MSNBC's Scarborough falsely suggested Clinton congratulated Obama only by "paper statement"

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Despite the fact that MSNBC had earlier aired Hillary Clinton saying, "I want to congratulate Senator [Barack] Obama tonight and I want to also thank the people of South Carolina for welcoming us into their homes, and their communities," MSNBC's Joe Scarborough claimed that when Clinton "congratulated Senator Obama, she did it by a paper statement." Further, before Clinton's speech, Bloomberg News columnist Margaret Carlson claimed that the "Clintons don't play by the normal rules," adding: "Where is the grace that we all expect out of losers in campaigns, which is you congratulate in words, not in just a statement, your opponent?" In fact, the statement issued by the Clinton campaign noted that Clinton had "called Senator Obama to congratulate him and wish him well."

During MSNBC's January 26 coverage of the South Carolina Democratic primary, Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough falsely claimed that when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "congratulated Senator [Barack] Obama [IL], she did it by a paper statement." In fact, in a portion of a speech MSNBC aired less than 15 minutes earlier, Clinton said, "I want to congratulate Senator Obama tonight and I want to also thank the people of South Carolina for welcoming us into their homes, and their communities." Further, before Clinton's speech, Bloomberg News columnist Margaret Carlson claimed that the "Clintons don't play by the normal rules," adding: "Where is the grace that we all expect out of losers in campaigns, which is you congratulate in words, not in just a statement, your opponent?" In fact, in a written statement issued after Obama's victory -- and read by MSNBC host Keith Olbermann earlier in the evening -- Clinton said that she had "called Senator Obama to congratulate him and wish him well."

Just after 8 p.m. ET, Olbermann read on-air from the Clinton campaign's press release, in which Clinton stated, in part, "I have called Senator Obama to congratulate him and wish him well. Thank you to the people of South Carolina who voted today and welcomed me into their homes over the last year. Your stories will stay with me well beyond this campaign and I am grateful for the support so many of you gave to me." Olbermann introduced the release by asserting, "I don't know if this precludes a speech from Senator Clinton." At roughly 9:40 p.m. ET, correspondent Mike Taibbi, reporting from the site of Clinton's planned speech at Tennessee State University, said that Clinton was "not going to make a formal concession speech here either. That concession has already been made in her statement," adding that Clinton would instead "do her stump speech."

Later in the evening, just prior to Clinton's speech, Olbermann said, "It will be fascinating to see if there's any vague reference to what happened tonight because we're told this is going to be not a concession speech, nothing approaching it." In response, Carlson claimed that "[t]he Clintons don't play by the normal rules," adding: "Where is the grace that we all expect out of losers in campaigns, which is you congratulate in words, not in just a statement, your opponent?" Scarborough, agreeing with Carlson, asserted that "right now it looks like it's the Clintons who just refuse to play by the rules." As MSNBC began to air Clinton's speech live, Scarborough said, "Let's listen to Hillary Clinton right now and see if she has a gracious word to say about Barack Obama."

During the portion of the speech aired by MSNBC, Clinton said, "You know, I want to congratulate Senator Obama tonight, and I want to also thank the people of South Carolina for welcoming us into their homes, and their communities."

After MSNBC cut away from Clinton's speech, rather than note that Carlson's and Scarborough's prediction that Clinton would not congratulate Obama in her speech had been wrong, Olbermann said that "the entire reference to South Carolina" was "was about two-thirds of a sentence in length," adding that the speech "was not, as we were told, it was not going to be a concession speech, and it certainly was not."

Less than fifteen minutes after MSNBC aired the portion of Clinton's speech, Scarborough asserted that "[w]hen she congratulated Senator Obama, she did it by a paper statement and then let her president, her husband, Bill Clinton, go on and on and on." Minutes later, Carlson said that Clinton "didn't look in the camera, as most candidate do on a primary night, and speak into the camera about tonight."

Later, Scarborough said that "we've been talking a good bit about the Clintons tonight, there have been some questions about whether they've been playing by the rules," then read the following statement from a "very top" Clinton campaign aide: "Just to be clear, Hillary Clinton called Senator Obama to congratulate him at 7:01. She issued a statement congratulating him and she has now congratulated him again." Scarborough did not note that both he and Carlson had falsely suggested Clinton had not congratulated Obama in her speech.

From MSNBC's coverage of the South Carolina Democratic primary:

OLBERMANN: Lee Cowan, as the roars begin to echo throughout the room and we're expecting Senator Obama at 9 o'clock, we have now a statement. I don't know if this precludes a speech from Senator Clinton, but her camp released this statement tonight.

