MSNBC's O'Donnell Brags About Not Hosting Liars Right After Claiming 1/3 of CNN Is Pro-Trump


There’s something darkly entertaining about Lawrence O’Donnell talking about not hosting liars on his MSNBC show.

No, I’m not talking about his decision last year to publicize a poxed story about Donald Trump’s loans being allegedly underwritten by Russian oligarchs — with only one anonymous “source” to back it up. That was inarguably O’Donnell’s worst moment, but only because it was so public and the stakes were so high.

Every weeknight, O’Donnell brings his low-key disregard for the facts to viewers nationwide. Let’s put it this way: If “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” really is your last word in terms of American politics, a) you’re probably not reading this and b) you’re probably not reading much that doesn’t align with your worldview.

Lawrence O’Donnell is all right with this, mind you. In fact, he thinks it’s kind of awful that CNN is too fair to President Trump — an interesting take on things if there ever was one.

O’Donnell made this curious proclamation about the home of Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo on a podcast hosted by former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken. I hadn’t listened, given that I don’t want to hear a podcast by a guy who no doubt cries into his pajama shirt during every Democratic debate, ruminating on how he’d be up there in the final six had he not taken that little picture where he pantomimed fondling a sleeping woman’s breasts.

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Anyhow, you never know when this kind of thing will yield inadvertent comedy gold — as it did this week, when Franken interviewed O’Donnell and, according to Fox News, said that CNN was “playing it down the middle” with its coverage, save for the punditry.

This was funny, but O’Donnell’s response was even more risible: “No, they don’t. One-third of the people on their payroll love Trump,” the MSNBC host said.

“So you’re guaranteed on any hour of CNN to, minimum one-third of the programming will be supportive of Trump. Someone on their payroll saying, ‘Here’s why Trump’s right.’”

Just so we’re clear on where everyone stands at this point: Franken says CNN plays it down the middle, to which O’Donnell responds that it doesn’t because it spends one-third of its time being “supportive of Trump.”

Do you think that CNN is too "fair" to President Trump?

This means that 66.67 percent of CNN’s coverage isn’t supportive of Trump, more the 50-50 split that “playing it down the middle” would imply. And yet, O’Donnell is arguing with Franken because playing it down the middle shouldn’t involve one-third of CNN’s payroll supporting Trump.

Got all that?

Franken then brought up the salient fact that CNN’s hosts don’t really side with Trump — with which O’Donnell agreed, saying that it was the conservative pundits CNN brought on to provide their side of the argument that were the problem.

He added that the president “kind of wants you to watch CNN instead of MSNBC” because of this.

“Because he knows on MSNBC there will be no one defending him. Because we don’t bring on liars. I don’t bring on a liar. I won’t do that.”

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That’s why Trump wants you watching CNN, despite the fact I think you could get the president and CNN head Jeff Zucker to take polygraph tests definitively refuting every statement thus far uttered by O’Donnell.

Franken then wondered if lying was necessary to be on Trump’s side.

“Yes,” O’Donnell responded. “Absolutely, how else do you defend a liar? A pathological liar who lies about everything? You have to lie.”

“CNN has people on the payroll who they pay to tell their lies to the CNN audience, in the middle of a CNN hour for some number of minutes, so Trump knows if you watch CNN, at least you’ll hear someone lying in [his] favor,” he continued. “That’s one of the reasons why he attacks CNN.”

Interesting you should say that, Mr. O’Donnell, because this all came after a provable lie.

First, the numbers. In 2017, after Trump’s first 100 days in office, a report from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analyzed the tone of his news coverage. The report found that 93 percent of the coverage of Trump on CNN was negative, tying NBC for the most lopsided.  (MSNBC, to be fair, wasn’t included, but you can’t quite go over 100 percent no matter how bad liberals may be at math.)

In fact, the only network the survey found came close to “playing it down the middle” was Fox News, which was 52 percent negative and 48 percent positive. Keep in mind this is from the Kennedy School, certainly not a covert part of the vast right-wing conspiracy. The numbers may have shifted a bit since then, but not to the point where 33 percent of CNN’s coverage is pro-Trump.

Then, the experience of conservatives who work as contributors at the network. In 2018, after Trump staffer Jason Miller was fired from CNN — becoming one of a group of Trump backers axed from the network since the election — an anonymous CNN insider talked to The Wrap about what it was like working there.

“People who support Trump, [CNN] treats them like second-class citizens,” they said. “There is an extraordinary target on anyone who is pro-Trump back at CNN.”

That’s one person’s view. Then again, so is O’Donnell’s, and having watched CNN sometime in the past few years I can tell you which one I believe.

Taken as a whole, Lawrence O’Donnell’s opinion of CNN isn’t a matter of subjectivity. This isn’t a Rashomon-like situation where you can look at CNN and one person can view it as too fair to Trump and the other can see it as being slanted to the left.

This is a lie predicated on the idea that any fairness is necessarily unfairness — that the only way to be fair to the GOP and to the president is to treat them with the derision they deserve.

And then, to top it off, our friend over at MSNBC not only claims CNN is doing a lousy job of this, but that CNN is doing it by deliberately allowing “liars” on air. Mind you, he’s hosting a liar every night in the personage of himself, plus two people who may or may not be

To claim as O’Donnell does, that “splitting it down the middle” involves extending Orwell’s “two-minutes hate” out to 24 hours, with the target being Donald Trump, involves a warped sense of media responsibility that beggars belief.

Let’s be fair to O’Donnell, though: If this is the change he wants to see in the world, he’s certainly doing his darnedest to be it.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture