No matter how bad your week’s been, if it hasn’t involved death, a negative medical prognosis, job loss or indictment, it’s probably been better than Lawrence O’Donnell’s week has been.
Now, according to Eric Trump, it’s going to end in court.
The thing was that the week was actually looking pretty good for the MSNBC host. O’Donnell had, on Tuesday, broken a massive story that could have rekindled the Russia conspiracy theory mill: O’Donnell claimed a source close to Deutsche Bank told him they’d seen the president’s taxes and they showed that Russian oligarchs had cosigned loans Trump had taken out.
“I have not seen any documentation from Deutsche Bank that supports this and verifies this,” O’Donnell said on MSNBC, according to The Wrap.
“This is just a single source who has revealed that to me and that’s where that stands at this point. It’s going to need a lot more verification before that can be a confirmable fact.”
See, the deal is that you usually don’t report those sorts of things, particularly given if they haven’t been confirmed by a second source. If you also have to say out loud that “[i]t’s going to need a lot more verification before that can be a confirmable fact,” you’re on the primrose path to lawsuitville.
In fact, he got there in a hurry. On Wednesday, Trump attorney Charles Harder threatened legal action if the story wasn’t retracted.
By Wednesday afternoon, O’Donnell had pretty much backtracked entirely on Twitter.
On Wednesday night, he issued a mea culpa on “The Last Word.”
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell retracts his unsubstantiated claim that Trump had loans with Russian co-signers
“I did not go through the rigorous verifications and standards process”
He says he’s sorry for tweeting it but still has not deleted the tweet pic.twitter.com/bY20yTgVQ6
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) August 29, 2019
“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. Saying ‘if true’ as I discussed the information was simply not good enough,” he said.
“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.”
“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,” O’Donnell said.
That wasn’t good enough for Eric Trump, however.
“This was a reckless attempt to slander our family and smear a great company,” Trump said in a tweet.
“Apologies are not enough when the true intent was solely to damage and cause harm. As a company, we will be taking legal action. This unethical behavior has to stop.”
This was a reckless attempt to slander our family and smear a great company. Apologies are not enough when the true intent was solely to damage and cause harm. As a company, we will be taking legal action. This unethical behavior has to stop. @Lawrence @MSNBC https://t.co/i4X6CcdkCm
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) August 29, 2019
Whether or not legal action happens is another issue entirely.
Such action would likely involve proving that O’Donnell wasn’t just negligent in reporting single-sourced information but also proving that what he reported was actively untrue. That would require releasing the tax returns in question, most likely — something that the president has been reticent to do as of late.
Then again, maybe this is where Trump draws the line and goes to court.
I could be proven wrong, but given the rapidity with which O’Donnell backed off this claim and the fact that at least one of his MSNBC colleagues made it publicly clear he wasn’t standing by him, my assumption is that this story is about as legit as a $100 bill with Benjamin Bratt on the front.
The Trumps have made it clear they’re no fans of the media. If this story is untrue and they’re willing to go through with a protracted legal process, there’s almost no better way to exact revenge for this foul-smelling story than beating MSNBC and Lawrence O’Donnell in a court of law.
Then again, perhaps the embarrassment for O’Donnell is victory enough.
“This is one of the reasons that a majority of Americans have lost trust in the media,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in response to the O’Donnell allegations, according to The Hill.
“Instead of applying ethics and standards to their reporting, journalists and left-wing outlets have weaponized the media, using it to attack and harass people with little to no regard for the truth.”
When anyone’s talking about you like that, you can bet it’s been a bad week. The worst part is that it’s only Thursday.
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