Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award

Named for the late Broadcasting & Cable senior correspondent, Leonard Zeidenberg, this award is presented to a radio or television journalist or news executive who has made a major contribution to the protection of First Amendment freedoms.

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski
co-hosts, MSNBC’s Morning Joe


Acceptance Remarks

Joe: Thank you guys so much. I would say that, um…thank you! I would tell you that we don’t deserve that, but many of you know that.

Mika: Andrea, that’s what I was wearing, in Java Joe’s.

Joe: I want to follow up on what Andrea said really briefly talking about where the show really started and really, we always consider, even though we started in May of 2007, the first day of the show really was when Tim Russert burst through the door at Java Joe’s, and the Iowa caucus (I think it was like on January 2nd or 3rd in 2008) – and he came in and asked if he could be on the show. And that’s kind of like, for me, Paul McCartney asking, “Hey, do you mind if I play with your band?” Now that will never happen, but something better happened: Tim Russert asked if we minded if he would be on the show. And it was an extraordinary moment.

But that took me back to what Phil Griffin told me when the show first started. And that was, he said, ‘Joe, here’s my only advice to you: always think that you have an audience of one. And it’s Tim Russert, sitting in his home in northwest Washington watching this show. And if every guest you have on the show, and every segment you have on the show and every question you ask on the show is something that Tim would approve of, then you’re doing pretty well.’

And we’ve fallen far short of that many times, but that was, really, our guiding star. And Mika while you set the Paris Hilton scripts on fire.

Mike: I thought he would approve! But Phil gave us that advice and then he set us free and put so much trust in us. And it really was the best advice we ever got for the show.

This is an incredible honor and for us we feel it’s really an honor for the men and women who work around the clock to make “Morning Joe” possible and there’s not a lot of them – we’re a very small staff

And as someone who spent far too many years – decades actually – on an overnight shift, I know how crushing that work schedule can be, not just a on the person working it but on everybody in their lives. And we feel incredibly blessed every day when we take a look at our team, with the bags under their eyes, the dark circles, because we know that are driven by the belief that now, more than ever, Americans need to hear the news in a straightforward unsparing manner.

And as Marty Baron reminds his Washington Post reporters every day, ‘we’re not going to war, we’re going to work,’ and at “Morning Joe,” we work around the clock. Our team works around the clock

Joe: And I love that saying that Marty has up on his office at The Washington Post, ‘we’re not going to war, we’re going to work.’ It is a great reminder of our job, but we make no mistake in the fact – and the people in our office make no mistake of the fact that times such as these do demand that our team beats back against the tide of brutish threats from the President, and from some of his allies, and some of the threats that we heard about against other journalists, against the threat actually against my fiancé from NRA TV, saying that her time is running out. And then ominously holding an hourglass and turning it over.

We also know that it’s our responsibility to call out those times when constitutional norms are being challenged. Those times when the President of the United States actually channels Joseph Stalin. Calls the media ‘the enemy of the people.’  And those times when the White House and other politicians do all they can do to undermine the credibility of those who actually try to check their power.

We’re honored that you’ve recognized our team’s effort, and we do want to thank Phil Griffin again. We want to thank Andy Lack. We of course want to thank David so much for what you’ve done. Not only David Cohen but our entire Comcast family – and they are a family.

You know, MSNBC is supposed to be such a liberal network but, at least since I’ve been there, especially under the leadership of Phil Griffin, he’s been like the Koch brothers in the fact that it is laisse faire. He lets you do your thing, lets you say what you’re going to say, lets you run your show. And I can say this: over the past decade, Phil Griffin has never called us once and told us what we could say or what we couldn’t say. And that is something that very few people in this room can say, especially our executive producer Alex Korson, who hears from Phil every day so we don’t have to. Thank you Alex!

But anyway, we are allowed, because of Phil, we are allowed to speak freely, and we’re allowed to speak freely without scripts and without fear, but also with a 7-second delay, but that’s another story.

Mika: That we have! And that 7-second delay is your fault.

Joe: I know.

Mika: Having said that, Joe makes fun of himself. I will just add that this whole show was your concept and 10 years ago Joe put together an idea to have a discourse among people who don’t agree with each other, who maybe don’t even like each other, but to find a place to come together in the morning and have a civil discourse, and one that is often extremely joyful to have. I think you should be really proud of what you’ve created. I really do. We get to do this show 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks every year and we cherish this opportunity. We cherish every moment. We also understand the remarkable responsibility and what is at stake, which is why we share this honor with all of you tonight who work every day to protect the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by our First Amendment. Thank you very much.

Joe: Thank you so much.


Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” which features interviews with top newsmakers and politicians and provides in-depth analysis of the day’s biggest stories. The show celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017 and shattered MSNBC’s ratings record by delivering the highest ratings ever during 6am to 9am in the network’s 21-year history and beating CNN in total viewers for the 8th straight year. “Morning Joe” has been called “the thinking viewer’s choice” by USA Weekend and “an important wake-up call for political and media leaders” by the Associated Press.

Scarborough served as a member of Congress from 1994 to 2001 and while in office, he was a member of the Judiciary, Armed Services, Government Reform and Oversight, and the Education Committee. Brzezinski is the author of three best-selling books and is the founder of Know Your Value, an empowered community that helps women recognize, and be recognized for, their personal and professional value by developing and inspiring their individual growth.

Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award 2018

Updated on 2019-01-11T17:14:44+00:00, by firstawards.