Columns

Lawrence O’Donnell: Maybe Bernie Never Coming on Show Has to Do with 10 p.m. Hour

MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell attends The Miami Book Fair on Nov. 13, 2017, in Miami, Fla. (Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Lawrence O’Donnell, host of The Last Word on MSNBC, said viewers accused him of taking sides during the 2016 presidential campaign but he fairly covered both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Hillary Clinton, adding that neither politician ever accepted an invitation to appear on his show.

“I am just going to leave you with this one note about how much Bernie coverage 10 p.m. has at MSNBC: As far as I know, we did a reasonable and fair amount of sharing that coverage between the Clinton and Sanders campaign but Bernie Sanders, to this day, has never once accepted an invitation to come on my show. So, if you would like to see him there, I am not the person to ask about that,” O’Donnell said at Politics and Prose during a recent discussion about his new book, Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics.

“I don’t know if it’s the 10 p.m. thing, you know – when I am his age I am not going to be doing this at 10 p.m., I guarantee you – I don’t know. At the same time, Hillary Clinton has never accepted an invitation to appear on MSNBC at 10 p.m., either, but that didn’t stop Twitter from every night during the Democratic campaign accuse me in equal amounts of being completely pro-Bernie and hateful of Hillary, and completely pro-Hillary and hateful of Bernie. There was no conceivable way for me to cover that and get any other reviews,” he added.

O’Donnell applauded John Kerry, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders of the “antiwar movement” during the Vietnam War for saving lives by “forcing” the government to pull U.S. troops out of the country.

“The peace movement won. The peace movement drove U.S. forces out of Vietnam, not the North Vietnamese army. American politics responded slowly to protests so it took several years for the peace movement to win,” O’Donnell said, reading a portion of his book. “How many more would have died? The millions of men and women who were active in the peace movement saved lives by forcing the war to end sooner than it would have if they hadn’t taken to the streets in protests, something most of them had never done before for anything.”

O’Donnell urged the public not to trust the U.S. government.

“I don’t think you should trust the Senate. I don’t think you should trust senators. I think it’s nice if you don’t insult them and say nasty things to them, but I would say that’s true of anyone you see on the bus today. Just don’t do it. Trust is the biggest mistake I think you can make with government. Make them earn it – that’s why we have elections as frequently as we do,” he said. “The press doesn’t trust government and that’s the best thing about the press. The press should not trust government and shouldn’t trust the people who populate it.”

O’Donnell called trusting government a “fantasy.” As an example to support his position, O’Donnell said the public should accept Supreme Court decisions without trusting them.

“It’s a romantic notion about us being able to relinquish all the energy it takes to police government as citizens and just say, ‘ah, now I trust it.’ Don’t do that,” he said.

O’Donnell weighed in on the controversy surrounding GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama after the Washington Post first published a story involving four women accusing Moore of sexual misconduct or acting inappropriately dating back to 1979, leading additional women to come forward. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who endorsed Moore in the primary race against Luther Strange, said the Washington Post’s decision to publish the story shows why he thinks the media is the “opposition party.”

“The Bezos Amazon Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump is the same Bezos Amazon Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore,” Bannon said, referring to the 2005 Access Hollywood tape of Donald Trump talking about grabbing women’s genitals. “Now is that a coincidence? That’s what I mean when I say opposition party, right?”

O’Donnell was asked for his assessment of the Moore controversy.

“Well, if Steve Bannon said it, it must be right. We’ll just have to take his word for it. Well, you know, look, as it stands tonight, it’s one of those things that’s pretty fast-moving but there’s kind of a flash poll that’s out in Alabama tonight after 24 hours of this that shows the two candidates tied now, so that’s a pretty big drop for Moore. I don’t have any predictions for things that are still hot live news events. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I certainly have never before predicted the outcome of an election in Alabama,” O’Donnell said in response to a question from PJM.

“And here’s how much I know about it. When I was serving [as an aide] in the Senate, both of the senators from Alabama were Democrats, OK? So what do I know about the current life in Alabama?” he added. “You can do the write-in, and that’s how Murkowski held on to her seat in Alaska as a write-in, so write-ins work as I discovered in writing this book. LBJ won New Hampshire as a write-in candidate because, as you said, they didn’t even bother to put him on the ballot. It wasn’t supposed to be a contest.”