Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC Retracts Tweet Containing Unverified Information

August 30, 2019 Updated: August 30, 2019

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell retracted a post on Twitter he made claiming that President Donald Trump’s loans were co-signed by Russians.

A network producer later said that the single unnamed source they cited hadn’t even seen the documents.

O’Donnell made the claim on Aug. 27 both on Twitter, on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” and on his own show, “The Last Word.” The following day, a lawyer for the president sent NBC Universal, which owns and operates the network, a letter threatening legal action if the claim wasn’t retracted and an apology wasn’t issued.

O’Donnell said in a statement that he made “an error in judgment” by reporting on the unverified information.

“I shouldn’t have reported it and I was wrong to discuss it on the air,” he said.

On his show “The Last Word” on Wednesday night, O’Donnell told viewers: “Last night on this show I discussed information 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 not good enough.”

O’Donnell noted that his reporting correction only came after the letter from Trump’s attorney before making the unusual claim that he couldn’t say if the unverified information was not true.

“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. O’Donnell did not specifically apologize to the president or anybody else.

NBC and Comcast have remained silent in the face of the situation.

Media ethicists and critics have said that O’Donnell’s conduct violated professional journalism standards.

Rod Hicks of the Society of Professional Journalists said in a statement on Twitter that the reporting violated several of the society’s standards outlined in its code of ethics.

“First one says ‘Verify information before releasing it.’ Such flagrant disregard of journalistic standards reinforce perceptions that the press can’t be trusted,” Hicks wrote.

On Thursday night, O’Donnell deleted the tweet that he’d posted hyping the information.

O’Donnell posted the original tweet on Tuesday afternoon, alerting viewers ahead of time that he would be discussing the information from “a source close to Deutsche Bank.”

O’Donnell said in a fresh missive: “Retraction: Earlier this week I tweeted unverified information from a single source about Donald Trump’s loans with Deutsche Bank. That tweet has been deleted.”

O’Donnell sent out the retraction initially with a screenshot of the tweet he deleted appended to the new tweet but he later deleted that post and issued the same retraction without the appended image.

Trump’s lawyer said in his letter that the tweet should not be deleted.

Trump lambasted O’Donnell for what happened, saying he was “forced to apologize.”

“Crazy Lawrence O’Donnell, who has been calling me wrong from even before I announced my run for the Presidency, even being previously forced by NBC to apologize, which he did while crying, for things he said about me & The Apprentice, was again forced to apologize, this time for the most ridiculous claim of all, that Russia, Russia, Russia, or Russian oligarchs, co-signed loan documents for me, a guarantee,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Totally false, as is virtually everything else he, and much of the rest of the LameStream Media, has said about me for years. ALL APOLOGIZE!” Trump added.

“The totally inaccurate reporting by Lawrence O’Donnell, for which he has been forced by NBC to apologize, is NO DIFFERENT than the horrible, corrupt and fraudulent Fake News that I (and many millions of GREAT supporters) have had to put up with for years. So bad for the USA!”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber

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