Why Did MSNBC Apologize to Mitt Romney?

You may have said to yourself when you got up this morning, "You know what I could use? A mini-scandal that I'll forget about in a day or two!" No? Well anyway, this one is actually kind of interesting. You see, Mitt Romney has periodically used the slogan "Keep America American," which is obviously an attempt to appeal to various strains of xenophobia and resentment that run through the American electorate but are particularly strong in the Republican base. It also dovetails nicely with the attacks he and others make on Barack Obama, charging that the president has foreign ideas and is trying to turn America into a nightmarish Euro-socialist hellscape. The slogan would be pretty repugnant on its face, but it turns out, as John Aravosis of AmericaBlog discovered, it's been used by other people before Romney, including the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. As Rick Perry might say, "Oops."

So MSNBC picked up Aravosis's post and did a brief story on it. Among other things, the story included a chyron that perhaps went a bit far, reading, "Romney's KKK slogan?" What happened next is what's interesting. The Romney campaign complained, and MSNBC began to grovel profusely. Chris Matthews read an apology on the air (even though he wasn't the one who did the initial report), saying the network "reported on a blog item that compared a phrase used by the Romney campaign to one used by the KKK way back in the 1920s. It was irresponsible and incendiary of us to do this, and it showed an appalling lack of judgment. We apologize, we really do, to the Romney campaign."

What's odd about this is that MSNBC didn't say anything that was false, and the fact that Mitt Romney's xenophobic slogan was previously used by not only the KKK but also other groups like the Know-Nothings is obviously interesting and newsworthy. So it's unclear exactly what MSNBC was apologizing for, although their statement seems to suggest that they now believe that when they heard that Mitt Romney was using an old KKK slogan, they should have just not said anything about it. That's some courageous media for you right there.

I'm quite sure that if Romney himself or his campaign had known that "Keep America American" was used by the KKK, they would never have used it themselves. And MSNBC didn't suggest otherwise. But it's nevertheless revealing—not because it means Romney is going to burn a cross on anyone's lawn but because it shows how certain streams of resentment and fear have coursed through American politics throughout our history, and find expression in similar ways even though the people expressing them stand for very different things.

Of course you'd want any news organization to handle the story responsibly, making sure they're not implying anything they wouldn't be willing to say explicitly. But there seems to be little evidence that MSNBC actually did anything wrong. In their apology, they said it was "irresponsible and incendiary" of them, and it showed "an appalling lack of judgment,=" to report "on a blog item that compared a phrase used by the Romney campaign to one used by the KKK way back in the 1920s." But the blog item didn't "compare" Romney's slogan to the KKK one, it pointed out that they were one and the same. No one has alleged that this observation was inaccurate. So why exactly was it wrong of them to discuss it?

While it's often said that MSNBC has moved to become the left's version of Fox News, try for a moment to imagine Fox apologizing to a Democratic candidate for some incendiary rhetoric that found its way onto their air. Ha! Far worse things are said about Barack Obama every day on Fox—hell, every hour—and if you were to charge them with conservative bias, their response would essentially be to tell you where you can cram it. The point isn't that MSNBC isn't trying to appeal to a liberal audience, because they are. Nevertheless, they still obviously live in fear: fear of being criticized, fear of being called biased, fear of having their professionalism called into question. They may have a bunch of liberal on-air personalities, but they still plainly believe in the idea of objective journalism, even if that belief can manifest itself in things like craven apologies to Republican campaigns when they didn't actually do anything wrong.

Comments

MSNBC, integrity to a fault.

Thomas Roberts repeated the groveling apology during his hour this morning also.

They apologized because Romney did not say "keep America American" - he said "keep America America." According to the NYT, Romney's words were on video. MSNBC and the Washington Post both picked up on a blog report of what Romney had said - as, apparently, Mr. Waldman has done here - without ever checking back on whether or not it was true. When they learned the facts, they apologized. Will Mr. Waldman?

the most likely explanation as to why msnbc apologized to romney is that unlike mr. waldman, if this article is any indication, somewhere in its otherwise dark corporate heart, there is the minutest shred of human decency left that understands that a low scoundrel attack on an honorable person is beyond the pale of well, human decency.

keevan d. morgan, esq., chicago

"You see, Mitt Romney has periodically used the slogan "Keep America American,"

I read what he actually said was "Keep America America"....which is it?
I'll bet it's the latter. Perhaps that's why they apologized.

