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Ben Johnson

Did MSNBC Fake Its Own Transcript to Cover for Ed Schultz?

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Posted on September 2 2009 4:03 pm
MSNBC, where Ed Schultzs idiocy goes down the memory hole.

MSNBC: where Ed Schultz's idiocy goes down the memory hole.

Does MSNBC edit its transcripts to make its hosts look better and conservatives look worse? The network’s transcript of Monday’s edition of “The Ed Show” did just that. Host Ed Schultz had on Ron Christie, former deputy advisor to Dick Cheney, to discuss Obama’s ever-weakening Homeland Security policies. In the discussion, Ed made an embarrassing verbal blunder, and Ron ably defended himself — but the edited transcript posted on MSNBC’s website has elided key parts of their discussion.

Ed mocked “this idea that [Bush and Cheney] kept the country safe,” thundering, “We were hit, big time, on Cheney’s watch, not on Obama’s watch.” The Left has used this line, without effect, since at least the 2004 elections — as though al-Qaeda sprung from whole cloth on January 21, 2001, and accomplished its grandest plans in a mere nine months. Christie had his number — and Schultz’s inept response proved it:

CHRISTIE: Do you even want to go there with me, Ed?

SCHULTZ: Yeah, I wanna go down that road. Go ahead!

CHRISTIE:  Let’s talk about the Clinton administration.  Let’s talk about the Clinton Justice Department that viewed acts of terrorism – the first World Trade Center bombing, the bombings overseas of our embassies – as a law enforcement matter.

SCHULTZ:  Uh, excuse me, on American soil—

(Cross Talk)

CHRISTIE:  Let’s look at Jamie Gorelick, Ed. Let’s look at Jamie Gorelick, who refused —

SCHULTZ: …the people that [sic.] hit during the Clinton administration, they ended up getting prosecuted and those people that [sic.] hit in  New York back in [it sounds as though he said '92, or slurred some amalgam of '93 and '92] — those folks are behind bars.  The point is this—

First off, U.S. embassies are “sovereign U.S. territory.” Second, Ed Schultz’s retort proved Ron Christie right: the Clinton administration viewed terrorism as a matter for the courts, and not a high priority, at that. There was no military response, and al-Qaeda grew increasingly belligerent until 9/11. Words alone don’t do Ed’s idiocy justice. Watch the way Ed thoughtful pause before saying Clinton “prosecuted” the terrorists, as though it were a ripping rejoinder, and his leering, “gotcha” look upon noting the mass murderers were “behind bars.” You can verify my transcript and Ed’s body language at the 6:55 mark below, or in MSNBC’s video clip:

Evidently, this was so discrediting to MSNBC’s dullest host that the network scrubbed the exchange from its official transcript of the program. The network’s website records the conversation thus:

CHRISTIE:  Do you want to go there with me, Ed?

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

CHRISTIE:  Let‘s talk about the Clinton administration.  Let‘s talk about the Clinton Justice Department that viewed acts of terrorism, the first World Trade Center bombings, the—

SCHULTZ:  Excuse me, on American soil—the people hit during the Clinton administration, they ended up getting prosecuted and those people that hit New York back in ‘93 — those folks are behind bars.  The point is this—

CHRISTIE:  We had the opportunity to go after Osama bin Laden.  The Clinton administration refused to do so.

By striking Christie’s words about Clinton seeing terrorism “as a law enforcement matter,” the transcript now reads that the Clinton Justice Department “viewed acts of terrorism” — presumably, that it witnessed them and did nothing. This edit turns Ed’s inadvertent concession into a triumph.

Christie’s reference to al-Qaeda bombing U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania is omitted, even though Ed was not speaking over him at the time. His reference to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing has been made plural to compensate. In MSNBC’s telling, Ed Schultz got the correct year of the World Trade Center bombing (“’93,” not ’92, which was before Clinton’s inauguration). And Jamie Gorelick disappeared from the transcript entirely.

The transcript edits another exchange seconds later. The words MSNBC omitted are in bold:

SCHULTZ:  Ron, Ron, Ron, are you trying to tell us, [a]re you trying to tell us that the Bush administration did a good job protecting the country?

CHRISTIE:  Yes, Ed.  The fact of the matter is—

SCHULTZ:  O.K. Alright. End of the discussion.  You said yes.

CHRISTIE:  The fact of the matter is the country was not hit after 9/11 and [t]he fact of the matter is the Clinton administration had the opportunity to have taken out Osama bin Laden.  They didn’t.

SCHULTZ: So, Ron, Ron, let’s — let’s not reverse history.

CHRISTIE: Jamie Gorelick, the deputy attorney general —

SCHULTZ:  Ron, wait a minute.  Wait a minute now.  Do you think the Bush administration….

Christie rightly noted the Bush-Cheney administration foiled every terrorist attack for 7+ years. In this edit, it looks as though Christie claimed the Bush administration protected us from 9/11 — and has been twisted to that effect on the left-wing Democratic Underground website. (The following post calls Christie a “cross-eyed uncle tom.”)

The transcript trimmed out a few of Ed’s interruptions, making him seem like less of a boor — but usually losing Ed’s words is no big loss.

One could protest this was cross talk — but so was the exchange between Schultz and Christie connecting these two edits, and although Ed spoke over top of Ron, MSNBC did not mutilate that text. (“We had the opportunity to go after Osama bin Laden.  The Clinton administration refused to do so.”) Burrell’s Transcripts faithfully records all discernible cross talk, making their work accurate and authentic. And MSNBC does not post instantaneous transcriptions; these often take 24 hours or more to post. (Which is why this post about Monday’s show is appearing on Wednesday.) They couldn’t be done right?

As a former journalism student, I know better than to underestimate the laziness or incompetence of journalists. It would be worthwhile to see if there are other such instances of transcript edits. However, it seems curious the two sentences omitted from this transcript would have made Ed Schultz look (more) like a blithering idiot.

If false, Ed’s views are dangerously widespread. Last June, candidate Obama stated: “In previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center — we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.” Omar Abdel Rahman and co. are imprisoned but hardly “incapacitated.” In early 2005, terror lawyer Lynne Stewart was convicted of perpetrating a kind of “jailbreak” by helping the Blind Sheikh smuggle a message to his Egyptian followers telling them to keep fighting. A Clinton-appointed judge gave her a token sentence while hailing her “public service, not only to her clients but to the nation.” Like Ed’s brilliant reply, history proves Christie’s point.

The Left’s greatest deficit, next to cogency (and decency), is coherence, and Ed Schultz is a repeat offender. As I have noted, he once retorted, “This was not an idea; this was a plan.” This is significant only because lampooning the verbal gaffes of Sarah Palin has become a major sport on the Left; Pam Meister of Family Security Matters had some cogent thoughts on Pajamas Media.

Here is the key to mainstream media bias: MSNBC invents misstatements by conservatives; it erases verbal gaffes by leftists.

If its crack team of J-school grads can’t properly report the proceedings of its own network, in what sense can other journalists continue to pretend MSNBC is a news organization?

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