By Robert A. Vella
I’m saddened to report that former MSNBC host Ed Schultz passed away last Thursday apparently from natural causes. He was 64 year old.
Schultz was best known for his political news talk shows on MSNBC (The Ed Show, 2009-2015) and syndicated radio (The Ed Schultz Show, 2004-2014) which offered a distinctly progressive perspective that was frequently provocative, controversial, and confrontational. His strong left-wing views not only irked conservative Republicans on a regular basis, but also came down hard on liberal establishment politicians like President Obama. No media personality was as critical of Obama for abandoning the public option during the healthcare debates in his first term and for pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal in his second term. Schultz’s passion, assertiveness, and grasp of socioeconomic issues scared-off many politicians from appearing on his shows. He often lamented on the air that “Republicans won’t debate me,” and this eventually brought him into conflict with MSNBC executives.
“Big Ed” or “Big Eddie,” as he liked to be called, was born in Virginia and moved to Minnesota to play college football. He signed as a free agent with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, but his professional football career was short. Afterwards, he became a sportscaster in North Dakota and then a conservative political talk radio host with regional exposure. However, Schultz’s conservative politics began to shift leftwards after he took his radio show on the road. His tour of rural areas brought the reality of poverty clearly into his focus, and his marriage to Wendy Noack in 1998 completed his political transformation from conservative to progressive.
Schultz’s firebrand style of progressivism was so classically reminiscent of the Progressive Era of a century ago, that I cited him in one of my essays on the topic (see: The difference between Liberals and Progressives and why it matters).
If there ever was a true modern-day champion for working people and those disadvantaged by corporatism and neoliberal economic policies, surely Ed Schultz tops that list. He will be missed.