I have just heard from my source, who claims to be familiar with Lawrence O’Donnell, that the MSNBC host engages in some pretty shocking and weird behavior. If true, it places into context his recent journalistic blunder. O’Donnell last week took to the airwaves to report that Russian oligarchs tied to Vladimir Putin cosigned a loan for Donald Trump.
O’Donnell broke the news in a televised bridge with fellow left-wing-conspiracy theorist, Rachel Maddow. He told Maddow and the dozens of Russia-obsessed viewers, “this single source close to Deutsche Bank has told me that the Trump—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 . . . That would explain, it seems to me, every kind word Donald Trump has ever said about Russia and Vladimir Putin, if true, and I stress the if true part of this.”
That’s not journalism. It’s political porn for the Left—an improbable fantasy that’s so titillating it’s hard to resist believing it if you hate the President.
But back to my own “if true” breaking news. O’Donnell, according to my source, frequently has helium canisters and several styles of extra-large ladies lingerie delivered to his house in order to accommodate his extremely bizarre Saturday-night ritual of Jello-wrestling with goats followed by a cross-dressing karaoke session. Yes, Lawrence O’Donnell dresses in lady’s underwear while belting out Wagner operas in soprano with the assistance of helium huffing.
Update: I have been unable to find a second source to corroborate the reports of O’Donnell’s behavior. Therefore, I apologize to my readers and, while I am embarrassed to admit that I cannot indeed prove that Lawrence O’Donnell does Jello-wrestle goats or sing Wagner in an extra-large teddy from Victoria’s Secret, I’m not saying the story isn’t true. I’m simply conceding that the story wasn’t yet ready for publication.
I made an error in judgment reporting that O’Donnell Jello-wrestles goats and sings opera with the assistance of helium and plus-sized (but reasonably-priced) feminine undergarments. I failed to follow the rigorous verification and standards process and I was wrong to make the allegation that he Jello-wrestles goats and cross-dresses while warbling opera. Please delete from your mind the image of O’Donnell with a goat in a full-nelson. Please erase the picture of his wiry chest hair overtopping a nice lavender bustier as he sings in high-pitched German.
What? My apology to O’Donnell is insufficient to wipe away the vivids images I painted, you say?
For media skeptics, here we go again. O’Donnell’s accusation of Trump being beholden to Russian co-signers is just another bombshell that did irreversible damage before the media belatedly walked back the story.
Despite the results of the Mueller report, almost half of Americans still think President Trump colluded with the Russians to sway the 2016 presidential election. At the time of this writing, the O’Donnell story remains effectively uncorrected in the media here, here, here, and here (to name a few examples from a quick search). Most media outlets have noted his correction. But the initial report remains circulated and in the minds of readers. Even those who have seen the “corrections” are only hearing that the story “might not be true.” They aren’t hearing that it was entirely fabricated.
Who is my source for my own reporting on O’Donnell’s behavior? It might be the same guy who told Christopher Steele that Donald Trump cavorted with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel. Or perhaps he’s the same source who peddled the story that Michael Cohen paid Russian hackers in Prague that turned out to be false. Or the secret communication channel between Russian computers and Trump computers that also turned out to be false.
Or maybe it was the source who claimed “Roger Stone knew about the Wikileaks hacks before they were released,” which turned out to be just a bad guess based on publicly available information. Or the source for the CNN story about former White House communications chief Anthony Scaramucci’s alleged Russian ties (also false). Or the source who alleged “Donald Trump, Jr. got a heads-up from Wikileaks before the DNC emails were released” (you’ll never guess how that turned out). Or the source who said President Trump told his then-attorney Michael Cohen to lie about the Moscow hotel, which was . . . yep . . . false.
I could go on. And on. The Intercept published a round-up of the 10 most embarrassing of these Russia-collusion bombshells that turned out to be duds. One is reminded of the cynical words of Harry Reid, who famously accused Mitt Romney of not paying taxes. It wasn’t true, either, but Reid defended himself by saying, “They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win, did he?” That’s the unethical but nevertheless effective state of current left-wing journalism: It doesn’t need to be true. It just needs to help the agenda.
This leads me back to O’Donnell. Obviously, I have no evidence that he wears immodest ladies’ undergarments while wrestling poor goats in vats of Jello (again, please wipe those images from your mind!). On the other hand, I can’t prove he doesn’t do these things.
When the Non-Apology Is Worse Than the Offense
If you haven’t noticed, I’m offering O’Donnell the same measure of apology that he offered his viewers over the Russian co-signer story. His equivocating “apology” was almost as dishonest as the original smear. “Tonight, we are retracting the story. We don’t know whether the information is inaccurate,” he said. “But, the fact is, we do know it wasn’t ready for broadcast, and for that, I apologize.”
O’Donnell alleged that the president has Russian co-signers on loans. Saying he can’t disprove his own slander isn’t good enough. He should apologize to Trump and tell Americans that Trump did not receive help from Russians. If he can’t prove it, he shouldn’t dirty-up his political target with the allegation. Saying he can’t disprove his own smear, is an irresponsible non-apology that leaves the damage of the slander largely intact.
Henceforward, I shall use the term “goat wrestler” to refer to journalists who report “if true” bombshells. Maybe if O’Donnell spent less time with goats and Victoria’s Secret catalogs, his reporting would measure up to a higher standard. This exercise was intended to illustrate the difference between satire and a joke. What I have written above is the former. Lawrence O’Donnell has proven himself to be the latter.