Martin Bashir leaves MSNBC after Palin comments

Michelle Clancy | 12-12-2013

American cable news network MSNBC is known for the progressive liberal bent of most of its show hosts, but it appears that British journalist and fan favourite Martin Bashir took the rhetoric one step too far.

The journalist, who came to fame for his groundbreaking coverage of Princess Diana, has resigned for making comments on air about former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, suggesting that someone should be made to defecate in her mouth.

The remark came as Bashir was delivering a commentary piece on 15 November about what he characterised as "rank ignorance" on the history of slavery. He then said that she was an "outstanding candidate" for a dose of discipline from that era, when some slave owners would punish slaves by forcing another slave to defecate in their mouths. He went on to call her comparatively mild epithets, like "America's resident dunce" and a "world class idiot."

He later apologised for the comments but the damage was done, facing a chorus of outrage from across the political spectrum. After taking some time off through Thanksgiving, Bashir announced his resignation this week.

"Upon further reflection, and after meeting with the president of MSNBC, I have tendered my resignation," he said in a statement. "It is my sincere hope that all of my colleagues at this special network will be allowed to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself or my ill-judged comments."

He added: "I deeply regret what was said, will endeavour to work hard at making constructive contributions in the future and will always have a deep appreciation for our viewers who are the smartest, most compassionate and discerning of all television audiences. I would also wish to express deepest gratitude to my immediate colleagues, and our contributors, all of whom have given so much of themselves to our broadcast."

MSNBC president Phil Griffin issued a short statement to the press: "Martin Bashir resigned today, effective immediately. I understand his decision and I thank him for three great years with MSNBC. Martin is a good man and respected colleague we wish him only the best."