Conservative activists who own shares in Comcast voiced their displeasure over the liberal slant of MSNBC hosts at the company's annual meeting Wednesday.
Tea party members and other conservatives had planned "a show of force" at the meeting to let Comcast executives know they aren't happy with the political leanings of the cable channel, The Hollywood Reporter
said. MSNBC is a part of Comcast's NBCUniversal, and some NBC News reporters appear on the channel.
But many of its hosts, such as Rachel Maddow and Al Sharpton, have a decidedly left-wing bent. And during a time for questions, shareholder Tom Borelli took the microphone and said that Comcast cable was in danger of losing conservative customers "because of the overwhelmingly biased and misleading coverage by MSNBC.
"If you sit back and think about it, why would a conservative person in any state want their money to go pay for Al Sharpton’s salary?" Borelli said. "Have you contemplated the damage that MSNBC and its biased coverage is doing to the overall Comcast business?"
CEO Brian Roberts countered that other cable and satellite companies carry MSNBC as well.
“Ultimately, I think, giving diversity of voices has been what cable has stood for all these years, whether it’s one side or another, so I don’t think in the long run it will change the trajectory of Comcast cable," Roberts said.
Borelli said a FreedomWorks poll showed that half of conservatives would consider dropping Comcast over its ownership of MSNBC. Borelli is affiliated with FreedomWorks.
“Conservatives may abandon your business. That doesn’t make sense to you to test that possibility?” Borelli said.
At that point another Comcast executive said Borelli's questioning was turning into a debate. Prior to the meeting, Comcast, which was aware of probable protests, said that no disruptions or lengthy questions would be allowed.
“We appreciate the comment. All the management’s here. We heard your point. Thank you very much,” Roberts said in response to Borelli.
"So despite the fact that [Sharpton is] dividing the country and incites racial tension and he has this platform with your network, you stand behind him 100 percent?" Borelli's wife, Deneen, asked later.
"We don't get involved with that decision as per our agreement with the FCC," Roberts answered.
An unidentified shareholder accused Maddow and Mika Brzezinski of using the Newtown, Conn., shooting in December to advance an anti-gun agenda. At the same time, Comcast networks refused to take advertising from groups promoting the Second Amendment while "gratuitous violence" is "witnessed at all hours of the day on Comcast cable."
"That's your point of view," Roberts replied. "We simply aligned our policy with different parts of the company, with different positions, and what ads they'll accept."
The shareholder responded: "If you're naive enough to think that Americans who respect gun rights aren't going to vote with their wallets and leave Comcast, you're as naive as you are hypocritical."
About 25 protesters were outside the Philadelphia meeting with signs critical of MSNBC and liberal media, The Hollywood Reporter said.
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