MSNBC vs. Fox; Who’s Smarter?

I thought I would do a little background research to see if education had an influence on  reporting in the media narrative. MSNBC is generally considered to be the liberal cable station (though I would argue that they are the ‘normal’ news organization), and Fox is the Rupert Murdoch Republican conservative media outlet. I picked the journalists from each network’s daily line-up. I omitted the morning shows (because both of them are nuts) and I also included two outliers that used to work at the networks: Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck. I wound up with one extra MSNBC journalist so I eliminated the beautiful, ebullient Alex Wagner since her show just recently debuted (call me, Alex, we’ll talk).

Here is the breakdown of the education level of all of the journalists on both networks. Unless otherwise noted, all degrees were finished.


  • Chuck Todd – Four years at George Washington University, Political Science (did not graduate)
  • Chris Jansing – Oberlin College, Broadcast journalism
  • Andrea Mitchell – University of Pennsylvania, English literature
  • Tamron Hall – Temple University, Broadcast journalism
  • Martin Bashir – Winchester University, English, History
  • Dylan Ratigan – Union College, Political Economics
  • Al Sharpton – two years at Brooklyn College (did not graduate)
  • Chris Matthews – College of the Holy Cross, Some graduate work at the University of North Carolina
  • Ed Schultz – Minnesota State
  • Rachel Maddow – Oxford PhD. Rhodes Scholar, Philosophy, Public Policy
  • Lawrence O’Donnell – Harvard
  • Chris Hayes – Brown University, Philosophy
  • Keith Olbermann – Cornell University, Communication Arts (enrolled at age 16)


  • Brett Baier – DePauw University
  • Sheppard Smith – Four years at University of Mississippi (did not graduate)
  • Bill O’Reilly – BA Marist College, History. MA Boston University, Broadcast journalism. MPA, Harvard, Public administration
  • Sean Hannity – New York University (did not graduate), Adelphi University (did not graduate)
  • Greta Van Susteren – University of Wisconsin, Geography, Economics. JD Georgetown
  • Megyn Kelly – Syracuse University, Political science. JD Albany Law School
  • Glenn Beck – No higher education
  • Bill Hemmer – Miami University, Mass Communications
  • Martha MacCallum – St. Lawrence University, Political science
  • Chris Wallace – attended Harvard (unclear whether he finished)
  • Britt Hume – University of Virginia, English
  • Jon Scott – attended University of Missouri (unclear whether he finished)
  • Neil Cavuto – St. Bonaventure University, BA. American University, MA

Not sure I can make any definitive conclusions based on this information. I was expecting to find a gap between the level of education at MSNBC and Fox but almost everyone has an undergraduate degree; save Glenn Beck, Chuck Todd, Sean Hannity, Al Sharpton. and Sheppard Smith (Chris Wallace, Jon Scott?). It appears that Fox has fewer journalists with degrees than MSNBC. But not by much.

Bill O’Rielly has a couple of Master’s degrees but there is only one Rhodes Scholar, Ph.D: and that’s Rachel Maddow. Fox has two JD’s or lawyers (Van Susteren and Kelly) and two Graduate degrees (O’Reilly and Cavuto).

I can’t draw any conclusions here. Chuck Todd and Shep Smith didn’t finish their degrees yet they both exhibit outstanding journalistic qualities. Bill O’Reilly; despite his educational CV, is seriously warped. Al Sharpton has the most amazing life education and how do you quantify that? I mean he’s an ordained Reverend, he was James Brown’s tour manager, a civil rights activist, Presidential candidate, talk show host. You can’t buy that kind of education at a University.

Glenn Beck? No problem there. He’s an idiot. An uneducated, sanctimonious, conspiracy theory rube from rural Washington State. We don’t get those out here on the left coast often, but this is the exception to the rule. Olbermann? Obviously a prodigy but lately he’s becoming a ‘get off my lawn’ kind of curmudgeon.

So garner what you will from this info. Just don’t think Fox News is peppered with the uneducated. They may be obstinate but they’re not uninformed.

Fox has been dropping in the ratings and MSNBC has been rising (past CNN most recently). The classic argument has been that all conservatives watch Fox (35%) while everyone else (65%) has a wide selection of news sources to choose from.

But then, we’d have to get into what qualifies as news, wouldn’t we?

About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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22 Responses to MSNBC vs. Fox; Who’s Smarter?

  1. Pingback: MSNBC vs. Fox; Who's Smarter? | 538 Refugees | |

  2. Anne says:

    What about Alex Wagner,why is her educational b ackground or lack thereof hidden? It seems strange it is never mentioned. Do you know why and what it is???

  3. Mr. Universe says:

    @ Anne

    No particular reason for excluding Alex other than I needed an even number of people from each network and Alex’s show was still new. Alex is a D.C. native and attended Brown University. I don’t know what she studied.

  4. Stephen says:

    Don’t forget other conservative media hero’s like Rush Limbaugh, who, like Beck, has no higher education degree

    “Because of his parents’ desire to see him attend college, he enrolled in Southeast Missouri State University but left the school after two semesters and one summer. According to his mother, “he flunked everything”, and “he just didn’t seem interested in anything except radio.”

  5. Annoymous says:

    They are both pretty uneducated, but I would have to say that MSNBC is smarter than FOX.

