Cenk Uygur Just Took $4-Million from a Conservative Source (but He’s Still a Better Liberal Than You)

One of the pitfalls of running a for-profit media company that traffics almost entirely in one specific brand of political opinion is that your funding, and where it comes from, becomes especially relevant. If you spend all day espousing what you claim are strongly liberal views, then turn around and take a giant bag of money from, say, a former Republican candidate for president and governor of Louisiana who has worked against a woman’s right to choose and in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, people might accuse you of being a bit hypocritical.

Just a little while ago the Young Turks Network announced that it’s inked a deal to get $4-million in seed money from a group run by Buddy Roemer. With the funding comes an option that could double the take for TYT, with the whole thing being made through Roemer’s private equity fund, Roemer, Robinson, Melville & Co. Roemer himself is a pretty staunch conservative, despite having been a Democrat for many years and a late-career decision to try running for president as a member of both the Reform and Americans Elect party. In addition to his retrograde views on abortion and gay marriage, he also supported Arizona’s draconian crackdown on undocumented immigrants, is pro-torture, and is for the repeal of the ACA, saying that it amounts to government interference in healthcare. In other words, the guy is the furthest thing from a liberal.

But as we know, a large-scale political bent isn’t as important or desirable as it used to be. These days it’s entirely possible to get away with treating politics like you do everything else: as something that can be split apart and consumed à la carte and on-demand. Pick which issue is most important to you, your personal sine qua non, and ignore everything else. Think drones and kill lists are the most pressing problem facing America right now? Congratulations, you can apparently #StandWithRand and still be taken seriously as a liberal, even though he’s kind of a racist asshole. Think NSA spying matters more than anything else in the whole world? Hey, Glenn Greenwald has figured out a way to overcome the cognitive dissonance that should plague you if you choose to align yourself with otherwise repugnant creatures who happen to be anti-surveillance.

Cenk Uygur has shown over the past couple of years that he falls very nicely into this very exclusive category — a kind of category of one, where your individual or at the very least niche concerns are above all else and allegiances with just about anyone are possible. Uygur’s pet issue is campaign finance reform; he believes that money should be removed from politics as much as possible, and as it turns out that’s the one thing he and Buddy Roemer seem to agree on. Roemer, to his credit, slammed PACs and lobbyists when he ran for president in 2012, but the question remains whether that one good point about him makes up for all the other really lousy ones. Uygur sure seems to think so. No doubt a truckload of money helped ease any reservations he might have had about an alliance with Roemer.

Buddy Roemer is by no means a bad person, but he holds an entire slew of beliefs that should be deal-breakers in the eyes of someone who proclaims himself to be a liberal. Or, in Uygur’s case, someone who proclaims himself to be a better liberal than you. Uygur spends so much time arrogantly haranguing people who dare to disagree with him from the left that his willingness to be Buddy Roemer’s bitch carries with it a tasty amount of schadenfreude. Granted, 4-mil is 4-mil, but it’s going to be interesting the next time he tries to hold somebody to the progressive standard he piously claims to represent.

Then again, what Roemer himself said about the deal with the Young Turks speaks volumes about what we can continue to expect: “They are a lot like me, sometimes wrong but never in doubt.” Tell me you’ve ever heard a more perfect description of Cenk.

  • Cis

    Until Cenk uses this money to run for politics and unless he changes his views to fit the agenda of the donor, what exactly is the damn problem? What a piss poor article.

  • David Stephenson

    Wow Cenk, hope Roemer’s penis didn’t taste too salty.

  • Christopher Foxx

    I can’t recall who it was (and regret the “a friend of a friend once told me this happened to him” air that lends this), but an election cycle or two back a candidate got money from a disreputable group, was pressured to give the money back, and refused to do so.

    His comment was something like “I disagree with these people and that being the case I’d much prefer their money be in my hands than theirs.”

    Seemed like exactly how one should respond when told they’ve been getting money from the “wrong” folks.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Uygur spends so much time arrogantly haranguing people

    Something amiss with that link. Leads to a “Not found”. Looks like it’s incomplete and/or just points back to this same article.

