(The following is one in a series of posts looking at the players; political, media, or activist, who were prominent in the 2011-12 Wisconsin Recalls. Monday is the 5th anniversary of the failed effort to recall Governor Scott Walker in the wake of Act 10.)
For liberals in Wisconsin, fewer media personalities were as friendly to them as MSNBC’s Ed Schultz.
Schultz, a former talk radio host from North Dakota, made members of the fleeing 14 Democratic state senators practically daily guests on “The Ed Show” to attack Act 10, Governor Scott Walker, and fly the public employee union flag proudly. He would take the show on the road; often airing it live in Madison, including on election night.
None was more infamous than his denial that Walker had survived when NBC News, parent network of MSNBC, project the election for Walker.
“You know, NBC is calling it for Walker,” Schultz told viewers last night. “Okay, I think it’s awful close and there’s a lot of absentee ballots yet that are still out and it’s going to be very, very close down to the wire. So it’s disappointing, I know, if this is going to be the result.”
Schultz was also a confident believer in the witch hunt known as “John Doe II.”
He added a few minutes later that Walker “could be indicted in the next few days,” although he didn’t give any evidence to back up that seemingly wild assertion.
So how Schultz doing today? Well, he’s still hosting a daily television show, just not on MSNBC.
After the 2014 midterms, MSNBC announced a number of shake-ups in its prime-time lineup when the network’s ratings hit their nadir. Among them was Schultz who was let go in mid-2015. After a few months off the air running a Super PAC, Schultz was hired to be the face of RT America.
In mid-2015, MSNBC handed Schultz his last paycheck. After six years on the air, the ratings of his daily program, “The Ed Show,” were soft and MSNBC was going for more news in Schultz’s time slot, not opinion. His daily radio show had ended the previous year.
So Schultz went back to his lakefront home in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and took stock. At 61, after a lifetime in broadcasting, he concluded he wasn’t done. In early 2016, he returned to television, albeit in an unlikely place and role for a guy who once styled himself as a “prairie populist.” He became the lead news anchor for RT America, the domestic network of what was once known as Russia Today, a globe-spanning multimedia organization funded by the Russian government.
With “News with Ed Schultz,” on RT America; which is widely regarded as a propaganda arm of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Schultz has become of the biggest defenders and cheerleaders for President Donald Trump. So much so, that he even appeared as a panelist at the most recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
It wasn’t long ago that Ed Schultz was lashing out at Republicans every night as a firebrand progressive on MSNBC.
On Thursday, he will participate in a panel on trade at the Conservative Political Action Conference — a gathering he once compared to Nazi Germany.
Schultz, now a host for the Russian-backed media outlet RT, didn’t understand why that’s confusing.
“I don’t know why people are making a big deal out of this,” he said in a video on his website this week.
Schultz opened the panel by dismissing Democratic complaints about the Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election.
“Full disclosure: the Russians did not tell Hillary Clinton don’t go to Wisconsin,” Schultz said.
He applauded Donald Trump, saying the president isn’t “bought and paid by anybody.” Schultz said Trump used “a different vernacular” when communicating with voters and simply “outworked” Clinton on the campaign trail.
“He would do five events a day, she would do two,” Schultz said.
Schultz declined an interview request for this story. But he said in the video earlier this week that he asked to participate at CPAC — a surreal turn of events for someone who once made a living hammering conservatives.
Without a full-time radio job, Schultz maintains his liberal radio show via a daily podcast which runs on a number of liberal news websites like “RawStory.com” as well as his own site, “WeGotEd.com.”
While Schultz hasn’t said much about his current thoughts on Governor Scott Walker in recent years, his new RT America persona is a hugely different one from his MSNBC days.
A lot can change in five years.