On the January 16 edition of MSNBC Live, hosts and on-screen graphics repeatedly suggested that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) had cancelled her January 16 press conference about her recent trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan because of Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) January 16 announcement that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee. Even after reports that Clinton postponed the scheduled press conference the day before Obama's announcement, MSNBC persisted in asserting that she postponed her conference after the announcement. In fact, according to the New York Times weblog the Caucus, posting at 12:37 p.m. ET on January 16, Clinton's office "disclosed at 3 p.m. Monday that the news conference would be postponed" because "one of Mrs. Clinton's companions on the trip, Representative John McHugh [R-NY], took ill during a stop in Germany and stayed behind to recover," adding that Clinton advisers said "there was no way the Iraq presser would've gone ahead without Mr. McHugh." Moreover, the National Journal's Hotline On Call weblog reported on January 16 at 11:19 a.m. ET, "the presser was cancelled late last night because Rep. John McHugh remained in Germany and won't return until today."
Despite Clinton's office having apparently made public the reason for the delay of the press conference a day earlier, on-screen text during the 11 a.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live asserted that Clinton did not postpone until after Obama's announcement:
Near the end of the 10 a.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live, host Chris Jansing asked host Amy Robach if Clinton's postponement and Obama's announcement were "related"; Robach replied: "Who knows?" In the 11 a.m. hour, Jansing asked the same question of MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. While Matthews replied that will be "the perception will be until this is corrected and if she can correct it," Simmons pointed out that "this news conference was cancelled because Congressman McHugh, who they had with them on the trip, wasn't feeling well and got stuck in Germany, and they moved the press conference to accommodate his schedule." Again, on-screen graphics during the segment asserted that Clinton postponed her press conference "after Obama['s] announcement."
During the 1 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live -- after Simmons' disavowal on MSNBC earlier in the day and the posting of the Hotline On Call and New York Times blog reports -- MSNBC host Norah O'Donnell said, "Senator Barack Obama takes the first step toward running in 2008, and minutes later a surprise announcement from Senator Hillary Clinton." Minutes later, O'Donnell asked if it were a "[c]oincidence" that "just as Obama was releasing this announcement on his website, Senator Hillary Clinton opted to postpone a press conference on her findings about a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan." On-screen graphics again read: "Hillary Clinton Cancels Iraq Press Conf. After Obama Announcement."
Moments later, O'Donnell asked Wall Street Journal national political editor John Harwood if Clinton "cancel[ed]" her press conference because of Obama. Harwood replied that "one of the members of Congress ... on that trip to Iraq became ill and they're waiting for him to have the news conference ... and in fact, it came out on a website a little bit before the Barack Obama announcement today." Despite Harwood's, Simmons', Hotline On Call's, and The New York Times' reporting, on-screen graphics again continued to read that Clinton "cancels Iraq Press Conf. after Obama announcement:"
Moreover, more than half an hour later, O'Donnell again asked if Obama's "announcement cause another 2008 contender to cancel her event today?"
Still, moments later, on-screen graphics read: "Sen. Clinton (D-NY) Cancels Iraq Newser After Obama Announcement."
From the January 16 edition of MSNBC Live:
ROBACH: Illinois Senator Barack Obama files a 2008 presidential exploratory committee. My colleague Chris Jansing picks up our coverage now. And we're hearing Hillary Clinton, canceling her previously scheduled 2 p.m. press conference.
JANSING: Are the two related? That's one of the questions --
ROBACH: Who knows?
JANSING: -- we're going to be asking Chris Matthews.
MATTHEWS: He's against the war. Clearly he's a virgin on this issue. He didn't play games by voting for the war and then quibbling about the number of troops or deployments or all that stuff. He said, "This was a bad decision." That puts him in a very good place in the hearts of Democrats.
JANSING: That was one of the things that stuck out to me, Chris, especially since so many people are questioning, "What's Hillary really going to say?" and how she's going to position herself on the war. Let me play --
MATTHEWS: There's the word, Chris. That's the word: "position." And Hillary Clinton's a very smart woman, a very good public servant. But I'll tell you, you get the impression when you watch her, she's overstaffed, she sits around and calculates how to position herself. She was going to have a press conference this afternoon to give us a fact-finding report on her trip over to Iraq and Afghanistan. She called it off. Go ahead and do it.
JANSING: Why did she call it off, Chris? Do you think it's related to this?
MATTHEWS: Well, I -- the perception will be until this is corrected, and she can correct it, that the reason she's doing it is that she doesn't want to have her publicity pushed away by the bigger announcement by Obama.
JANSING: Jamal, there was a news conference scheduled by Hillary Clinton to talk about her just-ended trip to Iraq at 2 o'clock today. That's been canceled. What do you make of that? And do you think it's related to Obama's decision to run?
SIMMONS: Well, what I understand from the Hillary Clinton people is that this news conference was canceled because Congressman McHugh, who they had with them on the trip, wasn't feeling well, got stuck in Germany, and they moved the press conference to accommodate his schedule. So I don't know that this really has anything to do with Senator Obama's announcement.
O'DONNELL: Here's what's happening right now on MSNBC. Senator Barack Obama takes the first step toward running for president in 2008, and minutes later a surprise announcement from Senator Hillary Clinton.
O'DONNELL: And just as Obama was releasing this announcement on his website, Senator Hillary Clinton opted to postpone a press conference on her findings about a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Coincidence?
O'DONNELL: John, I heard one Democratic strategist say today that Senator Barack Obama has the magic, but it's Senator Clinton that has the muscle. But how did this announcement by Senator Obama affect Senator Clinton? We were supposed to hear from her in a press conference. Did she cancel it for that very reason?
HARWOOD: I talked to a couple of Hillary Clinton's advisers today who said that was not the reason. They said that it was because one of the members of Congress who had accompanied her and [Sen.] Evan Bayh [D-IN] on that trip to Iraq became ill, and they're waiting for him to have the news conference. I know a lot of people are raising questions about it, but I believe their reasoning for this, and, in fact, it came out a little bit on a website before the Barack Obama announcement today.
O'DONNELL: And it's official, Senator Barack Obama takes the first step in running for president. But the other Democratic front-runner is nowhere to be seen. Why did Sen. Hillary Clinton cancel a news conference?
O'DONNELL: That's Senator Barack Obama announcing on the Internet earlier today that he's taking the next step toward running for the White House. So did his announcement cause another 2008 contender to cancel her event today?
Back with us now to talk about that: Michael Feldman, he's co-founder of Hotsoup.com and a Democratic strategist, and Reed Dickens. He's a former assistant White House press secretary to President Bush. Welcome back. Reed, let me start with you. Barack Obama jumps into the race today, and we're supposed to hear from Senator Clinton, back from Iraq and Afghanistan with a press conference, and she cancels it. What do you make of that?
O'DONNELL: Let me show both of you, too, of course, because we were expecting to hear from Senator Clinton in just about 20 minutes from now. She was going to hold a press conference on Iraq and Afghanistan. She has canceled that press conference. We got word of that just moments after Barack Obama announced he is forming this new exploratory committee. We're hearing from Senator Clinton's office and others that it was because one of the congressmen on the trip was sick, and so they had to postpone that, that that was the reason.