Last week, Russell Brand, frustrated by a segment he was doing on Morning Joe, hijacked the session to deliver an impassioned critique of cable news’ focus on minutae rathe than substance. Now, Mika Brzezinski, who was hosting the segment solo at the time, has apologized in a way that produces some insight into why she was so disastrously, insultingly off her game. She apparently hadn’t bothered to find out who Brand was before he came on her show:
“People come in here one after the other. I know Ratner, I know Andy, I didn’t know Russell,” Brzezinski said. “I don’t think Russell liked that. I’ve never gotten more vitriol and anger and hatred than I’ve gotten over this, so I apologize for not knowing.” But the point is not that viewers care or don’t care about Brzezinski’s level of pop culture knowledge. It’s that openly admitting you don’t know who a guest on your television show is, when your job is to have pleasant conversations with the people who come on your show about their work and their current projects, is professionally disgraceful. Brzezinski said that it had been “a long day,” but it’s not as if Brand’s work is somehow difficult to research, even if she was doing that research herself instead of assigning her bookers to prepare some clips of Brand’s stand-up or pull some of his more significant op-ed columns, along with a basic biography, for her to read.
These are the basics of Brzezinski’s job. If she doesn’t have the time to do them, then she needs to rearrange her schedule and outside professional commitments, or have MSNBC hire her some more support staff. If, after years of playing the oft-condescended to number two to Joe Scarborough, she’s acquired a certain level of contempt for the work she’s doing, that’s a larger problem for her, and for MSNBC. Either way, there’s literally no excuse for not knowing the identity of a guest on a program that you host. And just because Brand is a comic doesn’t mean that he’s entitled to less preparation than, say, a member of Congress. Brzezinski admits that “He was a good sport” about the utterly unprofessional way he was treated on Morning Joe. But given this apology, I’m not sure Brzezinski is aware quite how good a sport Brand was, when he would have been entirely justified in walking off the segment.