Top MSNBC, NBC News Editor Accused of Trying to ‘Bully’ Reporter ‘On Behalf of the DNC’

March 30, 2019 Updated: March 30, 2019

A top political editor at MSNBC and NBC News was accused of trying to intimidate a reporter on behalf of the Democratic National Party.

Yashar Ali, a contributor to New York Magazine and the Huffington Post, said that he was called by the editor, Dafna Linzer, on March 28.

“Dafna’s conduct during the call was highly inappropriate and unethical. So what was the purpose of her call? She called me to bully me on behalf of the DNC,” Ali wrote.

Ali explained that he got a scoop on Thursday morning that the party would be announcing the dates of the first 2020 primary debates later that day and he considered tweeting it out.

But he called several staffers on presidential campaigns and they indicated that the campaigns didn’t know when the dates were, so he decided to instead feature the item in his newsletter.

“This wasn’t a huge scoop but it was a decent one so I quickly called the DNC to fact-check the tip as I was running out of time: the dates would be announced on MSNBC in the 4:00 PM hour. It’s important to note that almost of all of my communication with the DNC was off record,” Ali said. He said the communication was routine; the party ultimately asked if he could delay posting for an hour and Ali said he could not because he wouldn’t be the first to report it if he waited long.

Two minutes later, Ali said, Linzer called him.

Clarifying that he barely knows Linzer and spoke briefly through messaging in the past, Ali added: “After exchanging pleasantries, Dafna told me that she received a call from the DNC and was told I had a story. Now it’s not strange that the DNC called her, they were coordinating an announcement. What was strange was that she was calling me and taking a menacing tone.”

“She asked if I could hold the story and I said I couldn’t. She was agitated, ‘why not?’ I said I’m not going to lose a scoop. Then she got angrier and said ‘Why not? It’s not a big deal, let them make a few phone calls.’ My jaw dropped,” Ali wrote. “I realized that @DafnaLinzer, the head of all political coverage for NBC News and MSNBC wasn’t calling to advocate for her network, she was calling to advocate the DNC’s position. She wanted me to wait so they could call state party leaders.”

Ali said that he kept telling Linzer he couldn’t hold off but she repeatedly insisted that he should. Finally, he moved to end the call.

“I said ‘no, I want to go talk to my editor.’ Then she sent me over the edge and said ‘What’s your editors name, I want to talk to them.’ She was trying to intimidate me..on behalf of the DNC. I ended the call,” Ali said.

Ali wondered why Linzer made the call and what she stood to gain from the political advocacy.

Neither Linzer nor NBC have responded publicly to Ali’s accusations; she was active on Twitter on March 28, but because she only shared posts it was unclear whether she had noticed that Ali posted his thread.

An NBC spokesperson told CNN that they and Linzer have no comment on the accusation.

Attempting to deflecting from what Linzer allegedly did, a source told CNN that calling around to inform party leaders about debate schedules is normal.

The unnamed source said: “Informing internal stakeholders, 15+ presidential campaigns, and debate partners of a logistical detail an hour before it’s public is completely in bounds and nothing more than run-of-the-mill event coordination done with both political parties.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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