  • chris ellis

    Cenk discussed your article on the first eight minutes of the show today, but didn’t mention it by name. He mentioned your pro-Hilary piece a few weeks back, too (full disclosure: i disagree with you about that one, agree with you on this one). He mischaracterized you as ‘pro-establishment’ (a classic phrase he uses to put on people he disagrees with) and did not really mention Roemer’s rather crappy views on everything except money in politics.

    As someone that subscribes to your and his podcast, and also listens to Jimmy Dore’s (who went back and forth with you below), it’s cool to see worlds colliding, but I just wish it was for better reasons.

  • Rheinhard

    Lawrence Lessig has largely devoted his life for the last few years to the issue of money corrupting our politics. He has said that this is not and should not be a left issue nor a right issue. The only people who want politicians dependent on the big money donors more than the electorate are, of course, the big money donors. Lessig has observed, correctly IMO, that this issue of corruption is the first problem that must be solved in this country, because we can make no progress on anything else if the people who make our laws are dependent on donors more than voters.

    Now, as such, Lessig has spoken about his willingness to work with right-leaning groups to solve the corruption problem. Does that make him insufficiently pure, in your view, for good liberals to work with? Because if so, congratulations, you’re a bigger ally of the Koch brothers than you realize.

    • JozefAL

      Unfortunately, just how many RIGHT-leaning groups are there that work “to solve the corruption problem” as opposed to be a PART of the problem?

      Who was it that fought against McCain-Feingold? I don’t remember too many left-leaning groups that did so, but I do recall a lot of RIGHT-leaning groups that fought against it. When Citizens United went in front of the Supreme Court, which RIGHT-leaning groups criticized the outcome? Which LEFT-leaning groups supported the outcome?

      If Lessig has found any right-leaning groups which are willing to REALLY work towards a solution, then he should name them. NOW. The problem is that I doubt he’s actually found any who would work towards a REAL solution.

      Additionally, he might want to note WHO those “big money donors” are and to WHICH side they tend to donate before making such idiotic statements as “willing to work with right-leaning groups to solve the problem” since those “right-leaning groups” are PART of the problem and have NO interest in finding a genuine solution. (It’s worth noting that McCain-Feingold was killed because it threatened the big money RIGHT-wing donors from spending out their asses to right-wing, and far-right-wing, politicians. If there’d been even 10% as many LEFT-wing donors spending money the way the right had been, the right-wing would’ve be ready to support McCain-Feingold because they might’ve actually had to spend even more to maintain the right-wing’s financial edge.)

  • Tj Stahura

    I don’t see why someone who rallies for progressive ideas, even if you don’t agree with some of them, should be blasted for this. We are supposed to be the sane ones. Why should we lampoon Cenk when all he is doing is coming together with someone, whom he disagrees with vehemently on most issues, to try and achieve one common very important goal? Do we not bash the right wing on a regular basis for the unwillingness to compromise or find common goals to reach with people on the left? Unless TYT takes this money and then starts changing their views to be more in line with Roemer’s, then he has done nothing hypocritical or wrong.

  • D_C_Wilson

    I’ve never understood the appeal of Cenk Uygur. I’m not a fan of obnoxious blowhards whether they come from the right (Bill O’Reilly) or the left (Ed Schultz). But whatever else you can say about him, he’s clearly the kind of person who likes to call all the shots. I don’t think accepting this money from Roemer will corrupt him, but it does make him look hypocritical when he goes after other liberals for their lack of ideological purity. I can’t get too worked up about it though. To me, it’s just another reason to give his internet show a pass.

  • CL Nicholson

    Chez I know you hate religion, but here’s a little something I’ve learned about myself and others after 30+ years in church, its usually the most pious, pompous asses who are the biggest hypocrite and have the greatest fall. From I’ve seen, its primarily because such people continually buy into their own innate goodness. To quote one of my favorite writes, “You get into big trouble you stop trying to love God and start trying to be God.”

    The inherent problem with believing your own innate piety, whether its religious or political is that you set yourself to be compared with an “infinite yardstick” – you’ll never measure up to your own delusions of righteousness. And when you do fall short (and you will) you either continually compromise to keep up your delusions or you crumble.

