How Ed Schultz transformed from MSNBC lefty to the American face of Moscow media
By Paul Farhi
Dec 20 2016
Ed Schultz used to be the bombastic lefty host of a syndicated radio show and daily MSNBC program. He befriended Hillary Clinton, called Donald Trump “a racist” for his birther views, and once beseeched God to take Dick Cheney “to the promised land.”
In 2014, he ripped Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “nasty” human rights record. He also torched American conservatives for siding with the Russian president as a counter to President Obama. “Putie is their new hero,” sneered Schultz.
But the times have changed. And so has Ed Schultz.
In mid-2015, MSNBC handed Schultz his last paycheck. After six years on the air, the ratings of his daily program, “The Ed Show,” were soft and MSNBC was going for more news in Schultz’s time slot, not opinion. His daily radio show had ended the previous year.
So Schultz went back to his lakefront home in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and took stock. At 61, after a lifetime in broadcasting, he concluded he wasn’t done. In early 2016, he returned to television, albeit in an unlikely place and role for a guy who once styled himself as a “prairie populist.” He became the lead news anchor for RT America, the domestic network of what was once known as Russia Today, a globe-spanning multimedia organization funded by the Russian government.
Schultz, in other words, went to work for “Putie.”
The transition would require a bit of adjustment.
Schultz now hosts RT America’s signature evening newscast, “News With Ed Schultz,” produced in a studio located three blocks from the White House. Schultz is the American face — ruddy, beefy, with a megaphone voice — of a Moscow-based media organization that reports the news a little differently than CNN or NBC.
“Good evening, friends,” Schultz boomed on his program one recent evening before swiftly segueing into “the alleged hacking” of the presidential election by Russia. Schultz skipped the latest details, such as President Obama’s views on the matter or the consensus among American intelligence agencies about the extent of Russian meddling. Instead he went straight to Ed Schultz’s view of the matter: “This has become a lifeline for Clinton supporters in an effort to reverse the outcome of the election. . . . In the meantime, the story has entered the arena of outrageous.”
Schultz quickly threw to a recorded package, in which RT America reporter Alexey Yaroshevsky wondered how long the “spiraling downfall of sanity” over hacking in the U.S. media would continue. “Until the public sees forensic evidence, if such exists at all, these accusations should carry as much weight as online humor,” Yaroshevsky reported.
Next up: A Schultz-led panel discussion of Trump’s appointment of ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and Tillerson’s ties to Putin.
“Why is [Tillerson’s] business relationships and successes with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the business world and in the energy industry, why is that a negative on Capitol Hill?” he asked the panel, almost pleading. “Isn’t that a positive thing that he knows Putin?”