Capehart is the first out moderator of a Sunday morning political talk show.
When MSNBC launched The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart in December, the move made Capehart the first out LGBTQ+ person to host one of the vaunted Sunday morning political talk shows.
To his new show, which now takes the Sunday 10 A.M. time slot previously held by Joy Reid’s AM Joy (she now hosts The ReidOut), Capehart brings his years of experience covering Washington politics through three presidents to the cable news channel. His time in the Beltway makes him uniquely positioned to examine where the United States stands as a country and to delve into the stakes ahead with the Biden-Harris administration.
“I want it to be a different kind of Sunday show, one that features important issues with important newsmakers and opinion-makers, and that meets the audience where they are,” Capehart says. “And what I mean by that is that the Sunday 10 A.M. MSNBC audience are news junkies, so what they want to hear is the context of issues so that they have a better understanding when discussing those issues with their friends and family members who might be on the other side.”
Capehart points out that his entire career has been on the opinion side of the news wall, so that’s a valuable aspect of his show.
“The great thing I get to do, and it is a real privilege, is that I get to say what I think about what I’m reporting, so to bring that to the chair will be fun,” Capehart says. “I can ask questions, and then be able to say to the guests, ‘I don’t agree with you’ or ‘Change my mind.’ To have a conversation like that is really exciting.”
Additionally, Capehart plans to put his unique attributes front and center. “I’m an African-American, openly gay married man, and those qualities alone bring a different perspective than the other folks who are sitting in those Sunday morning show chairs,” he says. “Just as Joy Reid did before me, I will continue to focus on issues important to African-Americans, and of course, issues and concerns related to the LGBTQ community. I’m bringing my entire identity to the chair, and as such, I hope it leads to a broader understanding for everybody watching.”
The MSNBC show is part of a dream fulfilled. Even as a child, Capehart always knew he wanted to host his own show.
“I’ve been watching the Today show since I was 10, and when I saw Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley, I knew immediately I wanted to do what they were doing. But when Bryant Gumbel came in to replace Brokaw, I thought, There’s someone who looks like me, and that means that I can do that job too. So, paying it forward, I hope that through my presence, a Black LGBTQ+ kid can see someone who looks like them and know that anything is possible.”
Capehart also credits Reid with helping him acclimate to the television side of journalism.
“I always say I have graduated from the Joy Reid graduate school of broadcasting,” he says with a laugh. “As her most frequent fill-in and working with her team, I have really learned what it means to be a host. And to that end, one of the things she taught me is to be mostly unscripted. The only thing scripted on the show will be the opening segments. Once the conversations start with the guests, the questions come off the top of my head, and that takes a lot of skill, and I learned that from Joy.”
Capehart also anticipates a change in tone with regard to news and political talk shows, with the new Biden administration.
“I do think that things will be less controversial and confrontational with the Biden administration,” Capehart says. “You will have an administration that will show some respect toward the media.
That doesn’t mean ever y thing will be perfect.
Any administration is not going to like particular stories or reporters. But [with] this administration, the temperature should come down dramatically.
But no one should think that just because the temperature comes down the scrutiny will diminish.”