MSNBC’s Phil Griffin, “A Big Fan” of Fox News, Says It’s “Our Time”

By Chris Ariens 

Gail Shister
TVNewser Columnist

Phil Griffin to Chris Wallace: Kiss my Peacock.

The newly-named president of MSNBC takes offense at Wallace’s assertion this week that commentator Keith “Mr. Bush, Shut the Hell Up” Olbermann has no business anchoring election coverage, and that Fox News would never commit such a sin.

“That raises little hairs on my neck,” says Griffin, responding to the latest volley in the networks’ testosterone-driven skirmish.

“I’m a big fan of Fox News. I hate it when they pretend to be something they’re not — fair and balanced. They were created as an ideological news channel. You see it every day.”

“I’m fine with that. It’s great. Just be honest about who you are. Don’t start throwing rocks at us. It shows they’re scared, because for the first time in a long time, they’re being challenged. It’s our time.”

A 25-year NBC veteran who’s been running MSNBC since 2006, Griffin got his new title yesterday, along with a salary bump and an extended contract. He’s no longer executive-in-charge for “Today.”

“I love ‘Today,’ but it’s in great hands. Jim Bell is a fantastic executive producer. I’m not abandoning him. I’m his pal, his friend. The show is in great shape.”

Besides, the uber-intense Griffin is eager to narrow his focus. He calls MSNBC his “baby,” and in some ways, it is. He’s been with the network since its 1996 birth, er, launch.

As for the new moniker, he says: “Like anything else, all things are perception. At the end of the day, this gives me more ownership than I had before. MSNBC is critical to NBC News. This is a full-time job.”

Not everyone is enthralled with the relationship.

Some worry that NBC News’ traditional “brand” is being tarnished by the network’s blending with MSNBC’s raucous Chris Matthews and Olbermann, among others, during election coverage.

The clash of cultures is almost painful to watch sometimes. There have been moments when even anchor emeritus Tom Brokaw, the epitome of Old School, couldn’t disguise his disdain.

Viewers are smart enough to separate the “Countdown” Olbermann from the election Olbermann, Griffin insists. Morever, NBC can coexist with a myriad of voices and formats as long as the network’s “core” is not compromised, he adds.

“Keith has never given his point of view on election coverage,” Griffin says. “We have six months of evidence. I think the audience has voted. The fact is, he’s one of the best broadcasters in TV.”

Back to the name game, does Griffin love being addressed as Mr. President?

“Of course I do,” he says, tongue firmly in cheek. “Who wouldn’t?”