Politico report reveals why Lawrence O'Donnell is now a 'valuable star' under Biden
When Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show was up for renewal in 2017, viewers wondered whether the liberal-leaning cable news channel would renew it or cancel it. MSNBC decided to renew O’Donnell’s show, which according to Politico’s Max Tani, was a wise decision — as O’Donnell has given MSNBC a “direct line” to the Biden White House.
“When his contract renewal was in doubt four years ago, Lawrence O’Donnell begged his viewers to help keep him on the air at MSNBC,” Tani explains in a Politico article published this week. “Now, as the left-leaning network’s prime-time lineup is at its most unstable point in a decade, the 70-year-old anchor has inadvertently become MSNBC’s most valuable star — or, at least, its most dependable one, owing to the rare, direct line he enjoys into the Biden White House.”
The instability in MSNBC’s prime-time lineup has included the departures of two of its top stars: Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow. Williams left “The 11th Hour,” and while Maddow isn’t leaving MSNBC altogether, she is leaving her nightly program “The Rachel Maddow Show” (which airs at 9 p.m. eastern time, Monday through Friday, and comes on before O’Donnell’s show). After her nightly show ends in 2022, Maddow will host a weekly program on MSNBC. The Daily Beast reported, in August, that Maddow’s new $30-million-a-year contract with MSNBC would give her a “more flexible schedule.”
O’Donnell, meanwhile, will remain in his 10 p.m. slot in 2022.
“As other programs have struggled to break out of the post-Trump slump that has tanked ratings and left some shows straining to find the urgency that drove programming during the previous administration,” Tani observes, “(O’Donnell) has found a unique role as the Biden team’s go-to anchor on MSNBC. O’Donnell’s decades-long relationship with President Joe Biden and his chief of staff, Ron Klain, has paid off handsomely, making the MSNBC host one of the White House’s only go-to news anchors and granting him rare on-camera access…. O’Donnell has become a surprising point of continuity.”
Tani notes that O’Donnell’s relationship with Biden goes back to the 1990s when the president was a U.S. senator. At the time, O’Donnell was a legislative aide to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.
“After burnishing his institutionalist credentials as a writer and actor on Aaron Sorkin’s 90s drama ‘The West Wing,’ O’Donnell continued to mine his Biden connections as he rose through the ranks as a guest and later host on MSNBC,” Tani recalls. “When he became a full-time host on MSNBC in 2010, the main guest during his first show was, naturally, Biden.”
Like many of his MSNBC colleagues, O’Donnell has been a scathing critic of former President Donald Trump — who “fostered a years-long grudge against the MSNBC host,” according to Tani.
“Trump repeatedly lobbied former MSNBC head Phil Griffin to fire O’Donnell, telling him that O’Donnell was a ‘third-rate anchor,’” Tani writes. “Griffin declined to do so, Biden won office, and O’Donnell is now the steady ship in a network — and industry — experiencing its fair bit of turbulence.”
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