MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell said Wednesday he made an “error in judgment” in reporting about supposed Russian ties to President Donald Trump’s finances without verifying the story.
O’Donnell’s admission came in a tweet Wednesday after a lawyer for Trump said the story was false and defamatory, and called on NBC News to apologize and retract it.
MSNBC had no comment on any potential disciplinary action for O’Donnell, saying he would address the matter on Wednesday’s show.
O’Donnell said in his tweet that the story, which led Tuesday night’s broadcast, “didn’t go through our vigorous verification and standards process. I shouldn’t have reported it and I was wrong to discuss it on the air.”
He said on the show that he’d been told that Deutsche Bank had documents showing that Russian oligarchs had co-signed loans for Trump.
He said the report came from a single source, who he didn’t identify. The documents also supposedly reveal that Trump paid little in taxes, he said.
Even as O’Donnell talked about his story, he couched it several times, saying “if true.”
“That would explain, it seems to me, every kind word that Donald Trump has ever said about Russia and Vladimir Putin, if true, and I stress the ‘if true’ part of this,” he said on the air.
It exhibits a stunning lack of rigor for a news organization that was pounced upon by Trump’s lawyers. In a letter to Susan Weiner, NBC Universal’s general counsel, and Daniel Kummer, the company’s senior vice president for litigation, Trump lawyer Charles Harder called O’Donnell’s statements “false and defamatory, and extremely damaging.”
Harder said Trump is the only guarantor for the loans. He said it was information that was publicly recorded and could be found by an online search.