MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell delivers on-air retraction of unconfirmed anti-Trump bombshell

(FILE PHOTO by video screenshot)

MSNBC, which has faced growing criticism over its never-ending hyperbole, blatant lies and irresponsible conspiracy theories, has managed to hemorrhage even more credibility.

On Tuesday, longtime host Lawrence O’Donnell ran an unverified, spurious report on air claiming via a “single source” that a loan provided to President Donald Trump by Deutsche Bank had been co-signed by Russian oligarchs. He also posted the report to Twitter (where it hasn’t yet been deleted):

But approximately 24 hours later, and after widespread backlash, including from the president, the host halfheartedly “apologized” and essentially admitted that his allegations were BS.

“Last night on this show I discussed information that wasn’t ready for reporting,” he said in a lengthy apology Wednesday night that was conspicuously devoid of the words “I’m sorry.”

“I repeated statements a single source told me about the president’s finances and loan documents with Deutsche Bank. Saying ‘if true’ as I discussed the information was not good enough. I did not go through the rigorous verification and standards process here at MSNBC before repeating what I heard from my source. Had it gone through that process I would not have been permitted to report it.”

He repeated some of the apology on Twitter:

It’s not clear what “rigorous verification and standards process” he was talking about, given as the network’s various hosts and pundits have – over the past couple of years – habitually shared unverified, oftentimes false and sometimes outright conspiratorial stories about the president.

And so in that regard, it’s unclear how O’Donnell’s false reporting was any different from what he and his colleagues have always done in regard to Trump.

Plus, when asked by CNN’s Oliver Darcy how the host’s report had even made it on air, a spokesperson for NBC and MSNBC “declined to comment.”

“I should not have said it on air or posted it on Twitter,” the host’s apology continued. “I was wrong to do so. This afternoon, attorneys for the president sent us a letter asserting the story is false. They demanded a retraction. Tonight we are retracting the story. We don’t know whether the information is inaccurate. But the fact is, we do know it wasn’t ready for broadcast, and for that I apologize.”


Source: MSNBC

Note how the host left room for additional conspiracy theorizing by saying, “We don’t know whether the information is inaccurate.” Just to be clear, as of Thursday morning, not a single piece of corroborating evidence had yet emerged.

In fact, even former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report seems to contradict the MSNBC’s host’s wild claims: “[T]here was no mention of anything resembling O’Donnell’s reporting in the report issued earlier this year by Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” CNN’s Darcy notes.

Writing on Twitter late Wednesday evening, former New York Times reporter turned CNN analyst Bill Carter opined that the “apology” didn’t really even seem like an apology.

“O’Donnell retracted his Deutschebank story at top of his hour on MSNBC,” he wrote. “Pro forma. No extraordinary mea culpa. Clearly an effort to move past a pretty serious breach of journalistic standards.

To do something “pro forma” is to do it as a formality versus to do it with sincerity. Likewise, to deliver a “mea culpa” is to apologize in a way that demonstrates that you’re taking responsibility.

Other critics have expressed a similar viewpoint, with many going so far as to label O’Donnell’s “apology” a “fake apology.”


The critics had a point. Some members of the media do have a habit of putting out veritable fake news about the president and then walking it back later. The problem is that by the time they eventually walk back their uncorroborated claims, millions of low-information Americans have already digested the fake news and come to believe that it’s true, when in reality it’s not.


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Vivek Saxena


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