Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

MSNBC Announces Multi-Year Contract With Rachel Maddow
MSNBC president Phil Griffin, appearing on the cable news network’s Tuesday panel at TCA alongside hosts Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Matthews, said the door is still open to “Young Turk” Cenk Uygur, who abruptly left the network July 20. Griffin said he was surprised by the departure, although he does not feel that the host worked in the 6 PM time slot. “We wanted Cenk to stay at MSNBC; he fits our sensibility,” he said. “I don’t think all good people are going to succeed at 6 o’clock. We were working on a new contract to have him on the weekends; I was disappointed that he didn’t stay and hope we will work out that he comes back. … I have nothing bad to say about him. He was terrific.” Griffin said no decision has been made about putting Al Sharpton in Uygur’s former slot but that the civil rights leader “fits into MSNBC.”

During the lively proceedings, all of the panelists denied that MSNBC is attempting to be the mirror opposite of its top competitor, Fox News Channel, which has huge following among conservatives. They also took issue with the idea that the competition between the two has led to rising political polarization in the U.S. “We really don’t live up to the caricature,” Maddow said, adding that she believes that possible presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will get fair coverage on MSNBC. “They really are pushing a party line,” she said. “I think we’re more unpredictable.” Said Matthews: “I root for different people in politics. I’m allowed to.” He called Michele Bachmann “authentic,” termed Romney a “mood ring” and called Jeb Bush “a real political talent down the road.” He added that he tries to feature Republicans “every night of the show.”

And the panelists were willing to go out on a limb and answer the question of who might win the next presidential election. O’Donnell: “Barack Obama will be president of the United States.” Maddow: “I guess Obama, but that has mostly to do with the strength of the field right now.” The always-outspoken Matthews said: “I don’t know… if you look at the economy, you have the answer.” He added that, whatever the outcome, Obama would have a field day campaigning against either Romney or Bachmann, who would “just be a hoot. He’s a very, very lucky pol.”