"I have called Senator Obama to congratulate him and wish him well. Thank you to the people of South Carolina who voted today and welcomed me into their homes over the last year. Your stories will stay with me well beyond this campaign, and I am grateful for the support so many of you gave to me. We now turn our attention to the millions of Americans who will make their voices heard in Florida and the 22 states as well as American Samoa, who will vote on February 5th." That's how tight this race is; American Samoa is being invoked here.

"In the days ahead, I'll work to give voice to those who are working harder than ever to be heard. For those who have lost their job or their home or their health care, I will focus on the solutions needed to move this country forward. That's what this election is about. It's about our country, our hopes and dreams, our families and our future."

So whether or not that means we're not going to hear from the candidate tonight, after what appears to be a most disappointing second-place finish in South Carolina. Perhaps Mike Taibbi has some idea. He's been covering the Clinton campaign in its destination for tonight, Nashville, Tennessee. Mike, do we know anything about whether or not the senator is going to speak at all?

TAIBBI: Well, we know it's wheels up already, so she's on the way. And since we took the flight earlier today, we know it's only an hour in the air. So she should be here, one would think, by the projected start of 8 o'clock local time, which is an hour behind Eastern time as well.

[...]

OLBERMANN: Mike Taibbi, who is covering the campaign from its latest venue in Nashville, has a little bit more explanation about what Senator Clinton will and will not be saying. Mike?

TAIBBI: Hi, Keith. How are you? Yeah, we heard the stirring oratory of the victor in Senator Obama. We heard a very, very short speech, actually, from former Senator John Edwards, and we understand that Senator Clinton is going to come out here and basically at this town hall meeting at Tennessee State University, do her stump speech, 40 to 45 minutes, not taking any questions from the press afterward. That will wait until tomorrow after she attends a church service at a Baptist church in Memphis. But she's not going to take any questions today, she's not going to make a formal concession speech here either. That concession has already been made in a statement. So she's due to come out here in about two or three minutes. There's a crowd here in this gymnasium that's been somewhat subdued. Much quieter, in fact, than the Tennessee State band, which has been playing the past 45 minutes or so and now resumes playing, I think. Or is that just a cue? In any event, Senator Clinton will be out here in a few minutes to give her stump speech, which we've heard a number of times, and which she gives earnestly and usually to good reception. We'll see what kind of reception she gets here, and we'll see also what her demeanor is like or whether there's anything, any hint in what she says about her plans, about any hint of a change of strategy. Likely not going to be. She's very disciplined on the stump, as you know. We expect to hear the basic speech in a few minutes. Keith?

OLBERMANN: Mike Taibbi in Nashville, where Senator Clinton will speak in a few moments, and we will obviously return to Mike and to Senator Clinton at that moment. Even -- David, that concession statement that was emailed out didn't have a lot to do with the concession or with that campaign. There's one sentence: "I have called Senator Obama," and this is about 8 o'clock tonight, "to congratulate him and wish him well. Thank you to the people of South Carolina who voted today and welcomed me into their homes over the last year. Your stories will stay with me beyond this campaign." The rest of it is now talking about everything else up to and including the vote in American Samoa. People who might not have heard the reading of this originally might have thought we were hyperbolic in some way. There is a reference to the 22 states as well as American Samoa, who will vote on February 5.

[...]

OLBERMANN: It will be fascinating to see if there's any vague reference to what happened tonight because we're told this is going to be not a concession speech, nothing approaching it. It is a remarkable -- I guess only politicians and hockey goaltenders and field goal kickers can do this. Where you just immediately eliminate no matter whatever bad thing just happened to you. You just stop it and more or less flush the thing out.

GREGORY: Joe Scarborough and our panel, thoughts here as we await Senator Clinton?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, yeah, Margaret, let's start with you. She -- she obviously figured out early on that she was not going to be able to follow up Barack Obama. It's like being a Herman's Hermits and being asked to follow the Beatles. It's just ain't going to turn out well, is it?

CARLSON: No, right. And who could top that speech? But, you know, it's back to the rules. The Clintons don't play by the normal rules.

SCARBOROUGH: They don't play by the rules!

CARLSON: Where is the grace that we all expect out of losers in campaigns, which is you congratulate in words, not in just a statement --

SCARBOROUGH: Well, sure.

CARLSON: -- your opponent?

