Al Sharpton's new MSNBC show 'PoliticsNation' isn't worth watching. Yet.

The Rev. Al Sharpton premiered PoliticsNation on MSNBC Monday evening with an hour of booming bombast and near-obliviousness, as he steam-rolled over his guests, interrupting them to ask long, halting questions. At one point he acted as though he was having an argument with his teleprompter and said with exasperation to a guest, “Well, let me just ask you my way: Is the Tea Party going to destroy the Republican Party?” Please, Al, can’t every question be asked your way?

It was an awkward 60 minutes, with a lurching pace that failed to play to Sharpton’s strengths. He raised interesting issues — about new efforts at voter suppression, for example — only to lead aimless discussions of them. Worse, he too frequently fell back on easy MSNBC targets, such as ridiculing Dick Cheney’s new book. Then there was this, directed at The Associated Press’ Kasie Hunt: “Let me ask you the PoliticsNation question of the night: Does [Mitt] Romney take down [Rick] Perry, or does he wait and have Perry take himself down?” The AP reporter actually snickered after the “PoliticsNation question of the night” bit, as well she should have.

I feel comfortable reviewing Sharpton after a mere single episode of PoliticsNation because he’s really been doing this same show in the same time period for weeks now, except the network was calling it MSNBC Live. As such, Sharpton should by now be better able to concentrate on and react to what a guest is saying rather than just running through his list of prepared questions, as he did most of the time on Monday.

MSNBC is going down a wayward road in hiring Sharpton, because it makes the channel look desperate to throw on its screen someone who’s a familiar media face. Sharpton is at this point primarily just a ratings ploy. The host sometimes seems ill-prepared by his producers: Last week, for example, Sharpton’s handling of the breaking-news coverage of Hurricane Irene was a fumbling mess. MSNBC has fared better with the try-outs it’s been giving to two other guests-turned-hosts: Melissa Harris-Perry, an academic, and Chris Hayes, of The Nation. Harris-Perry has had relatively little camera-time, but in her guest spots on Rachel Maddow’s show, she invariably makes cogent comments and offers fresh angles on a variety of political topics. Harris-Perry also has a puckish sense of humor that’s a good quality for any host, as she proved subbing for Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell recently; it’s clear MSNBC is readying her for a prime-time lift-off of her own. Hayes has morphed convincingly from a frowsy-haired opinion-spouter to a more neatly-groomed communicator who engages in debate in a brisk, confident manner.

PoliticsNation‘s Fox News competition is Special Report with Bret Baier, starring the suit-wearing side of beef who hammers home his points in a manner that’s the verbal equivalent of a welter-weight’s jab and punch sparring. On CNN, there’s The Situation Room, whose primary situation is that Wolf Blitzer can make any story seem simultaneously urgent and banal. You’d think it wouldn’t be that difficult to field a time-period contrast to take on these guys. But so far, Sharpton hasn’t found the format in which to do it.

The striking thing is, he obviously knows what’s wrong. He ended his debut by telling us he wasn’t going to be “a robot reading from the teleprompter robotically.” Neither, he said, was he going to fall back on his funky slick shtick, with its origins in James Brown, whom he used to manage. Good, Rev. Sharpton, that’s good to hear.

Furthermore, I don’t buy the criticism that MSNBC should have hired a journalist for Sharpton’s spot. After all, the channel’s best host, Maddow, had little-to-no journalistic experience when she started on first radio’s Air America and then MSNBC.

If he can ever become comfortable on-camera and expand his horizons, Sharpton may eventually bring to MSNBC the combination of intellect and passion that has made so many of his press conferences over the years little wonders of argument, controversy, hype, entertainment, and enlightenment. Whether he’ll ever reach that point on PoliticsNation remains to be seen. Or, depending on the ratings, not seen at all.

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (411 total) Add your comment
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  • greta

    At first I wasn’t sure about this show but I have grown to like it. He is honest, funny and yes, often looks unrehearsed. He is not afraid to tell it like it is. Al has the background of civil rights which is useful in these days of racial baiting.

    • Z

      Yeah because Sharpton has never engaged in race baiting. Jeez he’s built his entire career on it….

