Someone at MSNBC offends Republicans. Conservatives explode. MSNBC apologizes. Rinse, and repeat.
This is the cycle we've seen play out several times in the past few months, with the spat reaching a new high (low?) point this week with a tweet from the TV network suggesting Republicans are racist.
"Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family," read the tweet, which has since been deleted.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus quickly called for a boycott, saying no RNC staffers, officials, pundits, or strategists would appear on MSNBC until the network apologized. In short order, MSNBC President Phil Griffin personally did so, calling the remark "outrageous and unacceptable" and saying the person responsible had been fired. Priebus then called off the boycott, instead placing MSNBC on "probation."
Sure, the tweet was an offensive cheap shot. So, too, was former anchor Martin Bashir's statement that someone should defecate on Sarah Palin, and the comments made by guests on Melissa Harris-Perry's show about Mitt Romney's adopted black grandson.
Still, it's unclear what purpose is served by dialing the outrage machine up to 11 over a few dumb remarks made on cable TV. Is it to discredit MSNBC? Well, in a PPP poll this week, registered voters named Fox News, once again, the most trusted TV news source. MSNBC came in second to last, at six percent — ahead of only NBC, and tied with Comedy Central.
In other words, the RNC is maligning an oft-maligned network, which, contrary to popular opinion, is not beloved by liberals the way Fox News is by conservatives.
Indeed, Priebus' Network-esque defense of the "right wing" seemed more about channeling the right's grievances and giving the base a short-lived sense of vindication. But that has little appeal for the more moderate swath of the public his party wants to court.
On its own, this would be sort of comical, though mostly harmless. But coupled with the RNC's vote to ban MSNBC and CNN from hosting future presidential debates, it's indicative of the party's tendency toward insularity. The whole things ends up being a myopic charade that could ultimately make the GOP — so desperate to rebrand — even more cloistered.
The RNC is right to be upset over MSNBC's insensitive needling. But retreating into the safe confines of Fox News won't help the GOP achieve its stated goal of attracting a broader array of voters. Next time, try a strongly worded statement and then carry on.