Comcast Goes Further Left, Helps Fund JournoLister Ezra Klein’s $10M Startup

MSNBC parent had liberal on network 90 times in past year.

Apparently MSNBC wasn’t liberal enough for Comcast. Its division Comcast Ventures is funding liberal blogger Ezra Klein’s new startup. Klein, the boy wonder of left-wing journalism, is famous for creating a list of liberal media who planned how to spin the news called JournoList.

Klein has hired fellow liberal Matthew Yglesias from Slate as executive editor, and two fellow Washington Post staffers. Both of these Post staffers, Dylan Matthews and Melissa Bell, worked for a Wonk Blog joint project called Know More. This project idea, with an initial estimated cost of more than $10 million, was turned down by the Washington Post in January.

Comcast knew exactly how liberal Klein was when they made the deal. He is already an MSNBC contributor and appeared on the network at least 90 times during 2013, including 21 times as a guest host.

The move is in keeping with Comcast’s liberal bent. Comcast gave President Obama’s campaign $304,881 during the 2012 election cycle alone, more than three times what it gave to Mitt Romney’s campaign, according to the campaign finance site Open Secrets.

Comcast has had its fair share of self-inflicted controversy in the past year or so. The MRC called on Congress to investigate Comcast in 2012, after NBC News doctored audio from George Zimmerman’s 911 call to make him seem racist. MSNBC has also been plagued by internal problems, including the resignation of Martin Bashir, after he suggested on Nov. 15, 2013 that Sarah Palin should be forced to have someone defecate in her mouth. Comcast is also a major backer of the “Equality Forum” in Philadelphia, which claims to be the world’s largest “LGBT summit.”

Klein’s most well-known venture was JournoList, a private email list where liberals could go to share ideas without the prying eyes of conservatives. At one point, several hundred “mostly liberal journalists” were using the JournoList, including “Paul Krugman; staffers from Newsweek, POLITICO, Huffington Post, The New Republic, The Nation and The New Yorker; policy wonks, academics and bloggers,” according to Politico. When emails from JournoList were leaked, it caused an outcry among conservative groups.

One of the two main rules for the group was that it could contain no conservatives. Klein later wrote in a Washington Post blog that he “didn’t like that rule,” but that he “thought it was necessary” since there “would be no free conversation in a forum were people had clear incentives to embarrass each other.” The other rule was that nobody who “worked for the government in any capacity could join.”

Besides Klein and Yglesias, JournoList also included MSNBC host Chris Hayes (then working at the liberal outlet The Nation). Hayes posted on the JournoList that the news stories against Rev. Jeremiah Wright were “part of a conservative smear campaign and did not merit attention,” according to a CBS News story from July 21, written in conjunction with The New Republic, another liberal blog.

Klein later founded The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog (where policy geeks could write on “the most complex issues in Washington”). He recently left the Post when the paper declined to back his project idea, which will purportedly cost $10 million. According to Klein, who announced the move to Vox Media on Jan. 26, his “Project X” will “create the single best resources for news consumers everywhere.”

Vox Media is a content platform largely funded by Comcast Ventures and two partners. Klein was openly liberal even before he got to the Post. He wrote for the liberal American Prospect from Jan. 2005 through May 2009. Besides Comcast Ventures, Vox Media is financed by Accel Partners and Khosla Ventures.

Klein and Yglesias have made no secret of their liberal views. Klein has argued that Obamacare was the “best thing” Democrats have done in “a generation,” even concluding one of his articles with “[s]o happy birthday, Affordable Care Act. Here’s to many more.” He also got into hot water when he complained about the “confusing nature” of the U.S. Constitution, written “more than 100 years ago.”

Yet, Klein is the go-to source of information for many liberal politicians. In Nov. 2011, Klein even briefed Senate Democratic Chiefs of Staff on the ‘supercommittee,’ according to Fishbowl DC (the “supercommittee” failed to reach an agreement on a defecit reduction deal a few days later). Even an unnamed “longtime Senate Democratic aide” told Fishbowl DC that it was “kind of weird,” that a journalist would be briefing politicians, instead of the other way around.

At least two of Klein’s new recruits are reliably liberal, too. Yglesias has gone so far as to compare former presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Hitler. Yglesias is also a proponent of having the government “spread the wealth around” as a way to combat poverty, and blamed conservative opposition against building a mosque at Ground Zero on economy induced “xenophobia.” Yglesias also argued that Obamacare is “fundamentally succeeding.”

Yglesias was also part of the JournoList, which he defended in a Think Progress article. That scandal seems to have largely been erased from Klein’s record. The leaked documents from JournoList included records of liberal journalists bashing conservatives, including NPR publicist, Sarah Spitz, saying that she would “laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” instead of calling 911 if Rush Limbaugh had a heart attack in front of her. Gawker posted a pdf of many of the JournoList discussions. Like Klein, the Post’s Dylan Matthews has worked for the American Prospect, besides having worked for the liberal outlets The New Republic, Salon and Slate.

— Mike Ciandella is Research Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Mike Ciandella on Twitter.