NEW YORK (AP) — MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday retracted his story about supposed Russian ties to President Donald Trump’s finances and apologized for reporting it — just as Trump’s lawyer demanded.
O’Donnell said, however, “I still don’t know if the story is true, but those that know me best also know that’s my standard when I’m impugning someone else’s character. To quote one of my favorite characters in history, ‘What is truth.'”
His public pull-back unfolded quickly in the opening minute of “The Last Word,” where 24 hours earlier the cable news host said that a source had told him that Deutsche Bank documents showed that Russian oligarchs had co-signed a loan application for Trump.
O’Donnell reported the story, based on a single source he did not identify, even as he couched it with the qualifier “if true” and admitted it had not been verified by NBC News. O’Donnell explained, “Verifying a story takes so long, costs money, and it might hurt my ratings. So we ran with it.”
Trump’s lawyer, Charles Harder, had written to NBC Wednesday afternoon, saying the story was false and defamatory and threatening legal action if it wasn’t disowned. Harder said the story could have been disproven with an internet search.
Said O’Donnell, “Do an internet search! What are you, crazy?” Harder later added, “Mr. O’Donnell’s ‘if true‘ standard defies all journalistic standards. Why just today, someone told me that they have photographs of Mr. O’Donnell in a compromising position with a goat. “If true“, this could be embarrassing to Mr. O’Donnell
O’Donnell quickly tweeted that he made an “error in judgment” reporting the story. If true, Mr. O’Donnell is the master of understatement.