Eight months after MSNBC named Brian Shactman new anchor of Way Too Early — its pre-dawn lead-in to Morning Joe — the cable news net has tapped Thomas Roberts to replace him starting Monday. Roberts said in the announcement the job is “right in line with my career goals and aspirations.”
Shactman, meanwhile, said in this morning’s announcement he’d come to the conclusion that “I don’t want politics to be my only focus. … I want to continue to branch out, making sure my career is not solely defined by that.” Shactman got the show when Willie Geist was named co-anchor of Today‘s 9 AM hour.
MSNBC president Phil Griffin said Roberts got the gig because his “unique personality and point of view are just the right mix to lead-in to Morning Joe.” When The Daily Caller reported the openly gay Roberts was replacing Shactman because the left-leaning channel wants the show to be seen as more “diverse,” Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough shot back, to TV Newser, “Despite Internet speculation, he was chosen based strictly on merit and not politically correct considerations.” Roberts has been host of MSNBC Live at 11 a.m. since 2010 and also has been a fill-in host and contributor to Morning Joe, Way Too Early, and NBC’s Today.
About two months earlier, NBC landed itself a great angle on a big news story when Roberts signed to co-host the Miss Universe Pageant in Russia. “Courage is contagious. I have felt that way since coming out publicly in 2006,” Roberts explains back then, saying he aggressively sought the gig to host the pageant co-owned by NBC and Donald Trump’s organization. (Roberts replaced NBCU-owned Bravo’s Andy Cohen, who previously hosted the pageant but said he would not do so this time because of Russia’s recently passed anti-gay laws, which left him concerned for his own safety and feeling that, as a gay man, he should not set foot in Russia.)
“Boycotting and vilifying from the outside is too easy,” Roberts wrote on MSNBC.com. “Rather, I choose to offer my support of the LGBT community in Russia by going to Moscow and hosting this event as a journalist, an anchor and a man who happens to be gay. Let people see I am no different than anyone else,” Roberts said, adding, “All kids — Russian, American or otherwise — need hope. … History teaches us these political approaches hurt good kids and people everywhere — those who need hope, guidance, education, safe space and YES, LGBT role models,” he said. “I go to prove there’s hope.”