MSNBC host Chris Matthews pressed Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy about a Newsmax report on President Donald Trump meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in April 2016. Ruddy repeatedly attempted downplay his own outlets report, claiming that the Newsmax report was probably a “wire report” republished on Newsmax.
Matthews pushed back on Ruddy’s denials by showing the article in question, which was titled “Putin pleased with Trump,” on screen and pointing out that it was “a byline piece, not a wire.” From the March 3 edition of MSNBC’s Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS (HOST): What is your reporting at Newsmax tell you about Trump's relationship with the Russians during the campaign? What do you have?
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: Well, you know, you and I both know, we’ve covered a lot of campaigns --
MATTHEWS: He says he’s had no contacts. Well, you’ve covered it. What contacts has he had with the Russians during the campaign according to your news organization?
RUDDY: Well, look, when he gave his foreign policy speech in Washington the Russian ambassador sat in the front row. This is not unusual for a political campaign to have dealings with foreign diplomats and officials. It happens all the time. He was very open about that he wanted to reset the relationship with Russia.
MATTHEWS: Sure, but he said that -- look at a couple of things here.
According to a report in your Newsmax Trump met with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign. According to Newsmax, your organization, Trump met with Sergey Kislyak himself, the Russian ambassador to the United States at a VIP reception along with three other foreign ambassadors. Newsmax reports that the meeting came during the foreign policy speech, as you said he gave in April. What do you make of his denial he had no relations with the Russians at all? He’s given a blanket denial.
RUDDY: Well, again, he gave a speech where the Russian ambassador showed up so it’s a little hard to say that he had --
MATTHEWS: You said meeting.
RUDDY: Well, I don’t believe, and again --
MATTHEWS: Well your reporting was that it’s a meeting.
RUDDY: Do you know, we both have been in politics, you know how many hundreds or thousands of people you meet in a political campaign.
MATTHEWS: No, no, no, no. You said it was a meeting. I’m just asking you was it a meeting or wasn’t a meeting? If it was a meeting, why has Trump denied it?
There's a conflict there between your reporting of a meeting and him saying it's a ruse.
RUDDY: We pick up a lot of wire stories at Newsmax and there’s a lot of reports on Newsmax, so if there was an official meeting with the Trump campaign, I don’t believe we’ve ever reported that.
MATTHEWS: We just read your wire -- I know what you reported, we just read it. Does that conflict with what Trump just said there?
I want you to tell me what your news agencies reported, and whether it’s true or not. Was there a meeting between Trump and the Russian ambassador Kislyak or wasn't there? Because Trump denies it.
RUDDY: Well, you should ask his campaign. MSNBC has reporters at the White House. Go ask them tomorrow about it. I'm not representing the Trump campaign. I don't see anything wrong if he did have the meeting. He wanted to reset the relationship, I think that's a positive thing.
MATTHEWS: Then why is he acting like he didn’t? I agree with you. By the way, I don't think it proves anything that he met with the Russians. The question out there, in everybody’s mind is we know the Russians were involved in helping him win the election, because they wanted to beat Hillary. We understand that. That's a fact and there have been a series of meetings that have been disclosed between his people and the Russian ambassador which they never told us about until we dug it up.So there’s a reasonable progression here of information and it’s not coming from Trump, or from you, but it did come, ironically, from your news agency when you reported about a meeting last April between Trump and the Russian ambassador. And now you're pulling away from what you reported in April.
The byline piece in Newsmax, which we all read of course, was written by Sandy Fitzgerald, and it was a byline piece not a wire. Just want to make that clear. That was in April.
RUDDY: It was probably a wire story that we probably picked up.