Comcast CEO Asked to Investigate MSNBC Bribe Allegation
by Judy Kent
Apology and On-Air Correction for False Allegations Made by MSNBC Host Rachel Maddow about the National Center for Public Policy Research Sought
Philadelphia PA/Washington, DC - Speaking at the annual shareholder meeting of Comcast, National Center General Counsel Justin Danhof has asked Comcast CEO Brian Roberts to explain why Comcast-owned MSNBC is run so unprofessionally, and about potentially libelous false statements about the National Center made on-air by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on April 24.
In that broadcast, Maddow claimed the National Center had repeatedly "funnel[ed] cash and perks... to Members of Congress" for the purpose of affecting legislation.
In other words, bribery - a word Maddow did use in the segment.
"MSNBC's editorializing is frequently outlandish," said Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center and a long-time Comcast shareholder, "but there is a difference between an over-the-top editorial and a harmful lie expressed with reckless disregard for the truth. I have had check-signing authority at the National Center for our entire 30-year history, and I would know if we had ever once given cash to a Member of Congress, and we haven't. We don't even make campaign contributions, and we don't hand out perks to anybody to affect legislation, and never have. We've only sponsored Congressional travel for one Member of Congress in thirty years. Rachel Maddow's allegations are false, and I believe the network knew it had no evidence for them, yet broadcast them anyway."
At the shareholder meeting, Danhof asked Roberts, in part, "Mr. Roberts, on the April 24, 2012 broadcast of the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, Ms. Maddow accused the organization I am representing and by extension its longtime CEO, the shareholder I represent today, of "funnel[ing] cash and perks... to Members of Congress" to affect their position on legislation. If true, which it absolutely is not, this would constitute bribery, a fact about which your network is aware, as the word 'bribe' was used by Ms. Maddow in her segment. I am not here today to ask you to comment on this specific matter, as it may be subject to litigation, but to ask you about the fact-checking processes the company has in place to reduce the exposure of its shareholders to libel claims."
Danhof added, "Just using the public records, we have found other instances of potential libel. On March 23 and April 9, for example, your network falsely claimed the Koch brothers were connected to Trayvon Martin's death, and apparently you have refused to run a correction, even though unwarranted media attacks on the Kochs have resulted in death threats against individuals at their company. Mr. Roberts, why is this happening? Editorializing need not contain libel and NBC Universal is not a middle school operation - standard fact-checking should be in place at all times."
"MSNBC has to know that credible bribery allegations against Members of Congress get investigated by the Department of Justice," added Ridenour, "yet Rachel Maddow claimed we were - apparently routinely - bribing Congressmen for about ten years starting in the mid-1990s. Why were no Congressmen charged, let alone convicted? Why wasn't I charged, as the sole CEO during that time? The answer is that there was nothing to charge: MSNBC made it up. "
As a shareholder representative, Danhof also asked Roberts about other instances of MSNBC unprofessionalism: "Mr. Roberts, MSNBC personnel have a habit of making outlandish remarks and then, sometimes, withdrawing them. For example, Chris Matthews said Republican primary voters are comparable to Grand Wizards of the Ku Klux Klan, then, claimed he didn't mean to say it. Ed Schultz called Laura Ingraham a slut. Then, he apologized. But he has also claimed that Republicans want to see sick people die so they can make money off their corpses; that conservative commentators want to see Obama shot; and he said, of former Vice President Dick Cheney's heart, quote, We ought to rip it out, kick it around, and stuff it back in him, unquote. These would be shocking things for a drunk to say at a bar, Mr. Roberts, but they are being said by supposed professional journalists on your air and on your network. Why?"
Danhof further asked Roberts, "...Are MSNBC personnel unable to govern their own speech? Or is all this outlandish talk just a formal company tactic designed to boost your ratings? And what, if anything, does Comcast do to prevent libel exposure?"
Danhof also asked Roberts to investigate how MSNBC could falsely accuse a think-tank of bribery when a lack of criminal charges or convictions would have given a responsible journalist pause - or at least caused them to contact their target for rebuttal, which MSNBC did not do: "...Would you pledge to personally investigate how a think-tank such as ours, and multiple members of Congress, could be said to have committed multiple felonies without any evidence, indictments, plea agreements, or convictions? And I formally request an on-air correction and an apology for the lies told about the National Center for Public Policy Research on the April 24th 'Rachel Maddow' broadcast."
Roberts replied to Danhof, in total: "Thank you. I am not familiar with the April 24th broadcast, but I will tell you that we will look into it and we will get back to you. Thank you for your comments."
Following the meeting, Danhof reported, "Mr. Roberts claimed that he was not familiar with the April 24th broadcast of the Rachel Maddow show. He seemed sincere when he said when he said he would look into the issue and get back to me with all the information I requested. When another another questioner asked about MSNBC's anemic viewership in light of its far left-wing hosts, Roberts replied, 'that apparently some people are watching,' apparently in reference to disrespectful voices in the crowd that were yelling out that they loved MSNBC's programming."
A transcript of the Danhof-Roberts exchange can be found here and a recording of most of the exchange can be found here. Danhof's question as prepared for delivery can be found here.
Comcast is the majority owner of NBC Universal, which owns MSNBC. Danhof appeared at the meeting representing National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour, a long-time Comcast shareholder, and the National Center itself, also a shareholder.