MSNBC trio is ready to work for ‘The Weekend’

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A new trio of familiar faces is entering the cable news arena on weekend mornings, with the aim of driving the political conversation on an MSNBC show that’s “as good as the cup of coffee you’re having.”

Symone Sanders-Townsend, Michael Steele and Alicia Menendez are the three co-hosts of “The Weekend,” which is poised to make its Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. premiere this week.

The series will serve as the “go-to source for viewers on MSNBC,” according to Sanders-Townsend, a former senior adviser to Vice President Harris who previously hosted “Symone” on the network.

“We are the place where we want people to come and start their morning with us. We’re going to really set the tone for what is happening on the weekend,” she said.

The three hosts “all bring something different to the table,” Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview.

Menendez has hosted “American Voices” on MSNBC and the “Latina to Latina” podcast.

The three personalities say they’ve been in one another’s orbits from appearing on MSNBC’s airwaves together, but have grown closer in recent months leading up to the launch of “The Weekend.” The group came together for a brunch and a birthday celebration and supported each other during a more somber occasion, gathering at a memorial service in Washington a few months ago for Steele’s mother.

“There’s knowing each other from being together on-air, and then there is what is in process now, which is a deeper and a different understanding of who we are and how we look at the world,” Menendez said.

“That helps us when we’re talking about something that could be contentious on-air, where I have — because of my political leanings and background — a different approach from Symone’s or Alicia’s, because of their political leanings and background,” Steele, 65, said.

The three TV pros agreed that while things might get heated at times, don’t expect “Crossfire”-style shouting matches.

“This is what the viewers I think also want and are looking for in a time where all folks hear about is how polarized everything is and we are having some very weighty conversations in our media discourse,” Sanders-Townsend, 34, said. “I do think it’s important that people can come to a place and see folks with various viewpoints, have a conversation, and they can walk away making their own decision. That’s what this is about.”

Promising not to just be a rehash of the past week’s headlines, “The Weekend’s” co-hosts said they’ll handle world events and breaking news in addition to analysis and interviews with journalists. But, debuting just two days before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15, politics will absolutely be part of what viewers wake up to.

“I think if this were a ‘normal’ election year, then we’d be talking about Iowa in the context of the odds — who was up, who was down,” Menendez, 40, said.

“We can all read a poll. We know the answer to that question, which is why I think it’s critical that you have a show that is focused on the stakes, and not the odds,” said the “Likeability Trap” author and daughter of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). “Why does Iowa matter? Why does New Hampshire matter? Why does this primary calendar related to the timing of Donald Trump’s legal calendar matter?”

While still a “card-carrying member” of the Republican Party, Steele has been fiercely critical of former President Trump. Asked how the show might avoid becoming an anti-Trump echo chamber, Steele told ITK, “The sort of ‘Never Trump’ thing does not animate my politics. My politics respond to it.”

“I think what will be important is to be able to put into the conversation the fact that there are still Republicans like me out here who are involved in the party. There’s still Republicans like me who care about the ideals and values of the party, and are as angry, and frustrated and willing to do something about that as possible,” he said.

While they expressed excitement for the show, ITK inquired whether on a personal level, setting their alarm clocks before the crack of dawn every Saturday and Sunday would crush their weekend vibe.

Sanders-Townsend, who used to host a late afternoon program, quipped, “I look forward to going [to] brunch and actually having the mimosas.”

“I’m on a 24-hour clock, so I’m a late-night person,” Steele said.

“I still got the honey-do list; that fact doesn’t change,” he added with a laugh. “So [instead of] getting that list started at 10 a.m., means I now get it started at noon.”

Menendez conceded that as a mom to a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old: “I don’t sleep. I don’t really know what a weekend is.”

“Listen, if you have to work 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the morning Saturdays and Sundays, then I’m happy that I get to do that with Symone Sanders-Townsend and Michael Steele,” Menendez said, “because that is about as close to a friend’s brunch as you can get while also showing up to work.”

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