MSNBC Chief Rashida Jones Wins First Amendment Award, Discusses Commitment to Social Commentary and Analysis

By A.J. Katz 

MSNBC President Rashida Jones was honored by the Radio Television Digital News Foundation Thursday with the organization’s Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award. The celebration took place at the RTDNA’s 32nd annual First Amendment Dinner in Washington DC last night.

Jones was joined by her parents Richard and Alice Adkins, her husband Ed Fisher, as well as Symone Sanders-Townsend, Jen Psaki, Andrea Mitchell and more.

As part of her acceptance remarks at the ceremony, Jones gave a unique take on the First Amendment and the importance of political and social on-air commentary:


Commentary in 2023 has gotten a dirty name. There is a perception that many of our social ills – partisanship and polarization – have been caused by political and social commentary.

Tonight, I want to offer a different take. We are of course a deeply divided society as we have been at many other moments in our history. But it is thanks to the First Amendment we are a better society. It’s the First Amendment that provides the legal foundation for robust commentary.

Historians will note we as a nation have had a rich and colorful legacy of vivid, provocative and sometimes irresponsible commentary since the First Amendment was ratified.

But with the bad has also come so much more good. The First Amendment has enabled our history’s most powerful and effective commentary to flourish.

CBS News senior White House correspondent Weijia Jiang served as master of ceremonies for the event.

It is an honor to be here with you tonight, toasting such a remarkable group of journalists. When Covid-19 made its way to the U.S. the headlines from here made their way to China–where I was born, and where my family lives. It was chilling to hear warnings to “be careful” as relatives watched me question the President of the United States about policy decisions—something unfathomable to them. Won’t there be consequences? Aren’t you afraid for your safety? Aren’t you scared? I am grateful every day that the answer is a resounding no. That we live in a country where it is not only acceptable to hold truth to power—it is celebrated.

Other 2023 First Amendment Award honorees include Maria Hinojosa from Futuro Media, Jordan Wertlieb from Hearst Television, Keith Woods from NPR, Hilde Lysiak from Nogales High School, Connie Walker from Okanese First Nation from Sarah Koenig, Serial Productions, and a posthumous award being given to Jeff German from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Boyd Huppert from KARE-TV in Minneapolis received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jones boss’ NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde was honored with the Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award in 2022.