Q: How did you get started at MSNBC?
Uygur: They had an opening at 10 p.m., and we decided to do a campaign to get that slot. Fans of our radio and online shows were unbelievable. They sent e-mails, pictures of themselves with signs “TYT on MSNBC,” they photoshopped mountains with “TYT on MSNBC.” There was a poll on TVNewser and we weren’t on it, so they demanded we were. They put us in the poll, and we crushed the field; we literally beat everyone else combined: Bill Maher, Rosie O’Donnell, Michael Moore. Someone said, “It’s not fair because your audience is too large” [laughs]—I thought, “Yeah, that’s the point.” Our fans got us a meeting at MSNBC with Phil Griffin, the head of the network. I started doing fill-in hosting in 2010, and then in the very beginning of 2011 I was basically called off the bench to start hosting at 6 p.m., from January to July.
Q: So after half a year there with your own show, why did you leave MSNBC?
Uygur: I was told, of course, as with everyone on television, if you get good ratings and generally follow the rules, you’ll get a show. That’s exactly what happened. I had a conversation with Phil Griffin, and he said I’d done everything he’d asked me to do and my ratings were clearly good. My last quarter at MSNBC beat Ed Schultz’s numbers from the year before, and Ed Schultz is terrific. But I didn’t get the slot, and they told me they were going to move me to the weekends.
I believe the reason for that was a conversation I’d had with them a couple months before. Phil had called me into his office and told me I needed to act more like the establishment, that MSNBC was not outsiders—they were insiders. And that people in Washington were not happy with my tone. I challenged the establishment every night, obviously the Republicans, but also the Democrats. I didn’t want to stay at a network under those constraints.
Q: So it was your decision to leave?
Uygur: Oh, absolutely, yeah.
This is but a small excerpt of the Uygur interview in the August issue of The Progressive. To read the interview in its entirety, and to get the whole issue (which includes an essay by Wendell Berry and a post-mortem on Wisconsin by Ruth Conniff), simply subscribe today at 75% off the newsstand price. It's like getting 9 issues of this monthly magazine FREE.