Many of the people who avoid Fox News because they think the network peddles deceptive, slanted reporting opt to watch MSNBC instead, but those viewers got a dose of that bad medicine Wednesday morning just the same. Yes, it happened during Morning Joe, but the actual perpetrator wasn’t conservative host Joe Scarborough, it was liberal former MSNBC host Ronan Farrow.
As former and future Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu basks in the glory of his last-minute reelection victory, Farrow went on Morning Joe to assess the fallout with Mika Brzezinski and Amy Holmes, a discussion which centered around a report that the Obama administration funded an effort to unseat Netanyahu.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because the White House shot down a very similar report on Tuesday, only this one was a Fox News story in which a single anonymous “source with knowledge” claimed that a Senate investigation into these allegations is underway. That attribution wouldn’t make it past the sourcing policy of a roll of Charmin, but at least they made that attribution plain, and even included the State Department’s explanation (the report originated with FoxNews.com reporter Steven Edwards, but was reported on-air by Doug McKelway):
So, in review, someone who could literally be anyone told a Fox reporter that the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is probing allegations that the Obama State Department funded a group that didn’t exist, before it existed. Perhaps they’ll subpoena Skynet and/or Marty McFly.
This couldn’t be that story, though, because Farrow never even mentions the source of the story, or the one easily-explained detail about the timing of the grant that completely quashes it. As you watch this clip, look out for the attribution, which only occurs onscreen, and watch the chyron:
“There’s actually reports that there may be a Congressional probe into V-15’s activities because their parent organization, in the United States, one of the sources of their funding, received some money from the John Kerry State Department, and this is part and parcel with a conservative narrative they were actually sort of groomed by Obama For America alumni Jeremy Bird, one of the ground game people from those Obama campaigns was out there in the months leading up to the election teaching them how to get out the vote American-style.”
See? This isn’t some crummy Fox News report from a single anonymous source, this comes from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and their report is pretty ironclad, based on the headline: Senate panel probing whether Obama administration funded anti-Netanyahu campaign.
They must have dug something up that Fox News missed, and they also must have discovered that the State Department grant didn’t run out before the group in question even existed, because Farrow doesn’t mention either of those things.
Well, it turns out that Haaretz story is exactly the same story, sourced entirely to that Fox News report. Still, maybe Farrow was taken in by that emphatic headline, and just didn’t bother to read deeply enough into the story to discover its source. The problem is, MSNBC didn’t use the actual Haaretz headline, which looked like this:
On top of this obviously deliberate deception, the entire segment is underlined by a graphic that says the Senate is investigating “Alleged White House Funding” of V-15, a leap that even Fox News didn’t make. It is permissible to refer to the State Department as part of the “Obama administration,” but in no journalistic universe is the State Department considered the same as the “White House.”
It’s one thing to push a story with sourcing that wouldn’t make it onto Perez Hilton’s Tumblr, but quite another to pass that story off on people without telling them you’re doing it, and without even including the rich detail of that original crummy report. If you want to know why someone would do that, you’ll have to ask Ronan Farrow.