      • JohnT

        Well he is doing better then when he attended Tilden High School in Brooklyn. He was in my class, and he was calling himself a Reverend then. But he really lead a gang of thugs who would hold up the other students at knife point and take their money. I know this for a fact because I was one of his victims. No one would say anything because they knew his gang would get you if you reported it. So I have long admire this holy man. Hey Al did you enjoy by 12 bucks.

      • Tim

        He is so fake. And he looks high as a kite when he is interviewing guests. Be real.

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      • Vern

        You folks are so full of hate…a bunch of haters. Al is doing a great job on his new show and is not timid to get in the faces of these repugs/teaparty people. God for Al…keep up the good work and have your haters continue to do what they do best..which is HATE!!!!

      • Pat

        I had been going right along with Al in Politics Nation until now. We agree on many things politically, but if he wants to be a real leader he needed to show it right from the start in Ferguson instead of race-baiting.

    • Byron

      lol “tell it like it is”? Why is that always the description of idiots who just run at the mouth?
      Personally I think he’s a great fit on PMSNBC, another racist, partisan democrat disguised as a serious journalist

      • LOL

        GOP fears Maddow.

      • Mary Vaughn

        I love MSNBC and Al Sharpton. He is not afraid to stand up to those ridiculous Tea Bags or Republicans. But I do understand that you consider Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck serious journalists. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts.

      • Mike

        Yeah, if race-baiting Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck are any different.

        The only difference is that you won’t say that the aforementioned are “currently” making a living off of race-baiting.

        I’m so tired of people criticizing any Black person for rightfully calling out racism. When they do they’re considered to be “race-baiting” or “playing the race card.”

        When Abe Foxman and the Jewish community calls out someone, that person is automatically called an “Anti-Semite!”
        Enough is Enough!

      • Mike

        Again, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh? Do you consider them race-baiters?

        I thought so.

        Btw, for a group of people who claim to despise this man, I see that a lot of you have watched the show. Keep watching, it’s great for the ratings!

      • pamplin clayton

        To the person that said Rev. Al Sharpeton is fake why would you say that Rev. Al Sharpeton is.nt fake

      • Annie Jackson

        I love watching the show. I believe he brings out the facts to prove his point which we need..

    • Tim

      He reminds me of the way Lopez would interview guest on his late night show. It’s really boring, and doesn’t really ask any of the good questions. Keeps it really simple, which is a plus, but everything else about it says he’s not really being a journalist. It’s almost spin. But at least he isn’t as full of himself as Krudlow. Now I can’t stand Krudlow. Man, is he full of ___.

    • johnc

      What do you expect from Al Sharpton? Pulitizer-style interview.

      You pay what you get!!

    • KLH

      Only liked him on SNL with his Al Sharpton ??House of Ribs????? O/W he is a charlatan.

      • Pat

        I am now sick of Al Sharpton. I have watched Politics Nation since its beginning. After his stupidity in Ferguson I’ll never watch it again. Look for justice, Al, & wait for the full investigation & autopsy results!

    • Justin Poppiti

      Greta, race-baiting has been Sharpton’s job for 20 years.

    • jen

      I LOVE his show and waych it every night. MYOB, Entertainment Weekly, and stick to the Oscars and episodes of Jersey Shore.

      • Taft

        I agree..

      • angel

        so do i the only one’s i watch is on msnbc’ they rt only new’s station that tells t truth the only thing fox do is lie’ somany tea party republian’s belive them we have local news station’s that want even tell us about how t republians turned down t job’s offer 2t teaher’s t police’&firefighter’s who we all need i heard it 1 on thier tv that’s because t republian’sown most station so if u want the truth just keep watching mr sharpton

    • Vern

      Great show

      • crystal

        i don’t ever remembering AL SHARPTON talking about HATE he makes the republicans look stupid and thats why only republicans have negative things to say.They lie and he proves the lie POINT BLANK!

    • keith

      Al, I feel its time the middle class show support for those that are protesting on Wall Street and across this country. As long as the middle class continue to work each day for under paid and over worked jobs there is no threat for why the protestors are there. On Thursday, November 17, 2011 all middle class workers should not go to work. This will show solidarity and we as middle class want change! Many middle class workers now have multiple responsiblities on the jobs, yet have no raises for several years while the companies make more money. Its time the middle class stand up! Your show is a tremendous platform. Continue the great job your doing and allowing your vvoice to be heard for the people.

