WATCH: Charlie Sykes Beats Himself Up for Being a Former Conservative

Former conservative radio host Charlie Sykes appeared on MSNBC’s MTP Daily on Thursday to promote his new book How the Right Lost Its Mind. And in an embarrassing show of self-flagellation, Sykes whipped himself for his past life of being a conservative radio host before making his way into the arms of the liberal MSNBC as a news analysis. All of his self-loathing was for the amusement of host Chuck Todd, who prodded his guess along, and to get into the liberal network’s good graces.

In introducing Sykes, Todd touted the book for examining how conservative media created the terrible phenomena that was President Trump. “And he also explores his own exile from what the conservative movement has become,” he hyped. He then read from a portion of the book where Sykes partially blamed himself for creating Trump:

He says, quote, “There is no mincing words. For me, 2016 was a brutal, disorienting, disillusioning slog. There came a moment when I realized that conservatives have created an alternative reality bubble and I had perhaps helped shape it.”

Well, this is why I wrote the book because I’m trying to figure out what just happened to us,” Sykes lamented. How do we go from the party of Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump? You know, how did we go from William F. Buckley Jr. to Sean Hannity? What happened here?

According to Sykes, the book “truly chronicles how conservatives have really outsourced much of the thought leadership to crazy town.” He claimed the conservative intellectual tradition had been under attack and no longer existed.

Well, what did you come to? Do you believe — you said you think you contributed to it. What are some ways you did,” Todd asked.

Sykes responded by disparaging himself for his former work and urged other conservatives in the media to do the same of themselves:

And I think everybody needs to engage in this kind of introspection. I think I certainly contributed to the growing tribalization of American politics, the creation of alternative reality media silos. But I think the real thing what we don’t do, we did not push back hard enough against the crackpots, against the folks who later became the alt-right.

Taking on his new liberal talking points, Sykes smeared the Republican Party as being racist. “The reality is, that the Republican Party would never have nominated Donald Trump had it not cultivated a certain indifference to these racial issues if it had not tolerated this sort of thing,” he sneered. And you know, to –again– what we are now paying the price for is all of the things we ignored.

Todd set his sights on the late Roger Ailes and beckoned Sykes to trash his creation of Fox News. “And Roger Ailes was a culture warrior and he a specific way he knew how to get at gut-level when he was a campaign consultant and used the same tactics to market ‘news and commentary,’” Todd mocked with quote fingers. “And so how much did that contribute, for instance to your audience?

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It contributed a great deal. I mean obviously, Fox News is a major player here. The rise of conservative talk radio which I was part of, you know a major role in this,” Sykes hammered Fox News and himself. And then also the explosion of the complete alternative reality eco-system centered on Breitbart.com and what social media did.

The MSNBC host showed his deep disdain for the more successful news outlet claiming:

You know, it’s easier to talk about a war on Christmas, it is easier to talk about people going into a bathroom when those aren’t serious issues. I mean, let’s be realistic. These were not serious crises that American was dealing with.

Sykes agreed that Fox News held plenty of blame for dividing America and claimed Trump was just a symptom of a much greater illness for the GOP. “There is no question about it. Even if you take Donald Trump out, this is a party that nominated Sarah Palin,” he spat. This is a party that flirted with a lot of some whacky candidates, this is a party that has cranked up a perpetual outrage machine that they are now finding out they cannot control.

Towards the end of Sykes’ brutal self-mutilation, he whined that he and others in the “conservative intellectual movement” now found themselves left out in the wilderness. He blamed it on “a failure of ideas, it was a failure of courage, it was a failure of principle…” And seemingly pleased with his guest’s level of self-loathing, Todd welcomed him to the twisted MSNBC family: “You’ve found a home here. We’ve got a nice big tent right here.”

But you know what really was a failure of ideas, courage, and principle? Charlie Sykes. Ever since he began appearing on MSNBC as the token Republican, and a never-Trump one to boot, Sykes had abandoned his conservative principles. He rarely if ever argued for the conservative position on a policy when he’s on the air. The only political thing he appeared to be interested in anymore was the removal of Trump from office.

And if you’re a Republican and don’t agree with him he’ll blow a gasket and flip out on you. My NewsBusters colleague Curtis Houck was recently on the receiving end of one of his tirades. After calling Sykes out for just being the token anti-Trump guy, the aging commentator accused Houck of being a Russian stooge: “Like becoming a Putin fanboy for instance?

Such a principled conservative indeed.

