Chris Hayes, one of the network’s star hosts, went public with his anger about MSNBC’s treatment of Mr. Seder, though he did not mention Mr. Seder by name.
“I reiterate my longstanding position that people shouldn’t be fired for a tweet, *particularly* one that is obviously being read in manifestly bad faith,” Mr. Hayes tweeted on Monday.
On Thursday, MSNBC walked back its position.
“We made our initial decision for the right reasons — because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about,” Mr. Griffin said in his statement. “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.”
Mr. Seder also released a statement, saying, “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 elaborated in a phone interview, saying of MSNBC: “I think they messed up, and I think they hopefully learned a lesson that you have to make an assessment on the substance. Media outlets in general have been very reluctant to do that, and I think it’s become so much more important in this era, both because of technology and because of, frankly, the depravity of some elements of our society.”
Follow Jonah Engel Bromwich on Twitter: @Jonesieman.