On Wednesday, MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell officially retracted a shoddily-sourced story about President Donald Trump taking out loans with Russian oligarchs as co-signers. This attempt to resurrect the Trump-Russia collusion narrative was stopped dead by a demand letter from the president’s attorneys, and O’Donnell opened his show The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell with an official apology.
“Last night on this show, I discussed information on this show that wasn’t ready for reporting. 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,” O’Donnell began.
“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. I should not have said it on air or posted it on Twitter. I was wrong to do so,” he added.
Only then did it become clear why O’Donnell was retracting the story. “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.”
The MSNBC anchor insisted that the story has not been proven false — he only admitted that he jumped on the story prematurely. “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,” he said.
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
O’Donnell had already apologized on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. The bit about Trump’s attorneys reaching out to him was new, however.
Last night I made an error in judgment by reporting an item about the president’s finances that didn’t go through our rigorous verification and standards process. I shouldn’t have reported it and I was wrong to discuss it on the air. I will address the issue on my show tonight.
— Lawrence O'Donnell (@Lawrence) August 28, 2019
O’Donnell had begun his Tuesday show with the now-retracted story, noting that a single source at Deutsche Bank told him that Trump had avoided paying high income taxes — perhaps not surprising — but bringing up another allegation, as well.
The source at Deutsche Bank reportedly told the MSNBC anchor “that Donald Trump’s loan documents there show that he has co-signers. That’s how he was able to obtain those loans. And that the co-signers are Russian oligarchs.”
O’Donnell made this charge with Rachel Maddow on the air. Maddow, normally the first to embrace Trump-Russia collusion claims, was extremely skeptical.
The real question is, how did all the previous Trump-Russia collusion fake news get past MSNBC’s “rigorous verification and standards process?”
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.