On MSNBC Live, Contessa Brewer cited a London Daily Mail report that said, in Brewer's words, President-elect Barack Obama is "buying a $30,000 diamond ring for his lovely bride as a thank-you for her support during the election." But Brewer did not note that the Obama transition team has reportedly denied the report, which had been featured as the lead headline on the Drudge Report. Unlike Brewer, the Drudge Report subsequently noted the denial.
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During the noon ET hour of MSNBC Live on December 2, anchor Contessa Brewer said that Michelle Obama "may be getting some inaugural ice" and went on to cite a London Daily Mail report that said, in Brewer's words, President-elect Barack Obama is "buying a $30,000 diamond ring for his lovely bride as a thank-you for her support during the election." But Brewer did not note that the Obama transition team has reportedly denied the Daily Mail's report, which was based on a single unnamed source. Prior to Brewer's referencing the Daily Mail article, it was featured as the lead headline on the Drudge Report, which -- unlike Brewer -- also subsequently noted the Obama transition team's denial. This marks at least the third time since October that an MSNBC anchor has echoed a dubious, misleading, or false story involving Obama featured by the Drudge Report.
In a blog post published roughly two and a half hours before Brewer's MSNBC segment, Politico's Ben Smith reported that Dan Pfeiffer, communications director for Obama's transition team, had "flatly denied" the Daily Mail story, saying in an email that it was "not true."
The Daily Mail article cited an anonymous "spokesman" for Italian designer Giovanni Bosco, who reportedly said, "Our agent in the United States was asked by Mr Barack Obama about the ring because he wants it as a thank you gift for his wife Michelle for her support the last two years." Smith wrote in his post that other than the quote from the unnamed source, "there seems to be no other evidence for the claim" that Obama plans to purchase the ring. Indeed, after Brewer's report, the Daily Mail posted an updated version of the article with the headline and lead paragraph focused entirely on the denial.
By 7:52 p.m. ET on December 1, Internet gossip Matt Drudge linked to the Daily Mail report as the lead headline on his website:
By 9:47 a.m. ET on December 2 -- more than two hours before Brewer's report -- Drudge posted an additional headline that read, "Obama rep denies ring story... Developing..." Moments later, by 9:57 a.m. ET, Drudge added a link to that headline directing readers to Smith's blog post:
Media Matters for America has documented other instances in which MSNBC hosts have uncritically cited misleading or false items from the Drudge Report, including:
- During the October 28 edition of Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough echoed the Drudge Report's October 27 false headline regarding a 2001 Obama radio interview: "2001 Obama: Tragedy that 'Redistribution of Wealth' not Pursued by Supreme Court." Scarborough said of Obama: "Who would think that when a guy talks about one of the -- that the Warren Court, the Warren Court did not go far enough, that actually one of the great tragedies was there was no redistribution of wealth." Further, co-host Willie Geist falsely asserted that during the 2001 interview, "Obama says one of the great failures of the civil rights movement is that it didn't lead to a redistribution of wealth by the Supreme Court." In fact, contrary to these assertions by Drudge, Scarborough, and Geist, the "traged[y]" Obama identified during the interview was that the civil rights movement relied too much on the courts in its efforts to bring about political and economic justice.
- On October 17, Morning Joe echoed the Drudge Report by displaying on-screen text that read, "Gallup shock" and selectively citing only one of three findings from an October 13-15 Gallup daily tracking poll of the presidential race -- the result that showed Obama holding his smallest lead over Sen. John McCain.
From the noon ET hour of MSNBC Live on December 2:
BREWER: Next year, the Obama girls will get a presidential puppy, and now it looks like Michelle Obama may be getting some inaugural ice. According to the U.K.'s Daily Mail newspaper -- really, we have to go to a British newspaper to announce things about our own future first lady? Well, anyway, according to the London newspaper, Barack Obama's buying a $30,000 diamond ring for his lovely bride as a thank-you for her support during the election. The stones would be set in rhodium, the most expensive metal in the world, priced at nearly $7,500 an ounce, but you know what? Nothing is too good for the first lady. Quick break here, we'll be right back.