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5 of the Biggest Hacks in American Media

Excerpted from Alex Pareene and Salon's 2011 Hack List, here are five of the worst, most predictable and least interesting pundits in America.

The Salon Hack List is a list of our least favorite political commentators, newspaper columnists, political news show hosts, and constant cable news presences, ranked roughly (but only roughly) in order of awfulness and then described rudely. Criteria for inclusion included being wrong about literally everything, shameless sycophancy, appearing on “Morning Joe” and being “Morning Joe.”

Last year, our countdown was based on each hack’s entire career. We’re still looking at their whole bodies of work, but we’re focusing on the hackiest thing each entrant did in this rapidly ending year.


1. Mark Halperin 

What more is there to say about Mark Halperin? He certainly hasn’t gotten any better  since last year, when a panel of experts (me) named him the world’s second biggest hack. He’s still wrong about everything. He’s still shallow and predictable. He’s still both fixated solely on the horse race and also uniquely bad at analyzing the horse race.

Halperin spent 2011 gearing up for the presidential elections by  parroting transparently lame spin from Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, insisting that Palin was really going to run for president and taking Trump’s farcical vanity “campaign” seriously as anything other than a time-wasting stunt. He  still takes Mark Penn seriously as a wise campaign sage and not an amoral grifter. And he got in trouble for calling President Obama a “dick” on “Morning Joe,” because the president criticized the GOP at a press conference. (This after Halperin spends years writing columns calling him a weak-willed wimp, because he is a Democrat.) The worst thing was not that he called the president a dick, it was that the president hadn’t even been dickish. (Well, the worst thing was the whole “Morning Joe” team giggling like stoned teenagers that Halperin said a bad word.) Halperin is so dedicated to being wrong about everything that, upon his return to the airwaves, he actually made a point of mentioning that, had he been on TV during his suspension,  he would’ve been wrong about something. Plus he  did a “Morning Joe” appearance from an airplane bathroom which is surely illegal.

All that’s left, really, is to proudly announce his ascension to the throne as worst hack in America.

Halperin’s worst low of the last year actually happened in 2010, but it occurred after the Hack 30 was finished, and is thus eligible for inclusion here. Immediately after it was announced that Elizabeth Edwards had died, MSNBC had Halperin on to eulogize her. Halperin did not mention  his integral role in the national smearing of Edwards as a harridan (“an abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending crazy-woman,” in the eyes of unnamed “insiders,” according to Halperin’s last book).

2. Erin Burnett

Erin Burnett was a perfect fit at CNBC, a business news network that interprets its mission as reporting  for business leaders and the finance industry and not  on them. A former Goldman Sachs analyst who also did a stint at Citigroup (business journalism might be worse than political reporting when it comes to team-switching and fraternizing among “sources” and “journalists”), Burnett epitomizes the CNBC worldview, where the ideal business journalist is a levelheaded interpreter of the omniscient market and ally of the wise men who’ve been enriched by it. Making the switch to being a news program host for us regular folk, on CNN, has not been without a couple of hitches for Ms. Burnett. Turns out, regular people don’t naturally perceive CEOs and bankers as heroic figures, especially in the midst of a mass employment and consumer debt crisis that the wealthy have escaped unscathed.

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