MSNBC's Shuster falsely suggested Mark Penn first brought up Obama drug use issue on Hardball
Research ››› ››› MATT GERTZ
On MSNBC's Morning Joe, David Shuster asked Clinton campaign chief strategist Mark Penn if it was a "mistake" when he "brought up a word and reminded people of [Sen.] Barack Obama's past drug use" on Hardball in December 2007. But, Penn was not the one to bring up Obama's past drug use; it was Chris Matthews. Matthews, as well as Norah O'Donnell, have falsely asserted that Penn brought up the issue.
On the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, correspondent David Shuster said to Mark Penn, chief strategist for the Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY): "About five or six weeks ago, you were on Hardball with David Axelrod [chief strategist for Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) presidential campaign] and Joe Trippi [adviser to the John Edwards presidential campaign], and you were the one who brought up a word and reminded people of Barack Obama's past drug use." Shuster then asked Penn: "Do you now acknowledge that that tactic was a mistake?" In fact, Penn was not the one who "brought up" Obama's drug use on the December 13, 2007, edition of MSNBC's Hardball; host Chris Matthews was.
Indeed, Matthews devoted the entire December 13, 2007, Hardball segment to controversial comments about Obama's past drug use by then-Clinton campaign co-chair Billy Shaheen. Shaheen had resigned earlier that day in the ensuing controversy. Matthews explicitly asked Penn at least three distinct questions about the topic, two of which directly referenced "drugs" or "drug use," and Penn offered at least two specific responses before he said "cocaine," which he said in direct response to Matthews' question about whether "going after his [Obama's] perhaps youthful drug use" is an "appropriate shot at the opponent or ... below the belt." Indeed, prior to using the word "cocaine," Penn had disavowed Shaheen's comments. Further, as Penn noted on the February 7 Morning Joe, Matthews had discussed Shaheen's comments with Axelrod prior to his discussion of them with Penn.
Several media figures, including Matthews (here, here, and here) and MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell, have falsely asserted that Penn "brought up" Obama's prior drug use on the December 13, 2007, Hardball.
From the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
SHUSTER: Hey, Mark, it's David Shuster again in Little Rock. About five or six weeks ago, you were on Hardball with David Axelrod and Joe Trippi, and you were the one who brought up a word and reminded people of Barack Obama's past drug use. That didn't seem to work, and I think it caused a lot of Democrats a lot of frustration with you and the Clinton campaign. Do you now acknowledge that that tactic was a mistake?
PENN: Again, that was not something from the campaign. If you go back and listen to that, David Axelrod was talking about the same matter three or four seconds before, and we're just not going to revisit that.