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, but to no avail.
“I’ve been on [MSNBC] for 14 years; I’ve been paid by them for over two years. I’ve had thousands of tweets since 2009. There was context for those tweets,” Seder told CNNMoney in a phone interview earlier this week. “If they can’t make that assessment, if making that assessment is a bridge too far, they have no value as a news organization.”
Cernovich did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.
— CNNMoney’s Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy contributed reporting.