    Hence why you have right wing Congressmen with “hoes in different area codes” but can look dead in your eye and tell you being gay or an atheist is evil incarnate or in the case of guys like Uygur, Assange and Greenwald, purported left wing saviors taking money from libertarian nut jobs or flat out dictators but wanting to dictate to the rest of us why Obama is such a bad guy.

    So Uygur can take Buddy Roemer’s redneck seed money and still think he’s a better voice of liberalism than you or I. Because Uygur’s God is his own reflection.

  • http://thegloomyhistorian.blogspot.com/ The Gloomy Historian

    It is almost as though money really does equal speech.

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    This article is basically just an anti-Cenk hate article by someone who is jelly of his success. Get over yourself and start to actually do something with your life. Maybe you can try to change the system or something the way TYT does. Wolf-PAC.com!!!

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    Taking someone’s money without being beholden to them isn’t really a problem. The problem is when you take someone’s money and in doing so you become beholden to them. But Cenk has made it clear that they money is earmarked for Wolf-PAC and that TYT will still take aim at Roamer when he comes up in the news.

  • alwaysthink

    Is Cenk still around someplace?

    Seems his true colors are showing and he looks Red. It’s sad but we seem to be getting a lot more like him on the “left” side now that the right has gone full wingnut.

    • Gunnut2600

      Red as in commie or red as in GOP?

      Red is also for conservative right? I always found that to be strange…

  • Thurlow Weed

    Cenk wanted to buy some neckties, so he took the money.

  • Mike Lumisch

    Uygur has always been a tiresome blowhard, but now the market has determined that he is less than one sixty second as bought as the Mighty Greenwald.

  • lawdood

    I’m no fan of Cenk but this really is no different than say, Maddow, being on a network owned by conservative Comcast. Generally, any sort of seed money/ investments in liberal media has to come from Wall St and/ or corporate America. This seems like more a personal attack on Mr. Uygur than some sort of revelation.

    • Schneibster

      Maybe if it wasn’t Buddy Roemer.

      • alwaysthink

        Ding, ding, ding for that last sentence.

      • dbtheonly

        “Maybe if it wasn’t Buddy Roemer”

        Okay Schneibster, where do you draw the line? Would you take money from: Bain Capital? How about Newt Gingrich? How about Pat Robertson? How about Jeff Bezos?

        Not wishing to speak for the ‘dood; but we’re at an intersection.
        Who has money to invest? and
        Who is “liberally pure” enough?

        I’m not convinced that there is anyone “liberally pure” enough to withstand all challenges; even before we get tot he money issue.

        • Schneibster

          Good question, db. A long way short of Buddy Roemer, is the answer.

  • steve s

    So he thinks money corrupts politics, but won’t corrupt his “journalistic integrity”?

  • Lady Willpower

    Cool, maybe he can spend some of that $$$ on public speaking lessons.

  • Waltb31

    It’s all fun and games until someone gets busted. Dudebro’s got an angle; he’s in on the grift. Typical.

    • Schneibster

      +1. Just like Malkin. Not as bad a mouth. So far.

  • jimmyjimmydore

    FYI: Cenk has walked way from waaay more money than Buddy just invested. He walked away from tons of cash at MSNBC, and even more millions from Washington Post. ALl because he didn’t want to compromise his integrity or voice.

    Buddy is an outsider and so is Cenk. The republicans hate Buddy, wouldn’t even let him into the debates.

    So if he got 4million from an equity firm that has zero to with the content of the show, then more power to him, he didn’t sell out and kept his integrity. But of course the untrue story is more interesting and salacious, so lets go with that.

    • Schneibster

      Uh huh.

      Maybe if I’d never seen Cenk you might get away with that.

      • Jason

        Get away with what exactly?
        Is the Young Turks suddenly espousing anti-feminist views? I can’t say i have seen anything like that

        • Schneibster

          “Anti-feminist?”

          So, hallucinate much?

          Just askin’.

