“I’ve known Rev. Sharpton for over a decade and have tremendous respect for him,” said MSNBC president Phil Griffin in a statement. “I’m thrilled that he’s now reached a point in his career where he’s able to devote himself to hosting a nightly show.”
The announcement comes a month after Cenk Ugyur, who had been filling in on the 6pm hour since January excoriated the network for not making him the permanent host.
A presence on television for more than two decades, mostly for his work as a civil rights activist, this will be Sharpton’s first regular TV hosting job. But he does not come without baggage (but then, neither did this guy).
Rev. Sharpton, who has been a preacher since the age of four and an activist since age 15 when he began working with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, may be remembered most for his role in the Tawana Brawley case. In 1987, then 14-year-old Brawley accused six white men of assault and rape in a town in upstate New York. Sharpton made national news for his illimitable support for her claims. But a grand jury ruled she made it all up. Sharpton was later successfully sued for making defamatory statements about three of the men accused of the assault, including the District Attorney overseeing the case.
In his statement on being named 6pm host, Sharpton seems to acknowledge his past, while also recognizing MSNBC’s future: “I am very happy and honored to join the MSNBC team as we collectively try to get America to ‘Lean Forward.’
We all learn from our pain and stand up from our stumbling and one must either learn to lean forward or fall backwards,” says Sharpton. “I’m glad they have given me the opportunity to continue my forward lean.”
Past hosts of the MSNBC 6pm hour over the last 15 years include Ed Schultz, Dan Abrams, and Laura Ingraham.
Matt Saal is the executive producer of “PoliticsNation.”