      • Michael

        Many middle class worker, had taken on multiple jobs and other task of keeping the under class in control.. this is what happen ! (you know) and this been going on for about 30 years are so..now what are we going to do?

    • angel

      i’am withu everything t man is saying is t truth t tea party republian’s dont care about t middle or t poor if u dont have rich written on our forehead they care less he only talk&tell us what realy is happing2 t 99er’s of this usa

      • ruth milcarek

        thank you AL SHARPTON FOR HAVING THAT MAN ON TELLING OF THE LIEUTENANT COLONEL THAT TOLD THE TRUTH ON WHAT IS GOING ON IN AFGHANISTAN. THE REPUBLICANS AND WEALTHY WANT TO KEEP A WAR GOING ON THERE, CAUSE IT MAKES THEM MONEY AT THE LIVES OF OUR MEN AND WOMEN. THEY SHOULD ALL COME HOME RIGHT NOW. aND I HOPE THAT THE GOVERNMENT DOESN’T STOP HIS BOOK FROM BEING SOLD. AND HE SHOULDN’T BE CHASTISED FOR TELLING THE TRUTH. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW THIS. I SURE HOPE A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE WATCHING WHEN THIS CAME ON. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. AND YES GOD BLESS AND RIP WHITNEY HUSTON. SHE WAS AWESOME AND A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN.

    • maxine

      I love al cause he keep it real!!!!

      • Robert

        It is hard enough to watch Al Sharpton witf his, ah,ah, ah, and his long winded self serving speeches.Now he has devoted two entire one hour prograhms to the killing of a Florida teenager, and although tragic it doesn’t deserve two hours. Lets get back to politics, or better yet , get rid of Al.

  • Z

    This charlatan has no business hosting any kind of show let alone a news/opinion show. One of his guests needs to ask him, and demand an aswer, when he plans on paying Steven Pagones the money he owes him for knowingly falsely accusing him of raping Tawana Brawley.

  • MaryJane

    I think that he’s one of the bright spots on these political shows. Sure, he’s a little unpolished, but I find him to be funny, refreshing and to the point, that’s exactly what is needed. I’m sick of hearing about those idiotic “government” hating hypocrites on Fox -pretend News, anybody who has Sarah Palin as a regular commentator has got to have the I.Q. of a 2 year old — squash that, that’s an insult to 2 year olds, even they have better sense than that.

    • Bill-O the Clown

      Fox is just for old racist shut-ins.

      • DGH

        You two just keep drinking the kool-aid.

      • @DGH

        Yeah, totally unlike you Fox-watching Palin-supporting teabaggers. If there was ever a group known for an ideology based in reality and facts, a group that is completely separate from untruths, exaggeration and hypocrisy, it’s the Republican party. Definitely no kool-aid drinking there.

      • angel

        that’s all they r tea party republians who r so full of hate &spikeness toward other people it’s ashame they make other people grow hate on people they dont know make up complete storys about everything never have facts just fictions i maynot b on the level i should b but i know what’s real &not real

    • nick

      Fox pretend News? Ummm have you heard about all the stroies and apologies from MSNBC news, and this joke named Sharpton which led a lynching of 4 people with tawana Skank Brawley and screwed the entire Duke lacrosse program over a stripper that lied and is now in jail for murder. But yeah he and MSNBC are all that- WOW is this country screwed with the idiots that watch this channel for more then 30 seconds.

      • Pat

        There is now one less idiot watching Politics Nation… me. I gave him a chance to move beyond the Tawana Brawley episode, but he’s back to the same old crap.. trying a case in the media “His Way”. No more Al 4 me!

    • concerned citizen–6146093

      You are right sometimes Al is a little cringe worthy, but he is funny, down to earth and is able to get this point across without being as insulting and rude as Fox’s Hannty, and Bill O’reilly, who won’t even let his guests answer and talks over everyone, very rude and crude.

  • Dirk

    I think he’s a good guest, but I don’t like him as the show host.

    • criminy

      He sucks in any capacity.

  • Toorawreggie

    You sir do not speak for the many men and women who are very aware of your disagreament. with Rev. Al. It is only your oppinion. And not our’s. Please wake up before it’s to late.

