A story this week in the New York Times captured the dismal state of affairs for the liberal cable news channel, which saw its ratings in April fall to their lowest mark in seven years. Compounding matters for MSNBC: "Morning Joe," a flagship program that serves as a reliable supplier of conventional wisdom, fell to third place among its cable news competition.
While "Fox & Friends" continued its dominance, CNN's "New Day" actually surpassed the MSNBC gabfest hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
It represents quite a triumph for CNN, the long-suffering (and widely mocked) channel that enjoyed a ratings boost during its wall-to-wall coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane.
Scarborough did not take the development well, telling the Times that "“CNN has made itself a punch line on the ‘Daily Show’ for its phony breaking-news headlines and breathless coverage of random ocean debris.”
CNN responded to Scarborough's criticism by pointing to the scoreboard. A spokesperson told TPM in an email on Wednesday night: "Joe has clearly become unhinged by his third place ratings." (CNN spokesperson Neel Khairzada said the same thing to the Washington Post on Thursday.)
Scarborough expounded on his criticism in an interview with the Washington Post's Erik Wemple, who kindly noted in his piece that the "Morning Joe" crew has been the butt of Jon Stewart's jokes before, too.
According to Scarborough, "Morning Joe" doesn't actually play for ratings. The show's influential audience just wouldn't allow it, he said.
While Bill O'Reilly and Chris Hayes may squabble, the mostly non-partisan CNN doesn't normally wade into the cable news fights. But perhaps emboldened by its improved ratings, the channel hasn't backed down from criticism for its coverage of the missing jetliner.
When O'Reilly and MSNBC's Chuck Todd took shots at the plane coverage in March, CNN producer Vaughn Sterling fired back at both.