Finally, President Donald Trump got an apology from the liberal media.
Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC — one of the prime Trump haters on a Trump-hating network — was forced to take to the air on Wednesday to deliver an apology for a baseless smear he delivered the previous day.
That should have been embarrassing for any organization that makes a pretense of reporting “news,” but even O’Donnell’s apology came with a catch.
Here’s how O’Donnell started his show on Wednesday:
WATCH: Lawrence O’Donnell retracts his reporting about Trump loans. pic.twitter.com/JxNsIPhBNg
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 29, 2019
O’Donnell was referring to statements made Tuesday when he told fellow MSNBC host (and fellow Trump-hater) Rachel Maddow that he had been told by a source that some business loans to Trump by the German financial powerhouse Deutsche Bank had been co-signed by “Russian oligarchs.”
As O’Donnell made clear Wednesday, there wasn’t a shred of evidence to back that up. He’d already gone on Twitter earlier that afternoon to take back the story. That had to be humiliating. Now, he had to do it in person — which would be even more humiliating.
“Last night on this show, I discussed information that wasn’t ready for reporting,” O’Donnell said.
“I repeated statements a single source told me about the president’s finances and loan documents with Deutsche Bank,” he said.
“Saying ‘if true’– as I discussed the information — was simply 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. I should not have said it on-air or post it on Twitter. I was wrong to do so.”
“This afternoon, attorneys for the president sent us a letter asserting the story is false. They also 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.”
That might all seem well and good — everyone makes mistakes. And even a rabidly anti-Trump enterprise like MSNBC should be able to get credit if it just acknowledged an error and moved on.
But that penultimate sentence is troubling. “We don’t know whether the information is inaccurate,” O’Donnell said.
That was not only unnecessary, it also cast doubt on the sincerity of the whole statement.
In a Twitter post published Thursday morning responding to O’Donnell’s statement, Trump summed up the “Russian oligarch” story in a nutshell: “Totally false, as is virtually everything else he, and much of the rest of the LameStream Media, has said about me for years. ALL APOLOGIZE!”
….for the most ridiculous claim of all, that Russia, Russia, Russia, or Russian oligarchs, co-signed loan documents for me, a guarantee. Totally false, as is virtually everything else he, and much of the rest of the LameStream Media, has said about me for years. ALL APOLOGIZE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2019
It’s doubtful O’Donnell’s mealy-mouthed words are what Trump was looking for.
Since when is “don’t know whether the information is inaccurate” a standard of journalism? (Or maybe that’s the kind of thing O’Donnell was talking about when he laughably referred to MSNBC’s “rigorous verification and standards process.”)
It’s pretty clear that even while making a show of retracting the story and issuing an apology, O’Donnell wanted to keep a sliver of doubt about the “Russian oligarchs” story alive.
Heck, if MSNBC doesn’t know whether the information is inaccurate, the anti-Trump left might “reason,” then it might just be true.
If O’Donnell had skipped from “we are retracting this story” to “I apologize,” viewers might have believed he actually meant it. He could have even left in the part that simply said “the story wasn’t ready for broadcast” and been fine. But he had to drop in that lingering doubt.
Given MSNBC’s history of hating Trump, and O’Donnell’s own record in that regard, it’s tough to take a word of this seriously.
But flawed as it might have been, the president still got an apology from an establishment media outlet.
He’s owed many more — and so are American voters.
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