  • briguyx

    I’d rather see Michael Smerconish as a host. He’s much more comfortable on the air, as he showed filling in for Chris Matthews on “Hardball” today.

  • Redeyecat

    You know Sharpton must be terrible when even Tucker can’t give him a very good review. Ken you are an awful partisan hack, but congrats on finding an even more incompetent partisan hack to review in Rev. Sharpton. Btw, what does “suit-wearing side of beef who hammers home his points in a manner that’s the verbal equivalent of a welter-weight’s jab and punch sparring” even mean?

    • Michael

      TO ALL YOU HATERS… LEAN FORWARD AND KEEP IT REAL…BECAUSE REAL BLACK PEOPEL DO APPRECIATE THE REV. AL AND ALL THAT HE DOSE FOR THIS NATION. WE ALSO KNOW THAT WE SHOULDN’T DEPEND TOO MUCH ON ANYONE, IN THIS WORLD, BECAUSE EVEN YOUR OWN SHADOW LEAVES YOU WHEN YOU ARE IN DARKNESS… KEEPING IT REAL !

  • texkit1

    I miss Cenk Uygur from TYT who use to host. I use to make sure I watched every time he was on. I rarely watch news at that time anymore. I think MSNBC made a mistake in letting Cenk go. Luckily I can still see Cenk on TYT on youtube.

    • Alwi

      I bleveie this web site has some rattling good information for everyone. “I prefer the wicked rather than the foolish. The wicked sometimes rest.” by Alexandre Dumas.

  • Kmarko

    Al Sharpton on MSNBC. Really, what’s the point, you know, Ken? It MIGHT be watched by a few people who are absolutely predisposed to watch it. It won’t matter in any way.

  • Barack Palin

    I think MSNBC would be better served if it put on “What’s Up With That” from SNL in its place. Al Sharpton, puhleeze-why is that hatemongert getting a platform to spew his racial hatred. Sad. But its MSNBC so I’m sure it will be watched by dozens of people.

    • Ghost of Pia

      You fear truth.

      • DGH

        If your watching MSNBC or FoxNews for the truth then you’re an idiot and it actually makes sense as to why so many people are clueless about politics in this country.

    • Taft

      Hater..

    • ImGay

      NCR and its “editorials” are a joke. You can asmlot do a mad lib with the liberal diatribes that come out of that “Catholic” news source. I don’t even visit the site anymore. I always come away shaking my head at the lack of historical knowledge and the lack of critical thinking skills of its columnists.

  • Barack Palin

    BTW, whatever became of Tawana Brawley?

    • cg

      Exactly. What a racist charlatan.

      • LeeWaller

        She is a thing of the past…where are all the Iraq people that were murdered by a lying Bush/Cheney administration…huh?

      • Scooby

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  • joseph

    I agree Ken, Melissa Harris-Perry seems to be getting ready for something and I hope MSNBC is smart and keeps her around! She is smart, funny, and on point.

  • Last 7 Rows

    Sharpton is an unintelligible, racist hack that would look far more natural barking at passersby outside of an old 42nd Street sleaze joint. He is a disgusting embarrassment that should have been shamed into infamy’s black hole long ago.

    • Bill-O the Clown

      Fox: We Distort You Comply ®

    • anita

      That is why so many of you all never get the point. That is why so many of you all never get the point. Instead of showing your ignorant, you blatantly put it all out there for other to read. Grow up and learn how to respect people in general. Are you an inspiring Politian?

    • Nilesh

      As the bigaooicll solution slowly takes it course they go screaming to their end, may God have mercy on them for they know not what they do.

  • ken X

    For the smart people, If the Japanese,the Germans, and the Jewish people can receive their reparations , why can’t the Black Americans receive their ancestors reparations? The truth to this tells all!!

    • cg

      I am Jewish and have received no reparations. Black aAmericans receive reparations every day. It is called Affirmative Action.

      • sally

        or Welfare.

      • LOURDES BIGAY

        NO BECAUSE JEWISH PEOPLE HAVE ALL THE MONEY ANY WAY AND AS FAR AS BLACK PEOPLE RECIEVE WELFARE GET IT RIGHT MORE WHITE PEOPLE RECEIVES WELFARE . i KNOW BECAUSE AT ONE TIME I WORKED FOR THE CITY.

