MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell was forced to come to his viewers with hat in hand on Wednesday night and apologize for manufacturing fake news about President Donald Trump. Under legal threat from Trump’s lawyer, O’Donnell meekly retracted a story he ran the night before which reported that Russian oligarchs had co-signed Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans.
O’Donnell went to air with the story, which was sourced from a single individual who assured MSNBC that he’s seen financial documents that proved that high-powered associates of Vladimir Putin had backed Trump on his loan applications. Near the end of the show, O’Donnell mentioned in passing that NBC News had not verified this report. That alone would ordinarily be enough to keep a story off the air, but when you’re an MSNBC prime-time #Resistance schlockmeister, anything goes, right?
In response, Trump’s attorney Charles Harder sent a sharp letter to NBCUniversal, insisting that O’Donnell’s report was “false and defamatory” and that Trump himself was the only guarantor for the Deutsche Bank loans. Harder demanded an on-air retraction and apology, warning that the president would take legal action against both the host and his parent company if the terms if either was unsatisfactorily delivered within 24 hours.
On Wednesday night, O’Donnell was forced to cough up the truth.
“Last night on this show I discussed information that wasn’t ready for reporting,” O’Donnell admitted to viewers. “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 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,” he acknowledged. “I should not have said it on air or posted 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.
Yes, and you knew that at the time. Go sit in the corner with a dunce cap on your head, and stop peddling fake news on the airwaves.