MSNBC, the Faux News Network [Updated With MSNBC’s Response]

Liberals have been feverishly attacking Fox News for years now, irate that the Left’s monopoly on television news outlets has been broken. Conservatives, on the other hand, have tended to ignore MSNBC, even though that network is far more partisan, and less reliable, than Fox. Perhaps this is because of a perception that hardly anyone watches MSNBC. It is true, of course, that that network’s ratings are nowhere near Fox’s, but still, close to a million people watch the most popular MSNBC shows. That is far too many for a network that is not only ridiculously partisan, but spews hate on a regular basis.

A case in point: a week ago today, Karen Finney, guest hosting for Martin Bashir, blamed Charles and David Koch for the Trayvon Martin shooting:

Who was the Typhoid Mary for this horrible outbreak? It’s the usual suspects the Koch brothers…the same people who stymied gun regulation at every point who funded and ghost write these laws.

Really? Well, actually, no. Putting aside the merits of “gun regulation,” Finney just made all of that up. Thus, Koch Industries complained to MSNBC and asked for a retraction:

I want to bring to your attention once again an MSNBC host that has falsely and maliciously disparaged Koch. On March 23, while guest hosting the Martin Bashir program, Karen Finney accused Koch of a connection with the tragic circumstances surrounding the Trayvon Martin matter. ”Who was the Typhoid Mary for this horrible outbreak,” Finney asked. She then stated, ”It’s the usual suspects the Koch brothers . . . the same people who stymied gun regulation at every point who funded and ghost write these laws.”

Because we saw this dishonest story line developing and were concerned other extremists would pick it up, we put out a public statement the day before Ms. Finney’s rant explaining that this story line was totally false and irresponsible. First, Koch has had no involvement in this legislation. We have had no discussions with anyone at ALEC, the legislative policy group at issue, about the matter either. In fact, the only lobbying on firearms issues we have ever undertaken in Florida was in opposition to the National Rifle Association’s support for a bill that mandated employers must allow employees to bring firearms onto company property.

It’s worth adding that ALEC also put out a statement that further refutes Ms. Finney’s assertions:

“It is a great shame that some are using this tragedy to further their political ends. Indeed, Paul Krugman describes advancing his political goals as the “silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing.” That is as callous as it is cruel, and it is also incorrect. Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law was the basis for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation, not the other way around. Moreover, it is unclear whether that law could apply to this case at all. ‘Stand Your Ground’ or the ‘Castle Doctrine’ is designed to protect people who defend themselves from imminent death and great bodily harm. It does not allow you to pursue another person. It does not allow you to seek confrontation. It does not allow you to attack someone who does not pose an imminent threat. What it does is allow you to defend yourself and your family from immediate and real danger.”

We were never notified that Ms. Finney intended to make an allegation of that kind and thus were given no opportunity for input or reaction. It seems elementary that when one of your hosts falsely accuses us of somehow abetting a person’s death, we would first be given the chance to respond to such an outrageous and offensive lie.

In recent months we have brought to your attention several instances where guests on MSNBC have made false and disparaging assertions about us and/or have been permitted to obscure their affiliation as paid political operatives. We came to agreement that the network would be more diligent about living up to its standards on disclosure and would also afford us the opportunity to know prior to broadcast and react to those sorts of assertions. You wrote, “I hope you understand that this incident(s) is not a reflection of normal procedure at MSNBC.”

You should also be aware that on March 26, Ms. Finney signed and sent a letter on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee soliciting political contributions. Yet, she is presented to viewers as a “political analyst” and not as a paid fundraising operative for the Democratic party, as would be accurate.

Marian Porges, the Senior Producer for News Standards and Practices at NBC News, responded to Koch as follows:

Thank you for your email. As I have in the past, I will look into your concerns and I will get back to you once I have had a chance to do so.

It will be interesting to see how MSNBC responds once Ms. Porges has “look]ed into [Koch’s] concerns.” There are really only two possibilities here: either MSNBC apologizes and retracts Finney’s falsehoods, or the network admits that it is, and intends to remain, a haven for shameless liars.

UPDATE: Koch received the following response from Ms. Porges:

Dear Ms. Cohlmia-

Again, I thank you for raising your most recent concerns. I have looked into the issue and I have also read your statement dated 3/22/2012.

The producers of our program should have included at least part of your statement, “Setting the Record Straight on Firearm Coverage,” in their discussion. I have spoken to those involved with the segment.

Marian Porges

This response offers valuable insight into MSNBC’s editorial practices. At that network, it is evidently considered acceptable to make inflammatory accusations–here, that the Koch brothers were responsible for George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin–that are wholly fabricated and contain not a grain of truth, as long as the fabricated claims are paired with the wronged party’s denial. (Or “at least part” of the wronged party’s denial.) Is this really how journalism is supposed to work? Aren’t reporters expected to have some basis for believing that their on-air assertions are true, before they make them? And if an on-air host libels an innocent party by asserting accusations that are entirely false, doesn’t the network owe the wronged party an apology and a retraction? At MSNBC, apparently not.

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