MSNBC's Gregory's claim that "everybody is talking about" Hitchens' anti-Clinton comments is false -- unless "everybody" is MSNBC

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER, JEREMY HOLDEN & TOM ALLISON

MSNBC's David Gregory claimed that "everybody is talking about" Christopher Hitchens' recent comments on why, in Gregory's words, Hitchens "believes picking Hillary Clinton for secretary of state would be a, quote, 'ludicrous embarrassment' for President Obama." In fact, not "everybody" is talking about Hitchens, who has smeared Clinton before -- not CNN, not Fox News, at least not during prime time, not major newspapers, and not even NBC's Nightly News.

During the November 18 edition of MSNBC's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, host David Gregory introduced a discussion with Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens by saying, "Christopher Hitchens on why he believes picking [Sen.] Hillary Clinton for secretary of state would be a, quote, 'ludicrous embarrassment' for President [Barack] Obama. He made those comments on Hardball, here on MSNBC, last night. It's something everybody is talking about today." But Gregory cited no evidence that anyone outside of MSNBC was "talking about" Hitchens' November 17 comments. A Media Matters for America search of the Nexis and Factiva databases for November 17 and November 18 turned up no mention of Hitchens on NBC's flagship news program, Nightly News with Brian Williams, the other network evening news programs, and CNN at any point on either day or on Fox News in prime time (Fox News transcripts are available in Nexis only for prime time). And searches of the Nexis and Factiva databases turned up no mention of Hitchens on either November 17 or 18 in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, or the Associated Press. By contrast, MSNBC aired Hitchens' November 17 comments multiple times on November 18.

It is unclear why MSNBC treated Hitchens' attacks on Clinton as newsworthy, given his history of frequent and harsh criticism of Clinton. Indeed, on the November 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough said that it was "[n]ot a great surprise" that Hitchens "savaged Hillary." Nevertheless, Morning Joe alone aired Hitchens' comments four separate times that day.

From the November 18 edition of MSNBC's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with David Gregory:

GREGORY: But coming next, Christopher Hitchens on why he believes picking Hillary Clinton for secretary of state would be a, quote, "ludicrous embarrassment" for President Obama. He made those comments on Hardball, here on MSNBC, last night. It's something everybody is talking about today. He'll talk about it some more on 1600, right after the break.

From the Nov. 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: Last night, Christopher Hitchens --

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): Well, that was harsh.

WILLIE GEIST (co-host): Yeah --

SCARBOROUGH: -- absolutely savaged Hillary. Not a great surprise, but what he said may resonate with some of her critics.

GEIST: Yeah, Christopher Hitchens not jumping on the Hillary --

BRZEZINSKI: Not really.

GEIST: -- for secretary of state bandwagon. Here's Hitchens on Hardball.

HITCHENS [video clip]: This is the woman who played the race card on Barack Obama. This is the woman who, if you were for change that you can believe in -- whichever change it was -- you were voting against. This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia.

This is the woman who, with her husband, have so many connections -- fundraising connections overseas -- Indonesia, China. Just look up the Senate report on their fundraising activities, the people they have pardoned, the amazing brothers of hers who nearly got the -- was it the nut monopoly in Kazakhstan or something farcical like that. Just look it up. It's a ludicrous embarrassment.

BRZEZINSKI: Wow. A "ludicrous" --

GEIST: A "ludicrous embarrassment."

MIKE BARNICLE (commentator): Did we edit the tape before he got to the plus side?

GEIST: No, there wasn't.

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: I understand also we've got the Hillary Clinton issue in the news, and Christopher Hitchens last night weighed in on it and basically spoke for a lot of Hillary detractors.

GEIST: Yeah, I think he did. A lot of people coming out saying she'd be a great choice. Christopher Hitchens -- not one of those people. Here's Hitchens on Hardball last night.

HITCHENS [video clip]: This is the woman who played the race card on Barack Obama. This is the woman who, if you were for change that you can believe in -- whichever change it was -- you were voting against. This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia.

This is the woman who, with her husband, have so many connections -- fundraising connections overseas -- Indonesia, China. Just look up the Senate report on their fundraising activities, the people they have pardoned, the amazing brothers of hers who nearly got the -- was it the nut monopoly in Kazakhstan or something farcical like that. Just look it up. It's a ludicrous embarrassment.

GEIST: Not a ringing endorsement.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, harsh, harsh, harsh, harsh, harsh.

BARNICLE: Good lord.

GEIST: [CNBC chief Washington correspondent and New York Times writer] John Harwood, do we overstate the Bill Clinton problem? We heard this argument when she was up to be vice president, that too much Bill Clinton baggage -- he had too many entangling alliances. How big a problem is he, really?

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: All right. Hey, let's take a look right now -- Mika, we've been talking about Hillary Clinton this morning. Let's take a look at Christopher Hitchens. Last night, he was on Hardball --

BRZEZINSKI: It's harsh.

SCARBOROUGH: -- and he talked about all of the concerns that, bluntly, the Obama people may have. The concerns that a lot of Clinton detractors may be bringing up that maybe is the reason why they're having this very public vetting process. But I want you to listen to Christopher Hitchens because what he said last night, while I disagree with much of it, what he said last night may explain why the Obama campaign is dragging their feet right now and letting this play out in a very public way. Take a look.

BRZEZINSKI: He doesn't mince words.