    • Chez Pazienza

      I actually posted a comment a little while ago and it looks like it somehow got eaten, so if another one similar to this shows up I apologize. I’ll go ahead and respond to you because I spent part of my career at MSNBC and the NBC Television Stations Division.

      Your spin on Cenk’s valorous exit from MSNBC is certainly one way to look at it. Another way is that he left not because of a desire to preserve his integrity or his voice but simply because he didn’t like taking orders from people he disagreed with. He tells a pretty compelling tale of how he and his show were a threat to Washington and that’s why he was being pushed out. But the reality is that he wasn’t ready for prime time — or a late-afternoon slot, as it were — and Griffin was right to want to bump him down and let him work on his presentation a little. I have no doubt that Cenk couldn’t stand that — that once it happened his wounded and insulted ego kicked into overdrive.

      What he loves more than a decent paycheck — and trust me, you really have it wrong about what low-end talent is paid at a place like MS, especially a guy they got from the internet — is creative control, and MS wasn’t offering that and they obviously weren’t letting him do any fucking thing he wanted in any other capacity. So he threw a temper tantrum and bailed, but he admittedly did it with some forethought because by casting himself as a danger to the establishment he made himself look like a man of conviction rather than a guy who was just pissed he wasn’t getting what he wanted. I’m sure he figured his leaving like that would pay off because it would increase his visibility, build some cachet, give him a windmill to publicly tilt at (big, bad mainstream media outlets like MSNBC) and even bring him another shot at the brass ring at some point, which would mean, yes, money.

      And look what happened. It all came to fruition. His TYT empire grew in influence; he got to be on TV again when Current came calling; and now he’s having $4 million dropped in his lap by Buddy Roemer. All in all, Cenk got exactly what he wanted.

      • jimmyjimmydore

        for starters, you theory that Cenk was not ready for prime time and they wanted him to work on his “presentation skills” is pretty laughable. So MSNBC thought Cenk lacked “presentation skills” …so they moved him to the weekend to make room for AL SHARPTON? Cuz its all about presentation skills?

        Not sure what your point about the MSNBC money is. Cenk walked away from MSNBC with nothing waiting for him but his youtube show. SOmehow that means he’s a sell out or something to you? You are all over the place here, I know you don’t like Cenk’s style, but coherent criticisms of him are not your thing.

        He walked away from MSNBC, he turned down millions for Washington Post, and now takes money from a guy who is on the opposite side of the political spectrum except they agree on the biggest issue there is- getting money out of politics.

        Thats the headline on this story “Even ideological foes can work together on the biggest problem facing AMerica today- getting money out of politics”.

        But instead you spun it that the guy who walked away from millions and kept his integrity somehow sold out by taking investment cash from another political outsider.

        I like most of your work, but I think your personal disdain for Cenk allowed you to write a completely off the mark piece.

        • Chez Pazienza

          Oh, you think I wasn’t laughing at the idea that Cenk was replaced with Sharpton? Sharpton is unwatchable. But Sharpton was a big name for MSNBC (for some reason) and Griffin is nothing if not a star-fucker. You easily could’ve also wondered why Griffin had a problem with Cenk but saw fit to put a complete neophyte like Ronan Farrow on air.

          To that end, Cenk’s right when he says that at its core MSNBC is establishment. Of course it is. But I don’t think Cenk was on his way down because he was perceived as some kind of danger to authority and the status quo; I truly do believe it was mostly a matter of his show not being very good and his not having the clout of a dipshit like Sharpton to buy him some time and goodwill.

          As for the deal with Roemer — honestly on its surface it’s not a huge deal. What makes it a little questionable is merely Cenk’s arrogance in putting himself on a pedestal as being somehow the arbiter of what can be considered real progressive values and what’s just authoritarian ass-kissing. (Read the links in the piece.) That’s why his willingness to overlook some of Roemer’s more unsavory beliefs is worth noting here.

          • chris ellis

            interesting to see two of my favorite politically-aware guys bantering back and forth.

      • http://www.osborneink.com/ OsborneInk

        I have met Cenk in person and can confirm he is totally full of himself.

  • Schneibster

    Tolja.

    Had someone abuse me for it, too.

    Dudebro is a Libertardian.