Lawrence O’Donnell: ‘If it were up to me, we’d be doing a PBS show’

By Alex Weprin 

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell gets profiled by the Washington Post. In addition to going over O’Donnell’s career in TV and politics, the profile shows an acute sense of self-awareness on the host’s part. O’Donnell knows what he wants his show to be, but he also knows what viewers of MSNBC expect:

“If it were up to me, we’d be doing a PBS show,” he says. “I’m trying to train my show instincts to what works in this environment. There are things that deserve better conversations than we’re capable of having in eight-minute blocks. But a Jim Lehrer show or a Charlie Rose can’t happen here. Mostly, it’s me talking to people who agree with me . . . It’s not ‘Crossfire’ anymore. It turns out what works is op-ed TV, like the op-ed page of a newspaper [rather] than a debate.”

Later, he acknowledges that some of the “fights” that viewers are accustomed to seeing on cable news are not exactly representative of reality:


O’Donnell has enough detachment and self-awareness to acknowledge that some of what gets on cable is amped up for effect, that part of it is an act and that, to a certain extent, he’s playing a character. Real life, and actual governing, he says, bears little resemblance to what you see on a talk show. “Working with Republicans was never like that,” he says of his time in government. People on opposite sides of the aisle, he says, tended to address each other reasonably, respectfully and usually honestly, even when they sharply disagreed.

Elsewhere, The Kansas City Star’s Aaron Barnhart reports that MSNBC’s “Lean Forward” campaign is coming to movie theaters, and that O’Donnell is a big part of it.