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MSNBC: The Place for Low-Brow 'Teabag' Humor

MSNBC prides itself as being the place for politics, the seemingly clever marketing slogan could be used to describe the network as the place where hosts try to use dirty humor about important political events.

David Shuster, filling in for MSNBC loose-cannon Keith Olbermann on his April 13 broadcast, and his writers probably thought they were pretty clever when they pieced an item denigrating the tax protests by using the sexual term “teabagging.”  Urbandictionary.com, cited multiple times by one MSNBC guest, describes it as when a man places his testicles “onto someone’s face, or into their mouth.”

“For most Americans, Wednesday, April 15th will be Tax Day,” Shuster said as he began a soliloquy with about a dozen separate oral sex puns. “But in our fourth story tonight: It’s going to be teabagging day for the right-wing and they’re going nuts for it. Thousands of them whipped out the festivities early this past weekend, and while the parties are officially toothless, the teabaggers are full-throated about their goals.

“They want to give President Obama a strong tongue-lashing and lick government spending – spending they did not oppose when they were under presidents Bush and Reagan,” Shuster continued. “They oppose Mr. Obama’s tax rates – which will be lower for most of them -- and they oppose the tax increases Mr. Obama is imposing on the rich, whose taxes will skyrocket to a rate about 10 percent less than it was under Reagan. That’s teabagging in a nut shell.”

 That exchange was mellow compared to Rachel Maddow’s April 9 program. Air America radio contributor Ana Marie Cox, who also appeared on that program and Maddow teamed up to use the word “teabag” at least 51 times in a 13-minute long segment of bad “teabag” puns.

Both Shuster and Cox are lost in juvenile criticism and ignoring the reason there is discontent from the conservative base. Shuster completely missed the spending aspect that has a lot of people upset with their federal, state and local governments. And one of the criticisms from the left has been the tea party protesters didn’t do these sort of protests when George W. Bush was president. Therefore, it must just be because they don’t like President Barack Obama.

However, as Conn Carroll pointed out for The Heritage Foundation’s The Foundry blog - Obama's proposals will far outpace the government deficit spending under Bush.

That had little impact on MSNBC. Lifting material from left-wing blogs, Shuster also criticized the Fox News Channel for covering the events slated for April 15, and he had to do it with throwing in another lame “teabag” pun.

“We can only speculate why widespread teabagging made [Neil] Cavuto think of the Million Man March, unless he got them confused with Dick Armey,” Shuster said. “And in Cavuto’s defense, if you are planning simultaneous teabagging all around the country, you’re going to need a Dick Armey.”

As bad as that was, Shuster wasn’t to be outdone by the combo of his colleague, MSNBC “Rachel Maddow Show” host Maddow and Cox.

On the April 13 broadcast of the program that follows “Countdown,” both Maddow and Cox attempted to match wits with Shuster’s “teabagging” humor. The two had this exchange, in an effort to see who could use the word “teabag” or a derivative of it the most:

MADDOW: Is there some Ron Paul revolution in the teabagging, do you think?

COX: Well, there is a lot of love in teabagging. You have to say that. And that was my favorite thing about the Ron Paul revolution. It had love in it, literally in the logo. You know, it is funny. They really did come up with the concept of the tea party. In 2007, actually, is when they started referring to some of their events as tea parties. It is curious, though, as you point out, they do not use the verb teabag.” It might be because they’re less enthusiastic about teabagging than some of the more corporate conservatives who seem to have taken to it quite easily.

MADDOW: They, also, seemed like they had a habit of being good on the online machine. They said there’s a lot of very savvy Web organizing so maybe occurred to them to Google the phrase.

COX: Perhaps. And also, you know, I was looking around on some of the Ron Paul Web sites today, some of the blogs from his supporters that are still out there, and a few of them have promoted these events, these current teabagging events. And it’s fun if you read the comments – people mock them. These ardent Ron Paul supporters find this particular iteration of what had been, I think, a pretty good idea that one single money bomb event that they had on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party to raise money for Dr. Paul is being somewhat perverted, I might say, by the current teabaggers.

MADDOW: Dr. Paul himself is going to be appearing at one of the teabagging events. He told the Star Telegram – he said, “These things are popping up spontaneously around the country.”

I noticed even during the presidential campaign, I know, that he sort of disavowed the movement around himself even when it was so obviously about him. So, he never quite said, “I don’t know who these people are,” but he always sort of seemed like that. Is it possible we’re seeing the same dynamic?

COX: I think so. I’m not sure if Dr. Paul is as good on the Internets as perhaps his followers are. And he also may not know how to use Urban Dictionary. But, also, I want to point out some of the Ron Paul people that are going to these rallies and Dr. Paul himself, I think, do genuinely believe in whatever wacky ideas being supported here. I mean, it is hard for him to say what the idea is, as you point out, a sort of amorphous outrage. But the Ron Paul people are very anti- tax of any kind, so there you go.

MADDOW: That’s a connection.

COX: That’s their justification be for being there. That’s all I can say.

MADDOW: Do you think that the Obama administration like Robert Gibbs in the press office will talk about and promote the teabagging folks the way they have picked on some other conservative causes and figures like Rush Limbaugh?

COX: Well, I have been waiting for Gibbs to talk about teabagging from the podium for a long time. And I’m sure there are other White House supporters who would also greatly look forward to him, explicating the White House’s position on teabagging. However, I don’t think that’s going to happen partially because I think they also know how to use UrbanDictionary.com.

Shuster has exhibited his anti-tea party behavior previously when filling in for Olbermann on the April 10 “Countdown.” Shuster and Newsweek’s Daniel Gross made every effort to belittle and misconstrue the April 15 Taxpayer Tea Party protests.