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"Alan Keyes is Making Sense" ended a year ago
Award-winning show left void still felt in cable programming

June 27, 2003
RenewAmerica staff report

Today marks the anniversary of Alan Keyes' final appearance on MSNBC's acclaimed "Alan Keyes is Making Sense."

Bob Kur

Viewers on the night of June 27, 2002, did not realize that this particular show was to be Keyes' last. The closest thing to alerting viewers came during a break when Bob Kur, MSNBC news anchor, said, "Alan Keyes has made a lot of sense here at MSNBC."

The show did not return, after a run of 23 weeks. Only a few insiders were aware of what was happening.

One insider, Keyes' chief of staff, Mary Parker Lewis, dispelled any suggestion that the show was yanked for lack of ratings: "Alan's ratings were solid and competitive for a new, provocative show."

Lewis called the show "fresh, honest, provocative" analysis of cultural and political issues.

So did a steadily-growing viewership of hundreds of thousands of Americans, many of whom wrote the cable network as the show progressed to say that they thought the show was the best political program they had ever seen. Most assumed the show had found its niche in MSNBC's lineup, by virtue of its acknowledged quality and broad, eclectic support.

Dick Morris

Dick Morris, widely considered the most influential political consultant in America, appeared on the show and, after calling a Keyes comment "brilliant," said, "There's a difference between talk-show hosts and people who know what they're talking about, and you just showed that."

Thus, viewers were taken by surprise when they tuned in the Monday after the cancellation to find the show gone, and a discernable void in its place.

Most surprised was the state of Israel. Before the show was cancelled, the Israeli government had invited Alan Keyes to

Keyes with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

their nation to receive a first-ever award for excellence in journalism, as an expression of appreciation for Keyes' fair-minded support of Israel night after night on "Alan Keyes is Making Sense."

Even with the show's cancellation, Israeli sponsors maintained their invitation and hosted Keyes in a four-day fact-finding tour of their country, so he could witness first-hand the conditions there---giving him high access and a military escort.

So what happened to the show--arguably the best ever of its kind?

In the weeks following the show's demise, it didn't take viewers long to discover the travesty behind the cancellation of a promising new show whose ratings were on the up and whose clout was becoming considerable.

What happened, according to reports, was that MSNBC caved in to pressure from anti-Israel interests and gay-rights groups--both of which lobbied aggressively to rid television of a man many consider the quintessential voice of moral conservatism.

Keyes' main offense was that, during the five months that his show was on the air, he had made a point of consistently--and passionately--standing up for Israel in the face of vehement, and sometimes incoherent, attacks by his pro-Palestinian guests.

Keyes also found himself, on one occasion, in the middle of a particularly caustic exchange between gay-rights advocates and an indignant guest who infuriated the pro-homosexuals--an exchange that Keyes basically sat back and watched. He was thereafter labeled a gay-basher.

In truth, Keyes never abused or bashed anyone on his show--gay, pro-Palestinian, pro-abortion, anti-voucher, Al Gore apologist, or anyone else--though he certainly intimidated and confounded more than a few. He allowed guests to make their points, but wouldn't allow them to use the show purely as a personal soapbox. At some point in each broadcast, he would invariably insist that his guests "make sense." This caused gay and pro-Palestinian groups, in particular, to take offense and demand that MSNBC oust the outspoken Keyes.

MSNBC--itself sympathetic to such groups--too-willingly obliged.

Concerning the anti-Israel opposition to Keyes, the show's transcripts reveal that Keyes was unusually fair and diplomatic in his approach to the Middle East conflict--which quickly took center stage on his four-nights-a-week program. He provided pro-Palestinian spokespersons, evening after evening, ample opportunity to explain their views. But he would not long tolerate tirades against Israel, and he said so. This led at least one anti-Israel guest to walk off the set in indignation.

Those were instructive shows. Americans learned facts and faces they would never have encountered anywhere else.

The show was--to quote Mister Rogers' hope for television--"what television was meant to be."

Many former viewers are still so incensed about the show's cancellation that, to this day, they refuse to watch MSNBC at all.

One of these days, we'll probably see Alan Keyes again regularly on TV. In the meantime, we'll just have to be content to read archived transcripts of his former show, as we diligently seek to make sense of the world around us.

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