https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/20202/13265527

Faiz Shakir had seen enough. As summer turned to fall, and the 2020 Democratic presidential race entered the stretch run before the first caucuses and primaries, Shakir, who manages Bernie Sanders’s campaign, approached MSNBC president Phil Griffin to discuss his concerns with the network’s treatment of the Vermont senator’s second White House bid. “We watched a ton of terrible coverage occurring and we thought we’d at least try to address it,” he recalled.

For months, the campaign bristled at slights from MSNBC’s stable of hosts and commentators. Jason Johnson, an MSNBC contributor, predicted in January 2019 that Sanders would drop out by August, and network analyst Mimi Rocah said in July that Sanders made her “skin crawl.” On-screen graphics have omitted Sanders and misrepresented his poll numbers, a trend that inspired a sendup from the Onion.

“It’s been a struggle to change the tone and the tenor of the coverage that we receive,” Shakir said in an interview. “They’ve been among the last to acknowledge that Bernie Sanders’s path to the nomination is real, and even when it’s become real, they frequently discount it.” (A study from progressive magazine In These Times buttresses Shakir’s critique). Sanders also attended the off-the-record discussion with Griffin; an MSNBC spokesperson said the network has hosted similar meetings with other Democratic candidates. Shakir said the 30 Rock chat was “open” and “cordial,” but now, months later, he’s “not sure it really changed anything.”

Sanders has long contended that the agenda of “corporate media” doesn’t necessarily reflect the people’s needs, and his 2020 campaign has doubled as a rolling media criticism shop. On Twitter, Sanders’s speechwriter David Sirota, a veteran reporter, has become a one-man rapid-response machine; last week, he chided a New York Times reporter for downplaying Sanders’s victory in the New Hampshire primary. Several key campaign figures hail from the media’s left flank: deputy campaign manager Ari Rabin-Havt (Media Matters), national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray (The Intercept), and Shakir (ThinkProgress). Sanders himself has suggested that the Washington Post “doesn’t write particularly good articles about” him because of his efforts to raise the minimum wage at Amazon, the company founded by the newspaper’s owner, Jeff Bezos. He’s also railed against networks taking Big Pharma ads while on the debate stage.

Entering Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas, which will be cohosted by MSNBC and NBC News, the ongoing tension between the titular liberal cable news network and the current Democratic front-runner has only intensified, and appears symptomatic of generational and ideological rifts within the party. It is at once a test of both MSNBC’s influence over the process and Sanders’s ability to withstand establishment resistance. Shakir said unflattering coverage on MSNBC has been “actively damaging” to the campaign. “The constant diminishment of Bernie Sanders on MSNBC,” he added, “hurts his case for electability.”

Sanders’s legion of very online supporters are quick to share clips and gripes after any perceived slight against Sanders. The anti-Bernie highlight reel grew in recent weeks, with some moments verging on parody. Joy Reid hosted a body-language expert who said Sanders’s posture revealed that he was “lying” about a recent dispute with Elizabeth Warren. Chris Matthews’s appearances, meanwhile, have become appointment viewing for his anguished warnings about Sanders. On the day of the Iowa caucuses, a glum Matthews invoked the ghost of George McGovern in forecasting a wipeout for Sanders in the general election. “Bernie Sanders is not going to be president of the United States, okay?” Matthews declared. Following the most recent debate in New Hampshire, Matthews breathlessly offered another history lesson. “I have my own views of the word socialist and I’d be glad to share them…They go back to the early 1950s. I have an attitude about them. I remember the Cold War,” Matthews said. “I have an attitude towards [Fidel] Castro. I believe if Castro and the Reds had won the Cold War there would have been executions in Central Park and I might have been one of the ones getting executed. And certain other people would be there cheering, okay?”

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