MSNBC’s Shuster Relies on Media Matters to Hunt for Truth About Conservatives

MSNBC host David Shuster on Thursday relied on the liberal group Media Matters to help him as he tried to "sift through the spin and get at the truth" of a Republican-created chart purporting to show government-run health care as a confusing maze of bureaucracy. Shuster began by complaining, "Is the conservative media deliberately trying to avoid any fact-checking when it comes to Republican talking points?"

The cable anchor appeared incensed that the graph, released by congressional Republicans, has been featured on Fox News and the Drudge Report. Introducing Karl Frisch, Senior Media Fellow at Media Matters, Shuster attacked its reliability and fumed, "Is this another example of, at least with some of the conservative media, it’s to their strategic benefit not to bother checking things out?"

The MSNBC News Live host appeared to rely on Media Matters as an objective truth teller despite the fact that the organization has attacked him and colleague Chris Matthews for not being sufficiently supportive of the Clintons. On February 8, 2008, Media Matters chided Shuster for details relating to his apology in regards to his comment that Chelsea Clinton was being "pimped out" by her then candidate mom.

On January 11, 2008, the liberal organization fretted, "Does Chris Matthews have a problem with women?" In the post, Media Matters also attacked the Hardball host for comments about other female, Democratic politicians.

Shuster closed out his interview on Thursday by solemnly asserting, "...It just underscores the challenge that a lot of us have. I mean, for those of us, you and I, [co-host Tamron Hall], who do want to do their due diligence, it's sort of an unfair playing field when there are others like, ‘Just look at this chart. This is it.’"

Of course, Shuster’s liberal bias has long been in evidence. On his now- cancelled show 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he featured a segment called Hypocrisy Watch that went after conservative/Republican politicians 71 percent of the time. So, perhaps, Shuster should rethink whether or not he’s doing his "due diligence" in covering the news.

A transcript of the MSNBC News Live segment, which aired at 3:37pm, follows:

DAVID SHUSTER: Is the conservative media deliberately trying to avoid any fact-checking when it comes to Republican talking points? Yesterday, Republicans released this chart, purporting to show the Candy Land of new agencies and red tape they say health care reform will create. And the release from Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy, quote, "Why should any patient be required to give control of their health care over to this Faustian pit of Washington bureaucracy?" The conservative media picked up the chart and ran with it and the talking points- and of course- the chart were everywhere within 24 hour. Democrats say the chart has nothing to do with the health care bill they’ve proposed. So, who has the responsibility to sift through the spin and get at the truth? Joining us now is Karl Frisch, senior Media Fellow at Media Matters for America. Karl, thanks for coming in. Is this another example of, at least with some of the conservative media, it’s to their strategic benefit not to bother checking things out?

KARL FRISCH (Media Matters): I think so. I mean, really what it is, is a textbook example of the right wing noise machine. A Republican politician pushes something out to the press. Matt Drudge picks it up, puts it on his website. And then Fox News starts running with it show after show after show. And then a few more outlets pick it up and before you know it, something confined to a press release is in front of millions of Americans at home.

SHUSTER: Likewise, I mean, if the Democrats make a claim about this not being the chart, there’s a responsible on some of us if we're not going to say, okay, this is not the Democratic plan to also go through- which is also something we try do. Try to figure out. And there are clear examples of why the chart was inaccurate. But, again, there’s a responsibility on everyone. And I wonder what happens to a political debate when you have some news , organizations who are doing their due diligence, we’re trying to check things out, and you have others who don't want to.

FRISCH: Well, that's the big problem here. For 70 years, conservative interest groups, conservatives in general have been attacking health care reform plans as something socialist that we should all be afraid of. This chart is no different. It fits right into that plan. They actually did something very, very similar in 1994, so it's nothing unique. It’s nothing original. It's recycled garbage. And, I think, the American people, you look at polls, 72 percent want a public option. They want a solution. They don't want a fourth grade, you know, ability to use Microsoft Publisher. They want real answers.

SHUSTER: Now, as far as if health care is concerned, if we were to try to chart the flowchart now as it currently stands with for-profit insurance companies and the bureaucracies and the business administrators that often stand between you and your doctors, would it be simple or would it be complicated?

FRISCH: It would be very complicated. I mean, when I first saw this chart, I thought, what are they trying say? Health care is complicated? No kidding. 40 million Americans know that this is a complicated problem. I actually did some digging of my own and found the Republican plan chart all drawn up in great detail and I'd like to show it to you right there. [Holds up a blank paper with a large question mark on it.] I mean, that's how easy it is to put something out there like this or that chart when we could be having a serious discussion about the ups and downs of any policy discussion.

SHUSTER: Karl Frisch from Media Matters. Karl, thanks so much for coming in. We appreciate it. And, Tamron, again, it just underscores the challenge that a lot of us have. I mean, for those of us, you and I, Tamron, who do want to do their due diligence, it's sort of an unfair playing field when there are others like, "Just look at this chart. This is it."

TAMRON HALL: And it is unfair, obviously, to those many Americans who want to see which way the country will go with health care, when- if this is the case, an organization on whatever side of this, deliberately tries to confuse. And that obviously makes it unfair to the people.

Updated by Noel Sheppard at 8:54 PM.

It seems Shuster's fact checkers goofed again, for Congressman McCarthy didn't write, "Why should any patient be required to give control of their health care over to this Faustian pit of Washington bureaucracy?" That came from Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas.

Honestly, this entire network is a disgrace.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org