Way Too Bad!

Published: May 7, 2014

By Jim Lichtman
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In search of ratings gold, television networks always seem willing to go to most any length to degrade the state of the medium; (I still can’t get past NBC’s cable-owned Bravo’s Real Housewives series); but television news shows are supposed to be different, right?

Just when you think bad programming cannot get any worse, MSNBC jumps the shark … big time!

On Monday, the cable network, also owned by NBC, attempted to liven-up their morning show Way Too Early with a bang by celebrating Cinco de Mayo in what will likely go down in television history as the most offensive news show holiday offering to date.

The 5:30 am (EST) show begins with anchor Thomas Roberts shaking a maraca and saying, “Welcome to ‘Way too Early,’ the show that loves Cinco de Mayo…even though we only speak Spanish un poco.”

It gets worse.

Roberts, billed as both journalist and anchor, tells viewers to make a drinking game out of it. “We want you to take a shot of tequila every time we talk about the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.”

It gets worse.

Wearing a sombrero, reporter Louis Burgdorf announces, “Happy Cinco de Mayo,” then takes a swig of an unknown liquid from a shot glass, adding, “Let me just take a shot to get things started.”

… even worse.

Over Roberts stand-up reporting, Burgdorf continues to dance in front of Roberts while chugging an amber-colored liquid presumably from a bottle of tequila. Roberts ends his report on a White House celebration of the day to tell Burgdorf, “You have to drink the whole thing and eat the worm!”

Despite the fact that the cable show airs very early, thanks to a little thing called… the Internet, millions who missed the live broadcast had a chance to watch the disastrous program again and again and pass it on to millions more.

As you might image, reaction was swift.

“This is simply the worst example I have seen of a discriminatory stereotypical portrayal of any community by any media,” said Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. “The fact that this was done by a news organization is abominable.

“This wasn’t a chance occurrence. This was a planned segment where many journalists agreed on the content and execution which concluded on what was seen nationwide. It feeds the ignorant misconceptions of a rich and proud people who unfortunately are too often portrayed as caricatures to be scoffed at.

“NAHJ denounces the actions taken by MSNBC’s “Way Too Early” team for their capricious actions, lack of judgment, insensitivity and attack at the Mexican community.

“NAHJ demands that the employees involved in the planning and production of this segment be disciplined and made to publicly apologize for their actions.”

In a statement, MSNBC said, “On Monday, Cinco De Mayo,Way Too Early made sarcastic references to the way some Americans celebrate the holiday. It was not our intention to be disrespectful and we sincerely apologize for the ill-advised references.”

Not your intention?

Watching the video, the only impression I came away with was completely consistent with a boat load of shameful typecasting. How any producer could allow a news anchor to participate in something like this is beyond belief. And for Roberts to contribute to the mockery not only degrades the reputation of the network but his own standing as a journalist.

MSNBC promised an on-air apology Wednesday morning. I can only hope that it is more carefully produced and hopefully, comes with a great deal more humility.

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