John Heilemann Demanded Examples of MSNBC Dishonesty. Here Are a Few Choice Favorites

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Welcome back to Forgotten Fact Checks, a weekly column produced by National Review’s News Desk. This week, we offer a recap of MSNBC’s most egregious lies, refute an Associated Press explainer on detransitions, and hit more media misses.

The MSNBC Propaganda Machine

English comedian Russell Brand tore into MSNBC national affairs analyst John Heilemann on a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher after Heilemann dismissed Brand’s suggestion that it is disingenuous to claim that the biases exhibited on MSNBC are any different than the biases exhibited on Fox News.

“I’ve been on that MSNBC, mate — it was propagandist nut-crackery on there,” Brand said.

Heilemann replied: “You don’t actually know anything about any of these organizations you’re talking about. You went on MSNBC once. Big f***ing deal.”

Heilemann pushed Brand to provide a “specific example of an MSNBC correspondent or anchor being on television saying something they knew was false,” as Fox News did when it promoted false claims about the 2020 election. Brand pointed to the network’s treatment of podcaster Joe Rogan’s endorsement of ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment, noting the network “deliberately [referred] to it as a horse medicine when they know this is an effective medicine.” He also cited MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s misleading claims in March 2021 that the Covid vaccine completely protects against symptoms and transmission.

“Bickering about which propagandist network is the worst is not going to save a single American life, not improve the life of a single American child and not going to improve America’s standing in the world, and the world needs a strong America, I’ll tell you that,” Brand concluded. 

While discovery in the Dominion lawsuit provides a unique behind-the-scenes look at blatant cable news dishonesty, much of the propaganda spewed on MSNBC can be discerned without access to the staff’s text messages. Heilemann would likely argue that many of the examples of MSNBC dishonesty that follow were the product of well-intentioned mistakes, but given their common partisan utility — they reliably advance narratives preferred by progressives — that excuse doesn’t hold up.

Grabien founder Tom Elliott accepted Heilemann’s challenge, sharing examples of MSNBC knowingly lying on air. He shared a thread of twelve videos that focused only on mistruths from Heilemann himself. Among those: 

Other moments that made the list include Heilemann calling Trump voters who booed the Ohio lieutenant governor for telling them to wear a mask “literally a death cult,” as well as Heilemann’s claim that then-president Trump wouldn’t get vaccinated against Covid-19 because “hard-core Trump voters are anti-vaxxers,” despite Trump’s publicly advocating for the vaccine and ultimately receiving the jab.

Heilemann also previously called the theory that Covid-19 originated in a lab a “made-up” theory that Trump was pushing to help his reelection odds and falsely claimed that Kyle Rittenhouse was a “domestic terrorist” who drove to Kenosha, Wis., “with the intent to shoot people.”

And Elliott’s list, though lengthy, is far from comprehensive. 

In January 2019, Maddow theorized during a polar vortex that China “could shut off the natural gas pipelines” and Russia “can just shut off the electricity,” in the U.S. at any time, claiming the two countries “have that ability now.” 

“It is like negative 50 degrees in the Dakotas right now. What would happen if Russia killed the power in Fargo today?” Maddow asked. “What would happen if all the natural gas lines that service Sioux Falls just ‘poofed’ on the coldest day in recent memory and it wasn’t in our power whether or not to turn them back on.”

Some of MSNBC’s most egregious lying has been around Democrat Stacey Abrams’s loss in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. Georgia governor Brian Kemp defeated Abrams by more than 54,000 votes to become governor. Abrams has never formally conceded to Kemp and has claimed the 2018 election was “stolen from Georgians.”

Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger suggested in October 2021 that Abrams’s false claims about the 2018 election were a blueprint for Trump’s false election claims in 2020.

MSNBC carried water for Abrams and her false election claims and argued Raffensperger was only “sucking up to Trump” with his “attacks” on Abrams. The outlet falsely claimed that Kemp “purged thousands of Black people from the voter rolls” before the 2018 election. As Raffensperger wrote for NR in 2021:

But the source that the story links to does not even support the author’s claim. The source story references 53,000 voter registrations that were put “on hold,” not removed from the voter rolls. Moving past the incorrect headline, the story says, incorrectly, that those voters “can still cast a provisional ballot,” meaning they obviously were not removed from the voter rolls as MSNBC claims. However, even this isn’t true. The voters put on hold actually could vote with a regular (not provisional) ballot at the polls by simply showing their ID, just like any other Georgian.