SCARBOROUGH: And the thing is, there is etiquette, but it goes back to Bill Clinton. How ironic that it was Bill Clinton, Gene Robinson, who is saying that "these people had no shame," and yet right now it looks like it's the Clintons who just refuse to play by the rules. Let's listen to Hillary Clinton right now and see if she has a gracious word to say about Barack Obama.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I have to thank my friend, State Senator Thelma Harper. Isn't she amazing? And I am so grateful she is one of the leaders of my campaign here in Tennessee, along with Jane Eskin who's here with me, and I thank Jane and her husband, Dick, and former governor Ned Ray McWherter, it is wonderful to have such a broad cross-section of people across this state who are fighting with us for a new future for America. I want to thank Dr. Johnson, thank you so much -- please, Doctor, thank you so much for inviting us and being here with us, you and Mrs. Johnson, thank you very much. I want to thank the band. Were they great? And I want to thank all of you for coming out here tonight. This is an amazing crowd. I am thrilled to be here in Tennessee with all of you. And I'm so happy my daughter Chelsea can be with me tonight. You know, I want to congratulate Senator Obama tonight, and I want to also thank the people of South Carolina for welcoming us into their homes, and their communities. And I want to tell you how excited I am that now the eyes of the country turn to Tennessee and the other states that will be voting on February 5th. And, of course, to the state of Florida that will be voting on Tuesday. So millions and millions of Americans are going to have the chance to have their voices heard and their votes counted. And I can't imagine any place than I'd rather be than right here in Nashville as we kick off the next 10 days. Now, of course, when anybody says the word Nashville, it's always connected with singing. And I promise you, you will not hear a word out of me. I do not want to, in any way, sully the reputation of the music capital by contributing my less-than-meager talents. But it is a great treat to be here with all of you and to have a chance to talk with you, and really, that's what I want to do tonight. I know the crowd is a little bigger than we anticipated but I intended to come -- I intended to come --

OLBERMANN: As we were, not to interrupt Senator Clinton, but we think we heard the entire reference to South Carolina in there, David Gregory. It was about two-thirds of a sentence in length. It was not, as we were told, it was not going to be a concession speech, and it certainly was not. There's a laser-like, full-speed-ahead quality to this candidate that is overwhelming sometimes.

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: A stunning speech, and it was indicative of the type of campaign the Clintons ran in South Carolina. When she congratulated Senator Obama, she did it by a paper statement and then let her president, her husband, Bill Clinton, go on and on and on. Take a look.

BILL CLINTON (video clip): We just finished in South Carolina today. Senator Obama won there. Hillary congratulated him and I join that.

SCARBOROUGH: That was the first three seconds of a 75-minute speech.

[...]

ROBINSON: And it goes to -- look, you know, either one gets the nomination, you and I are going to be raising questions about electibility and looking ahead. That's a big point in Obama's favor, and there are points in Clinton's favor as well.

SCARBOROUGH: And after a week in South Carolina, Tim Russert was talking about possible, quote, "collateral damage." Some harsh words from Jim Clyburn. She split the white male voters, she lost 80 percent of African-American voters, she lost 75 percent of younger voters. Will there be collateral damage for Hillary Clinton moving forward?

CARLSON: I think it's why she didn't look in the camera, as most candidates do on a primary night, and speak into the camera about tonight. Because it was very, very bad for her. In this poll that we talk about tonight, the one where 56 percent think Obama was unfair, 70 percent think Hillary Clinton was. They didn't ask the question about Bill Clinton. Wouldn't you like to know how many voters found him offensive?

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: And I want to give a quick update. We've been talking a good bit about the Clintons tonight. There have been some questions about whether they've been playing by the rules, and of course, Pat Buchanan says there should be no rules. But this from the Clinton campaign, just got this email. "Just to be clear, Hillary Clinton called Senator Obama to congratulate him at 7:01. She issued a statement congratulating him and she has now congratulated him again." And Margaret, to our issue regarding -- let me scroll down here -- our issue regarding Florida, the Clinton campaign aide, well, very top one, says, "Joe, we intend to observe the pledge and not campaign in Florida, but we certainly think that the votes of Florida should and will matter." And let me just say -- and there is Hillary Clinton talking right now -- and let me just say that Republicans in Florida have been squealing with delight for months that the Democratic Party has snubbed Democrats in Florida. So there will be a lot of Democrats, hundreds of thousands of Democrats in Florida, who will be glad that Hillary Clinton is tipping her hat to the Sunshine State, a state which will certainly be, again, one of those important states that will decide who the next president of the United States is. We're going to talk about that with our panel coming up, but right now let's go to Washington and Howard Fineman. Howard, what can you tell us about the delegate count, where it stands now, and what we can expect on Super Tuesday?

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Joe Scarborough, Keith Olbermann, Margaret Carlson
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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