Have Our News Organizations Gone Crazy?

I wrote here about MSNBC’s campaign to tie the Koch brothers to George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin. That effort was, it is fair to say, insane, but it apparently inspired one or more liberals to take MSNBC’s theories a step farther. Someone wrote–I think it was on Facebook–that Koch Industries had paid for Zimmerman’s legal defense and/or put up his bail money. Other liberals happily repeated the claim, to the point where Snopes deemed it a rumor worth addressing.

The claim is not only false, but entirely baseless and, in fact, stupid. There is no connection whatsoever between Koch Industries or the Koch brothers and George Zimmerman. None. Further, while the Koch brothers have championed a number of libertarian causes, gun rights have not been among them. In the one instance where Koch Industries is known to have lobbied on a firearms issue, it was against a proposed liberalization of firearms laws in Florida. And the brothers have no history of participating in the defense of criminal defendants. Further, while this is not my area of expertise, I doubt whether it would even be legal for Koch Industries to pay for an unrelated person’s criminal defense. So the assertion that Koch Industries is paying for Zimmerman’s defense or contributing to his bail lacks the remotest shred of plausibility.

But where the Koch brothers are concerned, the normal rules do not apply. Logic is out the window, and evidence is optional. Thus, Koch Industries received this email yesterday from CBS News:

From: [Katy Conrad, CBS News]
Sent: Saturday, April 21, 2012 11:30 AM Central Standard Time
To: Cohlmia, Missy
Cc: Stavinoha, Katie; Baltzer, Paul
Subject: CBS News request

Melissa,

Can you confirm whether or not Koch Industries is paying for George Zimmerman’s legal fees and putting up money for his bond? We are covering the Zimmerman case and are on deadline for evening news at 6:00p EST.

Thanks so much,

Katy Conrad
CBS News – Editorial Producer

The following exchange ensued:

From: [Mark Holden (Koch Legal)]
Sent: Sat 4/21/2012 2:39 PM
To: Conrad, Katy
Cc: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: Fw: CBS News request

Dear Ms. Conrad,

Melissa Cohlmia has forwarded your email to me for a response.

Koch is not paying for Mr. Zimmerman’s legal fees and we advise that you not repeat this completely false and baseless rumor. Please see www.kochfacts.com for our statement concerning this matter.

As is explained in the statement and as is documented elsewhere on www.kochfacts.com, Koch has been falsely and maliciously inserted into this storyline by MSNBC and other extremists. We trust you will not choose to republish any of these lies. Please contact me if you have any questions concerning this. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Mark Holden
Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Koch Industries

From: [Katy Conrad]
Sent: Saturday, April 21, 2012 01:40 PM
To: Holden, Mark (Koch Legal)
Cc: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: RE: CBS News request

We absolutely will not publish, that’s why we’re checking! : )

Thanks so much,
Katy

One wonders what would have happened if representatives of Koch Industries had not been available to comment on a Saturday afternoon.

From: [Mark Holden]
To: Conrad, Katy
Cc: Cohlmia, Missy
Sent: Sat Apr 21 14:53:15 2012
Subject: Re: CBS News request

Thank you. From your response, I understand that you will not mention Koch in any way in your broadcast. Am I correct in that understanding?

From: [Katy Conrad]
Sent: Saturday, April 21, 2012 02:12 PM
To: Holden, Mark (Koch Legal)
Cc: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: Re: CBS News request

That’s correct.

From: [Mark Holden]
Sent: Saturday, April 21, 2012 02:14 PM
To: [Katy Conrad]
Cc: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: Re: CBS News request

Thank you.

I suppose we could congratulate CBS for at least checking with Koch and refraining from broadcasting a false story. In that respect, they are certainly superior to MSNBC, which is not really a news organization at all. But why does any rumor relating to Koch, no matter how baseless or bizarre, rise to the level where it prompts an inquiry from a major television news network which obviously hopes to include a Koch angle in its story? Do you think that if I started an analogous, equally groundless rumor about Barack Obama on my Facebook page, CBS News would be on the phone to the White House, looking for confirmation so they can use my rumor in their broadcast? No, I don’t think so either. But when it comes to the Koch brothers, our news organizations, even the more respectable ones, live in an Alice In Wonderland world.

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