Rachel Maddow's Shabby Deceit Shows Dire Need for Ombudsman at MSNBC

Wanted: Editor at MSNBC familiar with journalism ethics -- and willingness to ensure that "news" division adheres to them.

In the unlikely event such a hiring occurs, MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow would soon catch the attention of any ombudsman acting in good faith.

I have watched Maddow's television show on a regular basis since it started last September, and listened to her Air America Radio program for nine months before it ended last winter. What Maddow did this past Thursday was, bar none, the shabbiest spectacle I've seen by her and among the worst I can recall from anyone pretending to play a journalist on TV.

First, I'll let Maddow's words speak for themselves --

MADDOW: Our second story tonight is something that Liberty University would like to be a correction, but it's not. On Friday's show, you may recall that we hosted a young Liberty University undergraduate named Brian Diaz. Mr. Diaz was president of what used to be the Liberty University Democratic Club. The school revoked its recognition of the Liberty University Democratic Club on moral grounds, sending an email to the president of the club that read, "We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University."

We reported that because the club's recognition by the school had been revoked, the 30 members of the Liberty University campus Democrats could no longer use Liberty in their name, could no longer advertise events at school, or receive any school activities money. Well, Liberty University and its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., are apparently furious with our reporting on this subject. They say we got it totally wrong, because, well here's how Mr. Falwell explained it in an op-ed column posted online today -- "Official recognition carries with it the benefit of using the university name and funds. While this group will not be an officially recognized club, it may still meet on campus."

So the college Democrats at Liberty University still have the constitutionally-protected right to congregate, but they cannot use the school's name, the school's facilities or any money. So in fact, we didn't get the story wrong at all, which is why this isn't a correction. And which is why we are standing by the story. And which is why Liberty University still needs to explain why they think they should be exempt from taxation and why they should get federally-supported student loans for people to attend that school while they only allow the Republican Party to have an official presence on its campus.

All of which bore little resemblance to Maddow's initial "reporting," as seen in the second part of the embedded video. Here's how Maddow on May 22 described what took place at Liberty University --

MADDOW: Televangelist Jerry Falwell founded the Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971, which begat the Liberty Baptist College in 1976, which begat Liberty University in 1985. Liberty's a big school, more than 11,000 students enrolled there last year. It's known for being the university founded by Jerry Falwell. It's also known for the auspicious decision to name its sports teams the Flames.

And, Liberty University is about to become famous for something else. They have banned Democrats on campus. Literally, not hyperbole. The school revoked its recognition of the Liberty University Democratic Club on moral grounds, sending an email to the president of the club that read, "We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University," adding, "The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the 'LGBT' agenda, hate crimes which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.)"

The 30 members of the Liberty University campus Democrats can no longer use Liberty in their name, they can no longer advertise events, they basically can't use the word (sic) liberty and Democrat in the same sentence. So students, you can enjoy all the liberty you want, as long as you belong to the only political party allowed on campus.

Note the differences between what Maddow claimed "we" at MNBC reported (as opposed to "me" or "I," words denoting personal responsibility) and what "she" actually reported --

Maddow on May 28: We reported that because the club's recognition by the school had been revoked, the 30 members of the Liberty University campus Democrats could no longer use Liberty in their name, could no longer advertise events at the school, or receive any school activities money.

Maddow on May 22: The 30 members of the Liberty University campus Democrats can no longer use Liberty in their name, they can no longer advertise events, they basically can't use the word liberty and Democrats in the same sentence.

In fact, Maddow on May 22 never mentioned that campus Democrats would no longer receive school activities money -- even though she claimed to have done so on May 28 after being called on the carpet. Not only is it unethical for Maddow to claim to have reported something she did not, it was a donkey-in-the-room omission from her initial reporting. And anyone wincing through Maddow's interview with Liberty University Democrat (one survives!) Brian Diaz will see that Diaz also made no mention of the university cutting off funding to school Democrats.

Notice also how Maddow first described what Liberty University had done -- "They have banned Democrats on campus. Literally, not hyperbole." Not content to merely assert that Liberty University "banned" Democrats, Maddow added "literally" for emphasis. Followed by her hyperbolic use of "not hyperbole." All of which makes me wonder, is Maddow watching archival footage of Ted Baxter for inspiration? (No, you're right, it's Olbermann).

Then there are her dubious claims -- campus Democrats "can no longer advertise events," Maddow stated May 22. Really? Diaz and fellow Dems can't place an ad on Craigslist announcing details of their next ice cream social? Does this alleged prohibition extend to fliers, bulletin boards, passed notes in class, etc.? By May 28, this Maddowism had morphed into "no longer advertise events at the school." Last layer to the onion? Not likely.

On May 28, after Maddow was taken to task by Falwell, she claimed that Liberty University Democrats "cannot use the school's name, school's facilities or any money."

"Any money" -- including their own? What about donations from people with no better way to waste money? How about a bailout from Obama? In other words, if you're not being funded by the state, your college or your parents -- as in, Other People's Money -- you cease to exist. Raising revenue on your own runs the risk being perceived as initiative -- or the assumption you're a Republican.

Adding insult to rhetorical vandalism, Maddow's May 22 segment included a graphic showing a bright red university pennant emblazoned with "ONE-PARTY STATE". Gotta love the irony -- fringe-left pundit falsely alleges Soviet-style oppression of dissent while engaging in genuine Soviet-style misinformation campaign.

Would an ombudsman have taken notice? Only one not worried about the cocktail circuit. And I'm not suggesting it has to be an ombudsman. A wise Latina would more than suffice.

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts