MSNBC President Phil Griffin and wife, Kory Apton
Former Democratic PA Gov. Ed Rendell and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell
MSNBC’s top brass pulled out the metaphorical pom poms Thursday night for the network’s 15th birthday party in downtown Washington. MSNBC President Phil Griffin dramatically climbed stairs, looked out at the crowd and profoundly praised some of the network’s top stars such as Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz and Chuck Todd.
On Schultz: “Honesty he’s got more heart than anyone on TV.” On Todd: “Honestly the best political show in the morning after the 9 o’clock hour,” Griffin told a chuckling audience, making a clear reference to the popular “Morning Joe.” On Matthews: “He’s the heart and soul of MSNBC.” He praised Mitchell for being to go all over the world and back just to meet a deadline.
Matthews arrived at 7:45 p.m., an hour and a half after the party began, and left within 25 minutes. While awaiting his turn to speak, he folded his arms tightly to his chest and had a sourpuss look planted on his face — this is typical Matthews. Grumpy. Impatient. Glancing skeptically around the room. He did manage dry humor. “Thank you for letting me speak freely, mostly,” he said pointedly, eying Griffin. Matthews then gave a shout-out to former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, a star in this D.C.-centric crowd. “He’s skinnier than he should be,” Matthews said. “I liked it better when he was fat.” At the end of his speech, his speech turned into a one-man pep rally with each passing word getting louder and LOUDER to the point where people turned to look at one another.
During Griffin’s speech, one chatty D.C. writer got the evil eye as he told the vast crowd to quiet down. “It’s like I am in high school. I was always getting yelled at for talking during the program,” the writer whispered to FishbowlDC.
Moving on to more unusual party topics: the Casey Anthony trial and CNN’s dumping of Eliot Spitzer. FishbowlDC polled a wide swath of journos at the party. We asked, “What did you think of the Casey Anthony verdict?” Most were happy to respond, even if their answer was that they purposefully stayed as far away from story as possible.
“That and synchronized swimming,” said MSNBC Contributor Richard Wolffe, naming topics besides the Casey Anthony trial that he doesn’t readily discuss. “Justice is blind and so am I.” Onto the topic of Spitzer, Wolffe remarked, “Inevitable. That was so predictable. Smart guy, but the show never took off. I don’t think you can find redemption by anchoring a cable TV show. Redemption requires good deeds, community service and charitable work.”
Strangely, Schultz went mute on the topic of the trial and would not say a single word about that or anything. His amiable wife, Wendy, tried to coax him out of his shell. “This is a fun little event,” she said eating chips and guacamole. “Come on Eddie.” No budging. No speaking. Wendy kindly responded to our questions. She said neither she nor Ed followed the trial in any in-depth way.
The couple, who have been married for 13 years, lives part-time in Detroit Lakes, Minn. and the rest in Manhattan. Wendy prefers Minnesota. She says she offers her husband feedback, but always makes sure it’s supportive. “I give him honest feedback,” she said. “A lot of it is pillow talk. I’ve always encouraged him.”
Read about the journo who got scolded by Griffin and see more photographs…
Next up, CNBC’s Eamon Javers, used a beach excuse for not being up to speed on Casey Anthony. “I was on vacation in South Hampton, N.Y.,” he said. Agreed Potomac Flacks blogger Matt Mackowiak, “I have literally not watched a minute. It’s been a discipline I’ve been able to keep.” To give us an idea of just how disciplined he is, Mackowiak added, “I went six months without knowing who Justin Beiber was.”
Fortune‘s Tory Newmyer was also in the adamantly not following club. “I was willfully ignorant about the whole case,” he said. “I get why it transfixed the nation, but I avoided it. I don’t feel like I’m better off for having done that. It was a very personal decision.” (Newmyer promised to sneak us his copies of US Weekly and People Magazine each week.)
CNBC’s Hampton Pearson provided more of a pundit’s response on the matter. “It’s a tragedy all too real,” he said. “A daytime soap opera, a Greek tragedy.” Then he looked worried and said loudly, “You’re not going to QUOTE me on that ARE YOU?” Soon he erupted into laughter. Yes, he was joking.
NJ’s Susan Davis had more of an expert’s response to Casey Anthony considering she comes from a family of law enforcement. Her brothers are cops. Her father is a retired police detective. “I was surprised by it, but I don’t think the jury failed. Yes, I kind do [think Casey did it],” she said. “If she didn’t do it directly, at the very lease she’s guilty of being a real bad parent.”
Partygoers mostly imbibed wine and beer. The fare included finger foods from roving waiters and the ubiquitous party food, cupcakes.
There was an obscene number of attendees, so we won’t get them all. But here’s a sampling: NBC News President Steve Capus, NBC congressional reporter Luke Russert, Comcast’s David Cohen, MSNBC Contributor Karen Finney, MSNBC’s Anne Stephens, NBC “MTP” Executive Producer Betsy Fischer, Media Matters Founder David Brock, Political Strategist Anita Dunn, WaPo‘s Jonathan Capehart, Chris Cillizza and Greg Sargent, HuffPost’s Michael Calderone, Sam Stein and his wife, Jessica Leinwand, Amanda Terkel, Politico‘s Roger Simon, his wife, Mike Allen, Patrick Gavin and Jonathan Martin, The Hill‘s Emily Goodin, Roll Call’s Tom Williams, Self Magazine’s Marc Adelman, Bloomberg TV’s Lizzie O’Leary, Slate‘s Dave Weigel, and Media Consultant Anne Schroeder Mullins.
MSNBC Publicist Weesie Viera and a partygoer
Anita Dunn and Karen Finney
Hampton Pearson, Eamon Javers and Matt Mackowiak
Chris Matthews, Betsy Fischer
WaPo’s Jonathan Capehart
Politico’s Patrick Gavin
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