      • Lee

        cg and sally ,did you know that white women benefitted more from affirmative action than any other race?Bet you didn’nt know that did you?

      • Brooklyn

        I’m a case worker in Brooklyn NY Welfare office.. There more jews on the welfare roll than you would think.. And they have ALOT of kids…

    • jack

      None of you have to watch Al Sharpton, just go back to your racist Fox channel and be happy. You have the nerve to talk about MSNBC, when Fox is so unreal. When was the last time you watch those liars on Fox. Looks like to me you like watching Al, you seem to know so much about whats he’s doing on MSNBC. Keep watching haters and build up his ratings…lol (stupid people)

      • Ash

        Sharpton is not even intelligent opinion. He can’t even read a Teleprompter right. At least Obama can read a Teleprompter somewhat correctly. Also why is it that if you don’t like Sharpton somehow you’re a Fox News watcher?

      • LOURDES BIGAY

        i LOVE HIS SHOW SO ALL OF YOU HATER KEEP ON WATCHING THE SHOW AND COMPLAINING ABOUT IT SO IT WILL STAY ON THE AIR. gIVE THEM hELL aL.

      • Taft

        Agreed…..

      • arte azenzer

        Al,
        Being in the entertainment business since my teenage years and with a good track record, I can smell a scam artist who has done nothing (NADA!!!!) of value for the “Black” community which you would have them believe you represent.
        It is my opinion that you are a bigoted hateful individual who capitalizes on the less fortunate members of “your” community.
        I have witnessed for years your antics and boasts that supposedly would improve the lives of those you represent.
        For example: A few years back you represented a young black lady that claimed she was raped by three white college students. You were all over the place claiming “racism”.
        It was later revealed that the woman admitted lying.
        You raised all kinds of hell, and because of your zeal for “honesty and integrity” you almost ruined three young individuals.
        It was not for your “honesty and integrity”.
        It was a tool to maintain your stature.
        You’ve never had the decency, honesty and integrity to apologize for that injustice that you contributed to.
        It is a fact that to be a “Leader” one has to have “followers”. The problem with you is that you want your followers to “remain” followers.
        It is also a shame that you knock presidential candidate Herman Cain who wants the “Black” man/woman to think and act for themselves rather than your rhetoric to think and act as you want them to.
        Your track record is a sham.
        As far as I’m concerned, you have zero credibility.
        I’m tuning you out.

  • james

    Wow msnbc has finally reached an all time low…hiring a liberal african american racist who is the barnum and bailey of religion… i knew msnbc’s rating’s were in the toliet but now they have finally flushed any credibility they ever had which by the way was zero to begin with…thatnk god for foxnews,,,

    • Mary Vaughn

      This coming from people who are trying to push Rick Perry (Elmer Gantry ) on us for President. Or the Tea Bags with cartoon signs that show a KKK member hanging O’Bama at the end of a rope . Or one that says monkey see monkey spend etc. No racisim there right.

      • Taft

        Yessssss..

      • Taft

        U R so right…..

    • Saudia

      If you knew what the word racist means you won’t consider Rev Al racist.

      • Rosie Parsons

        Racisim is all of sudden becoming a house hole word again how can just a few people not get it there kids are going behind there backs to be with the person they love and they are not White the past is over and I am not going back.

      • lesa

        lol, call a spade a spade, and I’m calling it…this includes u also….racist means gop’s aint no bones about it…so don’t try to turn it around on Rev. Sarpton…this is plain to see who is who….gottcha

      • lesa

        Rev. Sharpton…there are many who r haters because they don’t like to hear the truth about their party (gops) so they call u a racist….I call you the man who tells the news in truth and honesty..so it is to their ignorence to say such thing…how come its so that some people don’t like to hear the truth…it ailienates them…..gets them on the defense of lying again….who’s racist….gop’s I’ll say its everdent that they are….truth

    • Vern

      To James:
      You poor misguided soul. spoken like a true teabagger!! LOL!!!

      • edna

        pay attention to Mr. Sharpton people he is one of the few people that will call the republican out on the lies. You idiots are going to be very sorry if mitt romney wins this election. I believe they would throw anybody in the race, as long he is white.

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