Symone D. Sanders, the former Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, joins MSNBC as an anchor, hosting a new weekend program on the cable channel. The hire marks the first big programming move for new MSNBC President Rashida Jones, who took charge of the channel in February 2021 after its longtime head Phil Griffin departed.
Sanders’s new MSNBC program will air on Saturdays and Sundays starting in the spring, although the title, format, and time slot are all to be determined, according to NBC. She will also serve as a fill-in anchor on the network and host a show on “The Choice,” the streaming arm of MSNBC on NBCUniversal’s digital service, Peacock.
The release states that “Sanders will bring her expertise, spirited rhetoric and sharp political insight to MSNBC’s multi-platform channels. Her program will explore issues at the intersection of politics, culture and race and break down how decisions made in Washington impact electorates, industries, and communities across the country. She will also interview law and policy makers, top government officials, scholars, and thought leaders.”
Highly accomplished, Sanders was one of the highest-ranking Black women in the Biden White House. In her mid-20s, she became national press secretary for Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign, then joined CNN as a quick-witted and creative commentator. When a Republican official told her to “shut up” during a live interview, her viral response later became the title of her memoir, “No, You Shut Up: Speaking Truth to Power and Reclaiming America.”
Sanders joined the Biden campaign in 2019 as a senior adviser, with particular passions for issues of women and Black voters. She strongly advocated for her candidate, so much so that in March 2020 she tackled a protester who rushed the stage during President Biden’s speech on Super Tuesday. In the transition to the White House, she played an integral part of Vice President Kamala Harris’s team.
In an interview with The New York Times, Sanders expressed her interest in moving beyond politics and transitioning into media. “I’m a young woman, a young Black woman from the Midwest,” said Ms. Sanders, who grew up in Omaha. “Yes, I do politics, but I’m also a consumer of pop culture. I watch the news, I check Twitter, but I’m also into ‘Real Housewives.’ I’m interested in reaching what I call the nonpolitical group chats, the discussions that are penetrating outside of Washington.”
Sanders isn’t the first White House alum to transition into television news. “I’m going to tell the truth, and sometimes the truth is critical,” she told the New York Times of her new role at MSNBC. “This administration has its critics, just like everyone does — I have my critics — and we’re going to have those conversations.”
As a political spokesperson, Sanders understands the full perspective of the intersection between politics and media. “Oftentimes, when it came to the vice president over the last year, people were not reporting on the truth, they were reporting on the gossip.”
Speaking last month to The Omaha World-Herald about her decision to leave the Biden Administration, Sanders said that she planned “to continue to be a reliable voice for this White House on the outside, regardless of whatever I do next.” Sanders will remain based in Washington, D.C., as she begins her new role, and she plans to marry her fiance, Shawn Townsend, in August 2022.
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