Transcript below:

MSNBC
MTP Daily
October 5, 2017
5:38:00 PM Eastern

CHUCK TODD: In his new book How the Right Lost its Mind, former longtime conservative radio host Charlie Sykes dives into whether conservative media and rhetoric help make Donald Trump. And he also explores his own exile from what the conservative movement has become, calling it a painful book for him to write. He says, quote, “There is no mincing words. For me, 2016 was a brutal, disorienting, disillusioning slog. There came a moment when I realized that conservatives have created an alternative reality bubble and I had perhaps helped shape it.”

(…)

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Charlie, welcome back to the show sir. Congrats on the book. But it is a — — it is a tough thing to say you were part of this problem. And there is some people that are going to watch this as conservatives and say, “this wasn’t a problem. You’ve sold out.” So explain what you mean when the right lost its mind and how it began.

CHARLIE SYKES: Well, this is why I wrote the book because I’m trying to figure out what just happened to us? How do we go from the party of Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump? You know, how did we go from William F. Buckley Jr. to Sean Hannity? What happened here? Was this a hostile takeover or a black swan event? Was this an otherwise healthy party that was seized upon by Donald Trump, or was it a pre-existing condition? And so, those are the tough questions. And you know the — losing its mind, truly chronicles how conservatives have really outsourced much of the thought leadership to crazy town. The attack on the conservative intellectual tradition and asking what did we miss? What did we do, did we contribute to this?

TODD: Well what did you come to? Do you believe — you said you think you contributed to it. What are some ways you did?

SYKES: And I think everybody needs to engage in this kind of introspection. I think I certainly contributed to the growing tribalization of American politics, the creation of alternative reality media silos. But I think the real thing what we don’t do, we did not push back hard enough against the crackpots, against the folks who later became the alt right. Back in the 1960s, William F. Buckley Jr. drew a line and exited the John Burch Society from the conservative movement, not because he was a rino or he wasn’t an anti-communist, but because he said: “You know, this has got to be a healthy intellectually honest movement.” We did not do that. We don’t have those gate keepers anymore.

(…)

SYKES: The reality is, that the Republican Party would never have nominated Donald Trump had it not cultivated a certain indifference to these racial issues, if it had not tolerated this sort of thing. And you know, to –again– what we are now paying the price for is all of the things we ignored.

(…)

TODD: Is there one person above all though? I think about the fact that we had a news organization run by a political operative, in Roger Ailes. And Roger Ailes was a culture warrior and he a specific way he knew how to get at gut level, when he was a campaign consultant and used the same tactics to market “news and commentary.” [Makes finger quotes] And so how much did that contribute, for instance to your audience?

SYKES: It contributed a great deal. I mean obviously Fox News is a major player here. The rise of conservative talk radio which I was part of, you know a major role in this. And then also the explosion of the complete alternative reality eco-system centered on Breitbart.com and what social media did. So you had a trend line where you had many of the voices that I think shape the narrative but then they were amplified in ways that I think took a lot of people in the mainstream very much by surprise.

TODD: It also seemed, for some reason, that it just became easier to get at culture – You know, it’s easier to talk about a war on Christmas, it is easier to talk about people going into a bathroom, when those aren’t serious issues. I mean, let’s be realistic. These are were not serious crises that American was dealing with.

SYKES: I think at some point and part of this recognition is that guys like you and me, we think the politics is about ideas an about policies and about accomplishments, when increasingly politics has become about attitude. It’s become about tribal loyalty. These culture wars that substitute for substance and that’s been a transformation that we’ve seen over the last several decades, it has led to us to where we are. And again Donald Trump is certainly a cause of some of this but he’s primarily a symptom. There is no question about it. Even if you take Donald Trump out, this is a party that nominated Sarah Palin. This is a party that flirted with a lot of some whacky candidates, this is a party that has cranked up a perpetual outrage machine that they are now finding out they cannot control.

(…)

TODD: But let me ask you a question that Roger Ailes might ask if he were still around. Isn’t a failure of conservative intellectuals that it was so easy to essentially hijack the movement?

SYKES: Yes, it was. Well, it turns out that the conservative intellectual movement was — we were a much smaller brand of brothers and sisters than we thought we were. But this is a failure of ideas, it was a failure of courage, it was a failure of principle and that is why there are some of us who are now in the wilderness and have to figure out is there some way back from the wilderness.

TODD: You’ve found a home here. We’ve got a nice big tent right here.

This post originally appeared on NewsBusters

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