In a dramatic reversal, MSNBC has decided to bring back Sam Seder as a contributor, days after the two sides parted ways over an old tweet of Seder’s that had drawn right-wing criticism.
Seder, a progressive commentator who also hosts his own daily radio show, said that he will accept the network’s offer.
“I appreciate MSNBC’s thoughtful reconsideration and willingness to understand the cynical motives of those who intentionally misrepresented my tweet for their own toxic, political purposes,” Seder said in a statement. “We are experiencing an important and long overdue moment of empowerment for the victims of sexual assault and of reckoning for their perpetrators. I’m proud that MSNBC and its staff have set a clear example of the need to get it right.”
MSNBC president Phil Griffin said in a statement that the network had erred in its decision.
“Sometimes you just get one wrong — and that’s what happened here. We made our initial decision for the right reasons — because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about,” Griffin said. “But we’ve heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward.”
The news, first reported by The Intercept, marks a swift and remarkable turnabout for MSNBC, which was criticized for the decision.
On Monday, the network said that it would not renew Seder’s contributor contract due to a provocative joke he told on Twitter in 2009.
In the tweet, Seder mocked defenders of the filmmaker Roman Polanski, a director who pleaded guilty to statutory rape after being charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.
“Don’t care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scene,” Seder said at the time.
The tweet went largely unnoticed for nearly a decade — until last week, when the far-right activist Mike Cernovich dredged it up and spearheaded a pressure campaign against MSNBC.
Cernovich, a central figure behind a bizarre and false conspiracy theory that linked Hillary Clinton’s campaign to a supposed child sex ring inside a pizza shop, was triumphant when news broke on Monday that the network was parting with Seder.
But the decision was met with a negative reaction throughout the media world — and inside the halls of MSNBC. One senior MSNBC employee, speaking with CNNMoney on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, called the move “really weak” and “pathetic.” And many journalists were appalled that the network would capitulate to Cernovich and his misreading of the tweet.
Seder defended the tweet to MSNBC brass last week, but to no avail. He learned his fate was sealed when he was informed on Monday of a forthcoming story by The Wrap, which said that MSNBC would not renew his contract in February.
But on Wednesday night, Seder told CNNMoney, he received a phone call from Griffin telling him the network wanted him back.
In a phone interview Thursday morning, Seder said he believes MSNBC “got a little bit duped,” but that he has no hard feelings toward the network. The same can’t be said for Cernovich, however.
“Mike Cernovich is not everything that’s wrong with society, but he is definitely the low hanging fruit of what’s wrong with society,” Seder said.
Seder said earlier this week that advertisers on his talk show, “Majority Report,” had also faced pressure over the tweet, prompting him to launch a GoFundMe campaign. He planned on using a portion of the proceeds to produce a short film detailing Cernovich’s background. The idea, he said, is to educate other media organizations facing pressure from Cernovich.
On Thursday, Seder shut the GoFundMe campaign down — but the film will still be made.
“If he does this again,” Seder said of Cernovich, “people can just flood the zone with it.”
Just as he had earlier in the week when MSNBC dropped Seder, Cernovich struck a celebratory note on Thursday after the network changed course.
“I’m thrilled MSNBC has made the decision that people shouldn’t be fired over satirical tweets,” Cernovich said on Twitter. “This rule will surely be applied equally to all sides, and if it’s not, we will bring Sam Seder’s Tweet out every time the media goes after someone else for a Tweet.”
— CNNMoney’s Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy contributed reporting.