MSNBC has been paying much more attention to Rep. Joe Wilson -- the Republican congressman who yelled "You lie" during last night's presidential address to congress -- this morning, at the expense of actually covering health care policy. No surprise, really, but it doesn't serve their viewers well.
Even worse, MSNBC just aired comments from Wilson earlier this morning in which he reiterated his claim that President Obama isn't telling the truth about whether proposed health insurance reforms would cover those who are in the country illegally.
Wilson is wrong; Obama is right. But that wasn't made clear to MSNBC viewers. MSNBC aired Wilson speaking, without interruption, for more than two minutes. During those two minutes, Wilson claimed again and again that illegal immigrants would be covered, referring to amendments and what he claims are third-party validators of his position. MSNBC's debunking of Wilson consisted entirely of Tamron Hall saying -- a full minute after the clip of Wilson ended -- "there's also been a number of fact-checkers who said that Congressman Wilson is wrong, that there was nothing to indicate."
That's it. MSNBC played Wilson going on for two minutes about amendments and the Congressional Research Service validating his position, then "debunked" him by saying "there's also been a number of fact-checkers who said that Congressman Wilson is wrong, that there was nothing to indicate." (That's the full sentence, by the way: Hall just stopped mid-thought, not making clear what Wilson was wrong about.)
How does that segment look to a typical viewer? I suspect many viewers -- particularly those who lean to the right -- come away from the segment believing Wilson. He seemed to be offering specifics, he claimed to have the support of the Congressional Research Service, and the "rebuttal" of him was laughably vague; it wasn't even a full sentence. And it came well after viewers saw Wilson's claims.
It's bad enough that MSNBC is allowing Wilson's outburst last night to drive the day's discussion of health care; it's indefensible that in doing so they are doing such a poor job of debunking his underlying claims.
UPDATE: Just 15 minutes after the segment about Wilson, MSNBC is right back at it, playing a clip of him and devoting a large chunk of their health care coverage to this sideshow. And how long do you think it'll be before MSNBC anchors express shock that the American people don't understand health care? This. Is. Why.
UPDATE 2: ... And 8 minutes later, more focus on Wilson.
UPDATE 3: At least two more segments have mentioned Wilson, bringing the total to at least four -- in the past hour alone.