Tiffany Cross, the now-ex-MSNBC host, found out that she was being booted from the channel days ahead of her exit and threatened to “go out in a blaze” and “take down” the cable TV network and its boss Rashida Jones.
The controversial anchor’s weekend show “The Cross Connection” was abruptly canceled after MSNBC chose not to renew her contract, according to sources. She reportedly began making frantic calls to other journalists, media executives and social activists the week before she was ousted, hoping to rally support.
“She made calls saying: ‘I’m going out in a blaze and I’m taking down the network and going after Rashida,’” a source close to the situation said, paraphrasing Cross.
Jones, the network’s president, and other MSNBC execs didn’t discover the phone calls until after she was gone. It’s unclear how Cross had found out about her dismissal, but insiders speculated that her agent had been given the news while attempting to negotiate a new contract for his client.
Insiders claim Cross’ ousting came as a result of “vulgar” comments and “name calling” on air, but she had apparently been under fire for racking up exorbitant expenses while staying at five-star hotels, to the tune of $100,000.
Sources claimed that during the two years she spent at MSNBC, Cross took trips to Los Angeles and the Super Bowl and passed them off as work trips. Her Oscars trip, when she stayed at the Beverly Wilshire on Rodeo Drive for an “extended stay,” started to raise some eyebrows.
“She’s staying at a hotel NBC’s execs don’t stay at,” a source said of the hotel, which charges more than $1,000 a night for a basic room during high season. “She mistook working in television news for being a celebrity. She was making north of $200,000 and she acted like she made $5 million.”
Cross also demanded more office space, despite the fact that she had a once a week show, irritating colleagues. Management refused, in part, because her show was in last place in ratings, despite her continued public insistence that she had strong numbers.
In a statement on her exit, Cross claimed that her show garnered “more than 4.6 million monthly viewers” and that it was MSNBC’s “highest-rated weekend show.”
Nielsen, meanwhile, debunked that little lie, showing that “The Cross Connection” never came anywhere near that number, drawing between 704,000 and 465,000 a week since June. For the year, Cross’ show averaged 548,000 viewers.
The show pulled in just 605,000 viewers on average last month, trailing “CNN Newsroom” with 696,000 viewers, and Fox News’ “Cavuto Live” with nearly 1.4 million viewers. “MSNBC Live with Alex Witt” is the network’s highest-rated weekend show.
“You’ve got to win the room to survive bad ratings,” a source close to MSNBC said.
Cross was one of Jones’ first major hires during her tenure as president and was meant to attract black viewers to the network. Cross was a Washington bureau chief for BET before working as a political guest analyst for MSNBC, eventually grabbing an anchor chair in 2020.
Cross’ dismissal came after doubts had been passed around among insiders that her contract would be renewed, but the abrupt dismissal mere days before the midterm elections came as a bit of a shock, as many expected her to at least finish out her contract set to expire Dec. 31.
Cross’ fans blasted MSNBC on social media for canceling “The Cross Connection,” which aired on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Cross also claimed that her ousting was “backlash” for her takes on gender, race and politics in a statement posted to her Instagram.
Inside MSNBC, execs had become increasingly frustrated with Cross’ habit of attacking news hosts at other cable networks, getting into public feuds with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, Sirius XM’s Megyn Kelly, whom she called a “black face expert,” and Bill Maher, whom she called an “angry, white old man.”
Kelly was among the first to celebrate Cross’ abrupt dismissal, calling Cross, “the most racist person in all of television.”
Elsewhere, Cross claimed that CNN’s Van Jones, ESPN anchor Sage Steele and former MSNBC anchor Carlos Watson were black journalists who “are not necessarily black voices.”
“I see my colleagues dilute themselves, water down their points, go out of their way to make white folks comfortable because they think somehow that it is going to win them some prize,” Cross said in an after-show video with political commentators Jason Johnson and Roland Martin posted to her Instagram.
MSNBC’s “standards team” and Jones sat down with Cross multiple times during her tenure, warning her to refrain from “name calling” and use of “vulgar,” “lewd” language. Their problem was not with Cross’ message but with her delivery, according to a source close to the situation.
However, what reportedly sealed her fate as an anchor were her comments on Oct. 15 about Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas in which she referred to him as “Justice Pubic Hair on My Coke Can.” That on-air segment earned the host her last warning, and it is possible she then learned that she wouldn’t be lasting on the channel for much longer.
On Nov. 3, Cross appeared on Comedy Central’s “Hell of a Week with Charlamagne” and made comments that MSNBC execs viewed as the last straw. The show’s host, Charlamagne Tha God, asked his guests which state the Democrats could afford to lose in the midterm elections.
Cross responded, “Florida literally looks like the d–k of the country, so let’s get rid of Florida. Let’s castrate Florida.” The very next day, Cross was informed that she was out at the network.
Cross’ dismissal sparked protest from over 40 black leaders across politics and media, including NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson who was reportedly among the calls that Cross made, along with her friend, political commentator Angela Rye.
In the letter, also signed by Color of Change president Rashad Robinson and ex-ESPN personality Jemele Hill, Cross’ supporters criticized MSNBC for deciding not to renew her contract, which came just a few weeks after Tucker Carlson blasted her comments on race and accused her of “genocidal talk.”
“MSNBC isn’t allowed not to renew contracts?” a source close to MSNBC said of the claims, and adding that Cross’ ousting was completely unrelated to Carlson, calling the idea “utterly ridiculous. It’s a complete sham.”
“If MSNBC was going to fire everyone Tucker Carlson went after there would be no one left on TV,” the source said. “Getting attacked by Tucker Carlson is a badge of honor.”