MSNBC also omitted several of Abrams’s claims that had been proven false, including allegations from Abrams’s Fair Fight Action that voting machines “erased” 100,000 votes in 2018.

Raffensperger ultimately concluded: “In their effort to defend Abrams’s stolen-election claims, MSNBC went out of their way to dig up a false version of events and push that instead of the truth.”

More recently, some MSNBC personalities have shown they’re not quite ready to admit fault for dismissing the theory that Covid-19 originated in a lab. Host Mehdi Hasan said: “The simple reason why so many people weren’t keen to discuss the ‘lab leak’ *theory* is because it was originally conflated by the right with ‘Chinese bioweapon’ conspiracies and continues to be conflated by the right with anti-Fauci conspiracies. Blame the conspiracy theorists.”

MSNBC has also come down with one of the most acute cases of DeSantis Derangement Syndrome in recent years, so much so that DeSantis’s office said last month it would no longer consider media requests from NBC or MSNBC until MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell apologizes for her claim that DeSantis “says that slavery and the aftermath of slavery should not be taught to Florida schoolchildren.” DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin has refuted Mitchell’s claim, which she made during an interview with vice president Kamala Harris last month. “@GovRonDeSantis never said this, and FL has extensive black history requirements,” he said in a tweet.

While Mitchell has not apologized for her remarks, she did concede in a follow-up segment that she was “imprecise” when describing DeSantis’s position.

In yet another example of the outlet’s searching for ways to attack DeSantis, MSNBC anchor Joy Reid reacted to DeSantis’s budget proposal in 2021 that included the creation of a civilian military force to help handle crises such as hurricanes. While at least 22 other states already have such a force, Reid said at the time, “This is fascisty bananas, right?”

That’s not to mention various MSNBC lies about critical race theory, including when Nicolle Wallace insisted CRT “isn’t real.”

Headline Fail of the Week

The Associated Press published an explainer this week that asks, “How common is transgender treatment regret, detransitioning?”

“Detransitioning,” the outlet explains, “means stopping or reversing gender transition, which can include medical treatment or changes in appearance, or both.” It “does not always include regret. The updated transgender treatment guidelines note that some teens who detransition ‘do not regret initiating treatment’ because they felt it helped them better understand their gender-related care needs,” the outlet reports.

The report relies on transgender clinics and doctors who suggest that detransitioning is “rare.” However, the AP goes on to acknowledge that “the few studies that exist have too many limitations or weaknesses to draw firm conclusions.”

The director of transgender medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston even told the outlet it is difficult to quantify “because patients who detransition often see new doctors, not the physicians who prescribed the hormones or performed the surgeries. Some patients may simply stop taking hormones.”

As Reuters reported in December, studies “suggest a wide range of possibilities for rates of detransitioning, from less than 1% to 25%. The research provides even less certainty about the incidence of regret among patients who received medical treatment as minors. And the studies have serious drawbacks.” Long-term results on outcomes for transgender youth who have received gender-transition care is “years away,” the Reuters report says. 

Media Misses

• Instead of holding Pete Buttigieg accountable for his poor performance as transportation secretary, the Hill instead chose to highlight what a “political nightmare” the post had become for him. “When Pete Buttigieg became Transportation secretary at the start of the Biden administration, some Democrats said it would be a perfect platform for his political prospects if not in 2024, then 2028,” the outlet reported. “Instead, the job of Transportation secretary has been a set of compounding problems for Buttigieg, 41, who has been seen as one of the Democratic Party’s brightest stars.”

• At the New York Times, “all the news that’s fit to print” apparently included a front-page piece on the difficulties black equestrians face in finding helmets. For Black equestrians with natural hair, finding a helmet that fits can be virtually impossible — another barrier to inclusion in a sport that remains overwhelmingly white. Helmet companies say there isn’t a simple fix,” the outlet writes in its hard-hitting report.

• Reuters wrote of Joseph Stalin’s “polarizing legacy” in a piece for the 70th anniversary of the genocidal leader’s death. The story goes on to add how “attitudes to the Soviet Union’s wartime leader remain mixed in the nations he once ruled with an iron fist.”

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