Although many press outlets have reported a so-called nefarious connection between former White House advisor Karl Rove and the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, none has focused as much attention on this conspiracy theory as MSNBC.
In the last four months, MSNBC has addressed this issue thirteen times, with nine involving former General Manager Dan Abrams.
Seemingly fed up with the continued unsubstantiated and poorly researched reporting by Abrams, Rove sent him a rather strongly-worded letter on April 13 (emphasis added throughout, h/t NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez via NBer Jonah Johansen):
April 13, 2008
Mr. Dan Abrams
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112
Dear Mr. Abrams:
On April 7th, you again devoted a substantial part of your show to the claim of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman that I was behind his prosecution. Your continued coverage of this issue raises questions about your journalistic standards and those of MSNBC and NBC. During your broadcast, Mr. Siegelman referred to Ms. Dana Jill Simpson as a “respected Republican political operative,” a reference it seems you accept because of the frequent attention you give her in your broadcasts.
Have you, during your coverage of Ms. Simpson, ever actually looked into her claims? For example, have you ever asked her what campaigns she worked as “an operative” with me?
Rove, almost like a prosecutor, then meticulously questioned Abrams about what research he actually did to confirm and/or verify the various allegations being made. The reader is strongly advised to review the entire lengthy cross-examination which marvelously concluded:
It boils down to this: as a journalist, do you feel you have a responsibility to dig into the claims made by your guests, seek out evidence and come to a professional judgment as to the real facts? Or do you feel if a charge is breathtaking enough, thoroughly checking it out isn’t a necessity?
I know you might be concerned that asking these questions could restrict your ability to make sensational charges on the air, but don’t you think you have a responsibility to provide even a shred of supporting evidence before sullying the journalistic reputations of MSNBC and NBC?
People used to believe journalists were searching for the truth. But your cable show increasingly seems to be focused on wishful thinking, hoping something is one way and diminishing the search for facts and evidence in favor of repeating your fondest desires. For example, while you do ask Siegelman what evidence he had to back up his charges, you did not press him when he said "We don't have the knife with Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it, but we've got the glove, and the glove fits."
The difficulty with your approach is you reduced yourself to the guy in the bar who repeats what the fellow next to him says – “The glove fits! The glove fits!” - only louder, because it suits your pre-selected story line ("Bush Justice") and you don’t want the facts to get in the way of a good fable. You have relinquished the central responsibility of an investigative reporter, namely to press everyone in order to get to the facts. You didn’t subject the statements of others to skeptical and independent review. You have chosen instead to simply repeat something someone else says because it agrees with the theme line your producers slapped on your segment, created the nifty graphic for and promoted in the ads before your appearances.
Bravo, Karl. We couldn't have said it any better.