MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Has Described Himself as a ‘Socialist,’ ‘Far to the Left’

August 30, 2019 Updated: August 30, 2019

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell has described himself as a “socialist” multiple times in past interviews.

O’Donnell, 67, who hosts “The Last Word” on the network, retracted a report containing unverified information about Republican President Donald Trump this week after Trump threatened legal action.

In 2005, O’Donnell, who was working on “The West Wing” after serving as an aide to Sen. Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), said that he was a socialist.

The interviewer told him: “I think there’s a libertarian in you trying to get out.”

“No, no, no. I’m a European socialist, believe me—I’m far to the left. But I understand. I’m a kind of practical socialist. I know we failed. A lot of our ideas have failed, so I’m not with them anymore. I’m willing to take from a grab-bag of stuff that works.”

o'donnell issues retraction, apology
A file photograph of MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell in a 2018. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images for UNICEF)

O’Donnell said that one of his positions is that “slavery is better than death. Employment is better than slavery. Exploitative wages are better than nothing.”

O’Donnell used the description of himself a number of other times. In November 2010, he said during an appearance on “Morning Joe”: “I am a socialist. I live to the extreme left, the extreme left of you mere liberals.”

He said at the time he held several ideas he acknowledged were far outside the mainstream.

“However, I know this about my country,” he continued. “Liberals are 20 percent of the electorate. Conservatives are 41 percent of the electorate, okay? So I don’t pretend that my views, which would ban all guns in America, make Medicare available to all in America, have any chance of happening in the federal government, okay?”

That same month, he appeared on his own show and said: “I realized we’re all socialists now. The enactment of social security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965 were opposed by conservatives on the grounds that both were socialism. They were right.”

From left to right: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Secretary-general of the Soviet Communist Party Joseph Stalin pose at the start of the Conference of the Allied powers in Yalta, Crimea, on Feb. 4, 1945. (STF/AFP/Getty Images)

“A government-funded pension and welfare benefits for poverty-stricken mothers was a European socialistic idea imported whole to the United States by President Franklin Roosevelt. But by 1935 enough members of Congress in both parties regarded the cruelties of unbridled capitalism as too much to bear. Capitalism was not to be overthrown but tempered at its harshest edges,” he added.

O’Donnell said on his show in 2011 that he was a socialist since he “first read the definition of socialism in the first economics class I took in college.”

“China has a lot more capitalism than Cuba, but a lot more socialism than the United States,” he said. “I’m a socialist, but I hate bad socialism, and there is plenty of bad socialism out there,” he added, before claiming he was “as much as a capitalist as I am a socialist.”

He has continued referring to himself as a socialist and espousing socialist ideals in recent years.

He said in a diatribe on his show in 2018 that “Medicare is socialism, and everyone on Medicare in this country is a beneficiary of a very smart socialistic program called Medicare, and to deny that it’s socialism is to deny economic literacy.”

“The other thing about socialism is that it’s all around us in the United States and it has been for most of the twentieth century, and our country wouldn’t work without it. Every country in the world is now what economists call a mixed economy, meaning they are mixes to varying degrees of capitalism and socialism,” he added.

“Think about our healthcare system. Almost half… of the spending in the American healthcare system is government spending. That is socialistic spending. Every single penny of it. So, is our healthcare system socialist? No. Is our healthcare system capitalist? No. Is our healthcare system socialistic? Yes. Does our healthcare system have capitalistic elements? Yes, it does,” he continued.

“And so, people have to grow up. They have to drop their fear of the word. They have to look at the socialism that they like. They have to look at the socialism that they think is smart. They have to look at socialism like Social Security and other socialistic programs that they don’t even know are socialistic programs and relax about the word, and make adult decisions about just how much socialism is the right mix for this economy and how much capitalism is the right mix, and the truth of it is, we cannot run this country without both of them.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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