MSNBC chief lauds Sharpton but no job offer yet

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. (AP) - MSNBC’s possible hiring of the Rev. Al Sharpton doesn’t represent a conflict of interest for the cable channel, its president said.

“He’s been on MSNBC for all 15 years,” MSNBC President Phil Griffin added, noting Sharpton’s long track record with the channel.

Last year, Sharpton weighed in on behalf of Comcast Corp. as the government scrutinized the company’s ultimately successful takeover of NBCUniversal. Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network civil rights group, was among minority representatives approached by Comcast executives for support.

Comcast is the parent company of MSNBC, part of NBCUniversal.

Sharpton is doing a good job as a guest host for the 6 p.m. ET hour, the lead-in to MSNBC’s prime-time lineup that includes Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, Griffin told a meeting of the Television Critics Association.

But a decision about hiring Sharpton for the open spot has yet to be made, said Griffin, who appeared with host Laurence O’Donnell as well as Matthews and Maddow.

In a statement, MSNBC said that Comcast plays no role in the channel’s editorial decision-making or the selection of its hosts.

Cenk Uygur was host of the 6 p.m. hour filled for now by Sharpton. Sharpton has also been a guest and a guest host on Ed Schultz’s “The Ed Show” and “did a very good job and held the audience and fits in with the MSNBC audience sensibility,” Griffin said.

Matthews, whose “Hardball” is adjacent to the hour hosted by Sharpton, gave him a vote of support.

“If he gets the job I think he’ll do well,” said Matthews, who expressed satisfaction that Sharpton was holding the audience between airings of “Hardball” at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET.

Also Tuesday, Griffin announced that Maddow has signed a multiyear deal to remain with the network. She became an increasingly important part of the lineup after marquee host Keith Olbermann left and has seen her audience increase this year, averaging more than 1 million nightly viewers.

Olbermann commented recently that he might be interested in poaching Maddow for his new home, Current TV.

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