  6. Nick says:

    Who cares about a college education? Do you really need one to spew bogus information on the television? If you look at Ed Schultz vs. Glenn Beck, it’s very clear that Glenn Beck is the smarter of the two. Graduating from the University of Minnesota is like getting a slightly advanced high school diploma. The enrollment numbers are too large to think that it’s a great university. Glenn Beck was supposed to go to Yale, but dropped out. Similar to many of the most prestigious members of our society.

  7. UPDATE (12/5/2013):
    Rachel has a D.Phil. from Oxford. No other host on MSNBC has an advanced degree of any kind.

    Four Fox hosts named above have advanced degrees (Greta, Megyn, Cavuto and O’Reilly). In addition, Kimberly Guilfoyle (J.D.) and Dana Perino (M.A.) co-host at five pm weekdays. Then there’s Shannon Bream (J.D.), a Supreme Court correspondent who also guest-hosts at 6 pm, and hosts her own show on weekends; Judge Jeannine Pirro (J.D.), who hosts her own show on weekends; Laura Ingraham (J.D.), a former Supreme Court clerk who frequently guest-hosts for BOR and Greta; and Jamie Colby (J.D. at age 22), weekend anchor. That’s 10 hosts/anchors and regular guest hosts with advanced degrees. That’s also not counting Monica Crowley, Lis Wiehl, and Jedediah Bila (all Fox New Contributors with J.D. or M.A. degrees) and others I may have missed. Case closed.

  8. To be fair, I should have mentioned Melissa Harris-Perry (Ph.D), who hosts a weekend show on MSNBC. Sorry.
    Then again, I also forgot to mention FOX’s Gregg Jarrett (J.D.), weekend anchor; Judge Andrew Napolitano (J.D.), senior judicial analyst; and, of course, Dr. Charles Krauthammer (Oxford, Harvard Med), a regular Fox News contributor.

  9. John Longfellow says:

    538 Refugees sounds like a “GREAT” source for information and critical thinking-almost as good as the Huffington Post. Sharpton and MSNBC are a complete disgrace.

  10. Darby says:

    Glenn no longer works for FOX and you left out a couple of brains on FOX. I personally think the law degrees trump degrees in Philosophy but for liberals philosophy is a good fit because they work from feelings and emotions not on facts and reason.

    Judge Jeanine Pirro earned a BA from the University of Buffalo, magna cum laude, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and received her Juris Doctor (J.D.) law degree from Albany Law School, served as the Westchester District Attorney, first woman to serve as a Westchester County Court judge.

    Andrew P. Napolitano, the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in the history of the State of New Jersey. For 11 years, he served as an adjunct professor of constitutional law at Seton Hall Law School.

  11. Bob Williamson says:

    Sounds to me that Mr. Universe needs to stick to songwriting and hiking. He knows very little about facts. Of course “liberals” never do.

  12. Karen says:

    I’m surprised that Fox News staff have the educational background as reported … that makes them even more disappointing for me.

  13. Photocrazy says:

    Actually Rachael has a Doctorate of Philosophy (DPhil) in Politics from Oxford and a Bachelor Degree from Stanford in Public Policy. Besides being a Rhodes Scholar she received the John Gardner Fellowship upon graduating from Stanford. BTW nice background of Crater Lake.

  14. Martin Gran says:

    Very biased opinions.
    Did you forget to remain neutral in your reporting?

  15. KnowledgeTracker says:

    You apparently didn’t look at their law degrees on Fox. I know this is 6 years ago, but they had them then. You left out people from 6 years ago and many of them have law degrees and JDs.

  16. Degree doesn’t equal Educated says:

    While many of these hosts are “educated,” many of them lack an understanding of logic and spew “wisdom” based on logical fallacies. It’s something that should be taught at every university, but unfortunately is not. A bachelors degree really only gives you a broad understanding of any field except for perhaps in Ivy League institutions. We need more news anchors who have gone beyond that. I’m

  17. per says:

    To the Bill Hemmer of FOX. CBS anchor Otis Livingston that i met told me he had secret sexual relation with Bill Hemmer’s wife, Livingston also wants to kill Hemmer’s wife if she will open her mouth. Bill Hemmer must becareful of Otis Livingston he is madman and dangerous!!!!!!!

  18. Jeff says:

    I’m curious where did you find Sean Hannity went beyond st. Pius a high school and Junior College combined he dropped out of the JC sighting Financial woes junior college is free just fill out a form if need be no proof Beyond saying he attended several colleges that he ever set foot on any of them

  19. Aaron says:

    Hahaha Al? Who screems rascict everyway possible? Lawyer. He knows how to chase the money. College education bet if he could be loved by everyone. He wouldn’t of picked a side to be on. The spot light is everything to him. He has ruined Martin luther kings name. People without college big degrees are alot smarter than you think. You will recognize forsure

  20. Aaron says:

    Hahaha Al? Who screems rascict everyway possible? Lawyer. He knows how to chase the money. College education bet if he could be loved by everyone. He wouldn’t of picked a side to be on. The spot light is everything to him. He has ruined Martin luther kings name. People without college big degrees are alot smarter than you think. You will recognize forsure. They made the government not that difficult to deal with for a reason but the progressive out of touch idiots are trying so hard to rewrite

  21. Michael ORourke says:

    It’s obvious to anyone that reads your article. You are very bias in your post.

  22. Robert Austin says:

    FOX News hosts appear to not know the difference between Democracy and autocracy.
    Also, no one seems to have any background in Biological or Physical Science.

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