Sunday, December 11, 2022

When Pretty Isn't Enough To Make The Woke Go Down

variety  |  However you might classify Cross’ tone, her particular brand of outspokennnes had helped her win a bake-off for the weekend host slot against two other hopefuls in 2020. She took the job that year — a seat that had been vacated by anchor Reid, who moved to weeknights. In announcing her eponymous show, Cross promised to “touch on politics, culture, humanity, and the inhumanity of some yet-to-be-addressed disparities.” She also pledged to place Black women at “the center” of her program. What followed was a series of blunt and headline-grabbing segments and appearances by Cross in a news cycle rife with discourse over (and outward displays of) white supremacy. Notable sound bites from Cross included an interview with radio personality Charlamagne Tha God calling the state of Florida the “dick of America,” one that should be castrated. Comments like these led to extreme reactions from media personalities on the right, including Megyn Kelly, who has called Cross a “dumbass” and the “most racist person on TV.”

By far the most incendiary reaction to Cross was from Fox News’ Carlson. On Oct. 19, four days after Cross aired her Clarence Thomas segment, Carlson accused Cross of inciting a “race war” with her commentary. He even likened her broadcast to the Rwandan radio station that played a significant role in the country’s 1994 genocide. In the days following Cross’ firing, reports speculated that Jones had handed Carlson and Fox News “a win” by terminating her.

“No other cable news show regularly examined the many ways that white supremacy is embedded structurally and historically throughout American society,” wrote Salon in an analysis of her firing. 

At the top of the year, “The Cross Connection” attracted around 4.6 million monthly viewers, according to an internal research document issued by NBCUniversal and obtained by Variety. Cross’ audience skewed 55% female and 35% Black, an audience intersection that MSNBC has been chasing, Variety reported earlier this month. All told, Cross’ program was MSNBC’s most-watched by Black viewers, second only to “Politics Nation With Al Sharpton.” The week before her termination, according to Nielsen media research, she averaged 605,000 viewers in her time slot and rated third behind competitors CNN and Fox News.

Jones’ defenders called her a fierce advocate for diversity, having hired or elevated journalists of color including Katie Fang, Alex Wagner and Symone Sanders to anchor roles. For many industry observers, the situation has been heightened by the fact that two prominent Black women journalists are at public odds.

“I don’t want to see someone like Tiffany move backwards, and I don’t want there to be a double standard for Rashida,” Rev. Al Sharpton, the host of MSNBC’s “Politics Nation,” told Variety.

Cross’ future is unclear. The question she has inspired — about the question of different standards surrounding Black voices on cable news — continues to inspire anxiety in the many sources Variety spoke with. Last Friday, the Washington Post ran an op-ed calling the “cancellation” of Cross a “chilling signal” to the wider industry.

“We feel the chill,” said one network anchor of color who, of course, spoke to Variety on the condition of anonymity.


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