MSNBC’s evening host Lawrence O’Donnell has retracted an unverified report that he aired on Tuesday evening, Aug. 27, which claimed that President Trump may have obtained business loans with the help of Russian oligarchs.
O’Donnell admitted via Twitter, on Wednesday afternoon, “Last night I made an error in judgement by reporting an item about the president’s finances that didn’t go through our rigorous verification and standards process. I shouldn’t have reported it and I was wrong to discuss it on the air. I will address the issue on my show tonight.”
President Trump’s lawyers, on Wednesday, reacted strongly to the unsubstantiated report, sending a letter to NBC Universal that demanded both a retraction and an apology, while threatening to take legal action against the network.
MSNBC’s report insinuated that the president may be indebted to Russian oligarchs for co-signing bank loans with Deutsche Bank on Trump’s behalf, when other banks would not back him. The report, however, was not properly sourced or substantiated, and it has now been retracted.
The White House called the report “false and defamatory,” and demanded, under threat of legal action, that “Mr. O’Donnell and NBCU immediately and prominently retract, correct and apologize for the aforementioned false and defamatory statements.”
The legal demand gave NBC 24 hours to comply, indicating, “Failure to do so will leave my clients with no alternative but to consider their legal options, which could include immediate legal proceedings against Mr. O’Donnell and NBCU.”
The misleading report occurred during an on-air exchange between O’Donnell and MSNBC evening co-host Rachel Maddow over President Trump’s business finances, when O’Donnell offered, “I may have some information, in this next hour, which would add a great deal to their understanding of [Trump’s finances], if true, and I’ll be discussing it here.”
O’Donnell continued, “I stress ‘if true,’ because this is a single source who has told me that Deutsche Bank obtained tax returns … [The source] has told me that Donald Trump’s loan documents there show that he has co-signers. That’s how he was able to obtain those loans and that the co-signers are Russian oligarchs.”
O’Donnell then added, “That would explain every kind word Donald Trump has ever said about Russia and Vladimir Putin …”
The White House responded harshly on Wednesday morning, “These statements are false and defamatory, and extremely damaging. The only borrowers under these loans are Trump entities, and Mr. Trump is the only guarantor. Numerous documents for each of the these loans are also recorded, publicly available, and searchable online.”
The letter continues, “Thus, actual malice can easily be proven based on your reckless disregard of the truth and unreasonable reliance on an alleged ‘source’ who you will not even identify …”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham also spoke out against MSNBC’s report, on Wednesday morning, stating in an interview with Fox News, “This is one of the reasons that a majority of Americans have lost trust in the media. Instead of applying ethics and standards to their reporting, journalists and left-wing outlets have weaponized the media, using it to attack and harass people with little to no regard for the truth.”