MSNBC’s O’Donnell Denies Anti-Palin Media Bias

Norah O'Donnell, MSNBC During the Monday 12PM EST hour of MSNBC news coverage, anchor Norah O’Donnell interviewed conservative film maker John Ziegler, creator of ‘Media Malpractice,’ a documentary on media bias against Sarah Palin, and denied any such bias: "Well, let me ask you, you called the treatment of Sarah Palin and her family a, quote, 'media assassination, one of the greatest public injustices of our time.' Is that a little strong? Are you and her a little thin-skinned?"

Ziegler responded by pointing out O’Donnell’s own anti-Palin bias: "The evidence is overwhelming. It's continuing today. I mean, just a few weeks ago, Norah, you incorrectly stated on the air Sarah Palin called Barack Obama a terrorist during the campaign." NewsBusters reported on O’Donnell’s January 29 smear of Palin.

O’Donnell criticized part of Ziegler’s documentary: "Let me ask you, in your documentary you cite examples of media bias by Saturday Night Live, that that's media bias. Aren't those comedians?...How's that media bias?" Ziegler explained: "Poll after poll shows that more people get their news from comedy shows because the line between entertainment and news, as this network has shown time and time again, has virtually evaporated...MSNBC used to be a news organization, now it's an advocacy organization, and SNL is actually thought to be a news organization."

Later, Ziegler argued: "You don't think that Tina Fey had a major impact on that past -- in this past election?...Tina Fey clips were used by news organizations constantly. Andrea Mitchell made a habit out of using SNL clips in her Nightly News stories as if they were news." O’Donnell concluded the segment by declaring: "We are equal opportunity when it comes to Democrats or Republicans. We play the SNL clips that make fun of them here on MSNBC..." Ziegler replied: "Really? I'd like to see a study on that, in fact."

In fact, on September 29, MSNBC played an SNL clip mocking Palin seven times between 6AM and 12 noon. Meanwhile, on November 2, MSNBC failed to give any air time to an SNL clip mocking MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. That same day, the network replayed a clip of John McCain’s appearance on the show poking fun at himself a total of eleven times.

Here is the full transcript of O’Donnell’s exchange with Ziegler:

12:53PM SEGMENT:

SARAH PALIN: We were quite insulated and isolated from what was going on in the world of the media. We would catch snippets here and there, either on the campaign bus or looking at a headline in a newspaper as we walked by, and would see some coverage that way but we were quite isolated, really, from what was being said about our candidacy in -- in the media.

NORAH O'DONNELL: That was Alaska Governor Sarah Palin speaking out in a new documentary called 'Media Malpractice,' it examines claims Palin was mistreated by the mainstream media on the campaign trail, while Barack Obama was given special treatment. John Ziegler is the film maker behind this documentary and joins us now. John, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.

JOHN ZIEGLER: Thank you, Norah, and thank you so much for your setup piece on the Today show this morning, which will be great fodder for my next film 'Media Malpractice 2: The Sequel.'

O'DONNELL: [Laughs] Very well, John. Well, let me ask you, you called the treatment of Sarah Palin and her family a, quote, 'media assassination, one of the greatest public injustices of our time.' Is that a little strong? Are you and her a little thin-skinned?

ZIEGLER: Well, I think you'd have to watch the documentary to find out, because I think the proof shows exactly what I'm saying is true. The evidence is overwhelming. It's continuing today. I mean, just a few weeks ago, Norah, you incorrectly stated on the air Sarah Palin called Barack Obama a terrorist during the campaign and instead of getting fired, you get picked to do the setup piece for the exclusive interview on the Today show. So, I think that shows the nature of the news media and the sign of our times.

O'DONNELL: Let me ask you, in your documentary you cite examples of media bias by Saturday Night Live, that that's media bias. Aren't those comedians?

ZIEGLER: Well first-

O'DONNELL: How's that media bias?

ZIEGLER: Well, first of all, again I'd urge people to watch the documentary, which you can get at howobamagotelected.com, and we'll be showing screenings across the country as well, and so the context of those SNL clips is incredibly important. Poll after poll shows that more people get their news from comedy shows because the line between entertainment and news, as this network has shown time and time again, has virtually evaporated. There is no, necessarily, credibility in an alleged news organizations, like the former MSNBC used to be a news organization, now it's an advocacy organization, and SNL is actually thought to be a news organization. There were many episodes -- in fact, one involving Joe Biden's 'international test' comments, in which you got more credible information about what Joe Biden said from SNL than you did from NBC Nightly News. So the lines really have evaporated and I think it's very much appropriate to include those in a documentary about the media.

O'DONNELL: John, you're a man who watches words very carefully, that's part of your business. You just said, and I quote, ‘SNL is thought to be a news agency.' Do you want to stand by that?

ZIEGLER: If you listen to what I said, Norah, and, again, just to remind you, Sarah Palin never did say that Barack Obama was a terrorist, if we're worried about words, but the reality is that people are stupid, and a lot of people do think that Bill Maher, or Jon Stewart, or the Colbert Report, or SNL actually is real news information and, frankly, it's becoming more and more difficult to argue with those people because news has completely disintegrated in this day and age and this network is a prime example of that.

O'DONNELL: I guess that's the difference between us, John, I don't think that they think it's news. I think people are smart enough, actually that when they watch comedy-

ZIEGLER: You don't think that Tina Fey had a major impact on that past -- in this past election?

O'DONNELL: Oh, I think she had an impact but I think people understand-

ZIEGLER: You think?

O'DONNELL: -that it's a parody. I think-

ZIEGLER: Really?

O'DONNELL: Oh yeah, I don't think people are stupid, I actually think people are smart.

ZIEGLER: Well, here's the difference, though -- here's the difference, though, Norah-

O'DONNELL: It's cartoons, yeah-

ZIEGLER: Tina Fey clips were used by news organizations constantly. Andrea Mitchell made a habit out of using SNL clips in her Nightly News stories as if they were news. So talk to Andrea Mitchell about whether or not SNL is, in fact, a news source or not. Some of them more gratuitous and had absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter and were simply just used as shots at Sarah Palin or John McCain. The same was not done against Joe Biden, and certainly not against Barack Obama. We've seen what happened to The New York Post when you even come close to joking about anything that has anything remotely to do with Democrats. The reality is it's a double standard and my documentary proves it, you can find out more about it at howobamagotelected.com.

O'DONNELL: We are equal opportunity when it comes to Democrats or Republicans. We play the SNL clips that make fun of them here on MSNBC, because we love-

ZIEGLER: Really? I'd like to see a study on that, in fact.

O'DONNELL: John Ziegler, good to see you, buddy. Take care.

ZIEGLER: Thanks, Norah.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC