MSNBC has decided not to renew its contract with contributor Sam Seder, The Wrap reported Monday, handing an apparent win to a bad faith campaign by pro-Trump media figure Mike Cernovich.
Citing a network spokesperson and a “person familiar with the situation,” The Wrap suggests MSNBC was responding to outcry over a Roman Polanski-related joke Seder tweeted eight years ago.
The decision comes about a week after Cernovich wrote on Medium that Seder “endorses Polanski’s sex crimes.” In a transparently disingenuous reading of an obvious attempt at satire, the Pizzagate conspiracy theorist who occasionally rubs shoulders with mainstream journalists—and who has a history of revolting comments about rape—framed Seder’s decision to delete the gross attempt at humor as a “cover-up.”
“Incidentally no one in the mainstream media will report on this story, even though the Tweet is authentic, leading to further distrust in the media,” Cernovich wrote. “By the media’s standards, Sam Seder has Tweeted out something far worse than even my most sarcastic or satirical Tweet. And the media won’t say anything, because Sam Seder is one of them.”
The cause was soon taken up by others in the pro-Trump orbit:
Anyone who’s paid attention to internet trolls, from Gamergate to the current occupants of the White House, will recognize such targeting campaigns. And Cernovich expanded on his tactics in a Periscope video posted soon after the Seder news broke. “Thank you to everyone who emailed MSNBC,” Cernovich said. “We are the media now.”
“I’m paying people to go through all your tweets,” he added. “If you give aid and comfort to those who are going after my family, then it’s going to be very personal. I will do everything legally allowed—nothing illegal. I don’t need to break the law.”
Seder was a small fish at MSNBC. The bigger issue here is the potential precedent set by bowing down to disingenuous readings of employees’ past comments without context. MSNBC host Chris Hayes alluded to it on Twitter Monday without mentioning the case by name:
It’s not just a hypothetical exercise. MSNBC also employs as a contributor New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who in a 2015 piece argued that “the campus rape epidemic...is an imaginary enemy.” He doubled down on that argument in a conversation with Vox earlier this year. And then there’s the other MSNBC foot-in-mouth scandal of the moment: The revelation that network host Joy Ann Reid mocked former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in a series of homophobic blog posts between 2007 and 2009.
How do those comments differ in severity from those of Seder? I’ve put the question to an MSNBC spokesperson and will update this piece if and when they respond.