Ed Schultz responded angrily to a March 9 NewsBusters post detailing how unions paid him nearly $200,000 in 2011, telling viewers of "The Ed Show" that night of receiving the money for speaking engagements and advertisements on his radio show website. All union speaking fees were donated to charity, Schultz claimed, as required by MSNBC policy.
That Schultz has received $337,490 from unions since 2005, according to Labor Department records, hardly comes as a shock since he is one of the most vociferous shills for organized labor in the media. More problematic has been Schultz's lack of transparency about this. (video after page break)
"I'm glad Schultz gave the money to charity as the network required him to do," said media critic Howard Kurtz on "Reliable Sources" over the weekend. "But the payments create the appearance that he is too cozy with labor, speaking for money rather than speaking his mind."
Not only that, Schultz's numbers don't add up.
Here's what Schultz said Friday on "The Ed Show" --
The policy at MSNBC is any speech must get prior approval and any honorarium must be donated to charity of the speaker's choice. I chose last year that all the money go to the American Cancer Society for the great work that they do and I have friends in that organization as well. And I will continue to do so.
To bolster his claim, Schultz showed an excerpt from a Feb. 29 letter to him from the American Cancer Society, stating "it is with pleasure to personally share our tremendous gratitude for your recent donation of $100,000."
This, however, represents half the $199,900 Schultz received from unions in 2011 -- $190,000 from the Communications Workers of America and $9,900 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Is Schultz suggesting that the $99,900 apparently not donated to charity was paid to him for ads on his radio website? Consider me skeptical, especially seeing how as of today the IBEW doesn't have an ad on Schultz's radio site, though CWA does.
Schultz on Friday also described his radio website as "completely -- I say completely -- independent and not affiliated with MSNBC." As for Schultz's radio show, well, not quite. The program is broadcast mostly from MSNBC studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, except for when Schultz is on the road, an arrangement in place since "The Ed Show" first aired from 30 Rock in April 2009.
Moreover, that alleged independence meant little at MSNBC after Schultz demeaned Laura Ingraham as a "talk show slut" last May on his radio show -- for which he was suspended from his MSNBC show for a week -- either voluntarily, as he claims, or more likely after getting an ultimatum he couldn't refuse.
Seeking clarification, I tried to contact Schultz by phone yesterday. One of his producers, James Holm, took my call and said I needed to contact the MSNBC media office. Holm provided me with his email address and asked that I forward the questions to him so that he could send them to the appropriate person at MSNBC. I promptly did so, including my phone number.
In my email I wrote that "Mr. Schultz's response on 'The Ed Show' begs the question -- what about the other $99,900 he was paid by unions in fiscal 2011? Was this also donated to the American Cancer Society and/or other charities as required by MSNBC policy that he cited? I respectfully request that documentation of these donations to charity for that remaining $99,900 are provided so that Mr. Schultz can further substantiate his claim."
Having not heard back three hours later, I called the MSNBC media office and was told I had to speak with Tanya Hayre. I repeated my questions and gave my phone number and email address.
Two hours later, I received an email from Ms. Hayre who wrote that "per Ed's statement below, the $200K went towards the American Cancer Society and advertising on Ed's radio website." As for Schultz's "statement," it consisted of a video link to the "Ed Show" segment on Friday and a transcript for the segment.
Having fallen short twice in dealings with Schultz underlings, I decided a better course of action was through NewsBusters, which does seem to get Schultz's attention.
Here's why I'm skeptical. Back in January 2011, a few weeks after the Tucson shooting rampage, a defensive Schultz told his radio listeners that the aptly-named "Psycho Talk" segment on "The Ed Show" had been shelved -- and that it wasn't his decision. "I don't call all the shots," Schultz said, as I described at the time. "But the decision has been made that 'Psycho Talk' was better at six o'clock and not at 10 o'clock. (An allusion to the show moving to the later time after Keith Olbermann's abrupt departure from MSNBC). Now look, there's probably people in positions that are a helluva lot smarter than I am and have decided that that's the way it's going to be."
Six months later, Schultz developed selective amnesia, telling radio listeners this --
Now, we had a congressional member shot in the head and six people were killed earlier this year in Tucson. And we had a big discussion in this country about rhetoric, about hate talk, inciting violence. In fact, I gave 'Psycho Talk' a rest. You know, I mean, you know, we all have to understand the climate, the moment, and understand the severity of what's out there.
It's not just Schultz's casual lie about "Psycho Talk" that justifies my skepticism (his claim undercut, conveniently enough, by Schultz himself). It's the whole Schultz shtick, as abundantly documented here at NewsBusters and elsewhere -- the bombast, the bellicosity, the Teutonic certitude. The man's a bomb thrower, then gets indignant when one is thrown back.
You went only halfway in your claim about all your union speaking fees going to charity, Mr. Schultz. Prove me wrong by verifying that other half.