HITCHENS [video clip]: This is the woman who played the race card on Barack Obama. This is the woman who, if you were for change that you can believe in -- whichever change it was -- you were voting against. This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia.

This is the woman who, with her husband, have so many connections -- fundraising connections overseas -- Indonesia, China. Just look up the Senate report on their fundraising activities, the people they have pardoned, the amazing brothers of hers who nearly got the -- was it the nut monopoly in Kazakhstan or something farcical like that. Just look it up. It's a ludicrous embarrassment.

BRZEZINSKI: Wow.

SCARBOROUGH: With us now, right now, let's bring in MSNBC News political director and he's editor, of course, of MSNBC.com's FirstRead, Chuck Todd. Chuck.

TODD: Yeah, great. Bring me up -- bring me in right after that Hitchens rant.

SCARBOROUGH: Christopher Hitchens -- do you agree with him 100 percent or 98 percent?

TODD: It is clear that there are some people who are ardent Obama supporters, who are just not happy about this idea of bringing in the Clintons in the administration. And I think it is interesting in this respect: The Obama base is getting tested today. The Lieberman punishment is nothing. Let's be realistic -- nothing. And now, they're bringing in the Clintons. You know, I -- what if Obama comes out and says, you know what? I'm going to send more troops to Iraq. The surge is working, and let's -- you know. You do wonder how much can -- will his base take. You know, I'm not saying that Christopher Hitchens is part of the base, as far as Obama is concerned, but how much -- there might be some Obama supporters like him who may get very upset about [unintelligible].

[...]

HITCHENS [video clip]: This is the woman who played the race card on Barack Obama. This is the woman who, if you were for change that you can believe in -- whichever change it was -- you were voting against. This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia.

This is the woman who, with her husband, have so many connections -- fundraising connections overseas -- Indonesia, China. Just look up the Senate report on their fundraising activities, the people they have pardoned, the amazing brothers of hers who nearly got the -- was it the nut monopoly in Kazakhstan or something farcical like that. Just look it up. It's a ludicrous embarrassment.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh.

GEIST: So is he against --

BRZEZINSKI: I'm trying to think.

GEIST: Trying to read between the lines.

BARNICLE: No, we edited the positive part out of it, you know.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, so Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Christopher Hitchens would say it would be a "ludicrous" what? What was that? That was rough.

BARNICLE and GEIST: A "ludicrous embarrassment."

BARNICLE: Yes.

BRZEZINSKI: A "ludicrous embarrassment." But here is the deal. There are some issues that I guess we need to consider as they vet Bill Clinton, and we look at all the possibilities and opportunities a Clinton position would offer.

From the 9 a.m. ET hour of November 18 edition of MSNBC Live:

BREWER: But if you look back at the campaign, there were a lot of things they [Clinton and Obama] did not agree upon and there were some things said.

EAMON JAVERS (Politico staff writer): Right.

BREWER: So let's take a listen to this. Here's Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens who was on Hardball talking about it.

HITCHENS [video clip]: This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia. This is the woman who, with her husband, have so many connections -- fundraising connections overseas -- Indonesia, China. Just look up the Senate report on their fundraising activities, the people they have pardoned, the amazing brothers of hers who nearly got the -- was it the nut monopoly in Kazakhstan or something farcical like that. Just look it up. It's a ludicrous embarrassment.

BREWER: On the heels of what he just said, the idea of secretary of state for Hillary Clinton, given all of that history that Christopher Hitchens -- you know, I mean, there's nothing he said that wasn't factual -- or you think, why that post?

From the 1 p.m. ET hour of the November 18 edition of MSNBC Live:

MITCHELL: I take your point that you are not a fan of the incoming president, at least when it comes to foreign policy. Let me play for you a clip from Christopher Hitchens on Hardball, who is not a fan of Hillary Clinton when it comes to foreign policy, and ask you on the other side.

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER (former secretary of state under George H.W. Bush): OK, all right.

HITCHENS [video clip]: This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia. This is the woman who, with her husband, have so many connections -- fundraising connections overseas -- Indonesia, China. Just look up the Senate report on their fundraising activities, the people they have pardoned, the amazing brothers of hers who nearly got the -- was it the nut monopoly in Kazakhstan or something farcical like that. Just look it up. It's a ludicrous embarrassment.

MITCHELL: Well, you -- do you disagree with that?

EAGLEBURGER: Yeah, look, first of all, I have never heard Hitchens do anything right, so I'm worried about that comment of his. I'm not trying to defend her.

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the November 18 edition of MSNBC Live:

SHUSTER: Julie [Menin, Women's Campaign Forum], I want to get your reaction in particular to something that Christopher Hitchens said on Hardball last Friday about Hillary Clinton. Watch.

HITCHENS [video clip]: This is the woman who played the race card on Barack Obama. This is the woman who, if you were for change that you can believe in -- whichever change it was -- you were voting against. This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consists of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia.

SHUSTER: He goes on to say that Hillary Clinton's appointment would be a "ludicrous embarrassment." Your reaction?

MENIN: Yeah. I just don't agree with that. I think that that's unfortunately partisan bickering that we really need to move beyond from. She has eight years in the Senate. She has a record of bipartisan support, reaching across the aisle, working with Senators Lindsey Graham, Senators Bill Frist. She's a very hard-working senator. She has years of foreign policy experience, and she can really hit the ground running, and that's exactly what we need in this very tough time that we're in.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
David Gregory
Show/Publication
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
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