I'm sure that the KKK also said: "God bless America"--so, we must forget about using that phrase forevermore as well. Anyway: MSNBC is merely copying the smear trick of tossing out something that appears scary (just to see if some of it sticks), then quickly apologizing (to minimize damage to themselves). This happened a bunch of times last election (Huckabee did it, and Obama did it). You'll see it done more as we get closer to the general election as well. Surrogates will accuse something false (but inflammatory) to see if it will catch fire and damage the candidate. (Lesson 1 from the handbook of "Dirty Political Tricks").

You ask why did they apologize. I'll tell you why. Why nothing was technically a lie, it was an hugely egregious misrepresentation. You say Fox would never do the same thing. They already did. When Hank Williams Jr. was a GUEST on Fox & Friends he made a comparison of Obama to Hitler that you could tell caught the hosts all off-guard. Hank Williams Jr. was only a guest, not an employee. But IMMEDIATELY Fox News made it clear this was not their position and distanced themselves from said comment.

Now MSNBC associates Romney to KKK despite knowing well that his use of the slogan was by no means support of organization or its ideas.

I am a Latino. My parents are immigrants who moved (legally) to this country and now citizens. When I here Romney's slogan what I think is remembering what made America a great country. Not continuing on the path that is bankrupting many nations in Europe. This country grew as a beacon of capitalism. Growth founded on innovation, hard work and production. But what is its biggest threat? The same as the PIIGS. Overgrown social programs that grow bigger than the economy.

Have you never heard the expression "guilt by association"? It refers to the attempt to link two otherwise unrelated things, implying a connection that really does not exist, by bringing to light a trivial similarity, relying on the innate transductive logic of fools to equate the two. It is not a nice thing to do. It is as Matthews put it, "irresponsible and incendiary". Good for MS-NBC for this.

Now maybe the Romney campaign will apologize for truncating Obama's quote "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." Even though it is currently likely to prove true (Obama is unlikely to convince voters to let him keep his hand on the ill based on the performance of the economy), the quote was taken out of context and implied a confession by Obama that he never would own up to, true or not.

" Nevertheless, they [MSNBC] still obviously live in fear: fear of being criticized, fear of being called biased, fear of having their professionalism called into question"; could it be that it is because the ARE highly unprofessional, basically a mouthpiece of Demokrat party masquerading as a news organization?
FOX News would, indeed, not respond in similar way, because they are confident, and rightly so, that they are a balanced and professional news organization; MSDNC does not have that cushion; they must be on alert for any (additional) proof of extreme bias, to try and protect the few last remaining shreds of credibility they have.
And that is really all there is to it.

Dude, his slogan is "Keep America America", not "Keep America American". If you are going to slander everyone that disagrees with your politics, at least get your facts right. Unless lies are more important than facts....

Wow, that might be the first time I have heard someone admit that MSNBC is the liberal media. Really?

what does :Keep america america" mean? Do I go into a restaurant and say make my pancakes pancakes, would they understand what that means?

I think the apology was called for. Just like I think the GOPer who compared DNC propaganda to Nazi propaganda should also apologize. This is really over the top uncalled for stuff. The DNC is NOT the Nazi party, nor is Mitt Romney of all people the KKK. It is hate filled over the top tripe. Just like this article at it's core is meant to stir hate. If someone disagrees with me they must be evil, type of stuff! Well that is not what this country should be about. Calling a Yankee moderate like Romney some kind of KKK guy is just plain ignorant!

"MSNBC, integrity to a fault. "

Please tell me you meant that as a sick joke!

And please don't dignify MSNBC by calling it "liberal".

The reason MSNBC apoligized is not because they simply reported that Romney was using a slogan from the KKK. The reason is that in doing so they were not so innocently implying that Romney might just share some of that organization's beliefs. As such, they were absolutely right to apologize. I guess that it just a little bit beyond Mr. Waldman's pay grade.

I am a registered voter. I am old enough to have seen our political process change from predominately issues to the mud slinging sludge that it is today. I am not opposed to an occasional accusation where candidates are guilty of behavioral indiscretions but absolutely despise innuendo.

The statement is clearly subliminal in suggesting Romney and the KKK have something in common through innuendo. I am a cross party voter; voting for the man when with the issues and character I prefer dictate.

Blind allegiance is just that...blind. Voters vote for dirty tricks, not for candidates. They vote party, not country. No need to apologize? You know the poison is in the drinking water. What you suggest is to let the people drink the water and let the poison do its work. Why not this is what our country is embracing and shamefully we love it.

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