How Low Can MSNBC Sink?

MSNBC featured this over-the-top interview with Howard Dean on Tuesday. With that crazed look that Dean sometimes gets, he went off on a rant against the Koch brothers. You almost have to see it to believe it. Rachel Maddow, of course, eats it all up:

The Koch brothers are used to being slandered by Democratic Party operatives like Howard Dean and leftists like Rachel Maddow, but this was too much. So Koch representative Melissa Cohlmia wrote this excellent letter to NBC News:

Ms. Marian Porges
Senior Producer
News Standards and Practices
NBC News

June 30, 2011

Dear Ms. Porges,

In your most recent correspondence, you invited me to contact you with any further concerns about MSNBC’s coverage of Koch Industries. I appreciate that offer and to that end I bring to your attention an intellectually dishonest appearance by Howard Dean on the Rachel Maddow Show on June 28.

Within a span of 10 seconds, Governor Dean implied FreedomWorks is affiliated with Koch (it is not); that Charles and David Koch “don’t believe in democracy” (that is not accurate); implied another affiliation with “the New Hampshire speaker” (there is none); said that we attack unions (we do not; in fact, many of our employees are unionized, and their leadership has praised us); and that a get-out-the-vote effort that we are not involved in will somehow suppress voters. Governor Dean went on in this tone and tenor for the balance of his appearance saying, “…the Koch Brothers are a danger to America,” and made an appalling and fictitious claim that we oppose desegregation.

Governor Dean is infamous for making impulsive, disparaging, and sometimes self-destructive remarks, and I understand that such imprudence makes for entertaining television in some circles. But is there no responsibility to challenge or even, after the fact, attempt to verify such outlandish, partisan disparagements when they occur? A little hyperbole may be one thing, but are guests permitted to make any outrageous and baseless accusation, no matter how defaming or unhinged from easily verifiable facts?

If what Mark Halperin said about the President on Morning Joe today is “completely inappropriate and unacceptable,” then what standard is MSNBC applying to false and derogatory remarks about individual citizens and private companies such as Charles and David Koch and Koch Industries?

I would be grateful if you could review the segment and provide me some guidance on how the standards at NBC News apply here and, especially, how they might be applied more diligently when Koch is discussed on-air in the future.


Melissa Cohlmia
Director, Corporate Communication
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

Ms. Cohlmia poses this question about MSNBC: “[A]re guests permitted to make any outrageous and baseless accusation, no matter how defaming or unhinged from easily verifiable facts?” I believe the answer to that question is Yes, as long as the person defamed is a conservative or a Republican. We will await Ms. Porges’s response with interest.


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