MSNBC's Witt failed to challenge GOP strategist Baird's smears of Obama camp, Frank
Research ››› ››› DIANNA PARKER
MSNBC's Alex Witt failed to challenge Republican strategist Tripp Baird's claim that President-elect Barack Obama's team had "something to do with" a "corruption" scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, even though there are no allegations of wrongdoing against Obama or his staff contained in the criminal complaint against Blagojevich. Further, Witt did not challenge Baird's false claim that Rep. Barney Frank "ran a male prostitute ring out of his basement."
On December 21, MSNBC Live anchor Alex Witt failed to challenge Republican strategist Tripp Baird's claim that President-elect Barack Obama's team had "something to do with" a "corruption" scandal involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), even though there are no allegations of wrongdoing against Obama or his staff contained in the criminal complaint against Blagojevich, as U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has made clear. Further, Witt did not challenge Baird's false claim that Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) "ran a male prostitute ring out of his basement."
After Witt asked Baird whether Obama's release of the results of an internal investigation about his staff's contact with Blagojevich would "end all the whispering that there is out there," Baird said, "No, I think this is feeding the beast. I mean, this is the last thing the Obama administration wants to do is release an investigation report on corruption that they all have something to do with. I think for most people out there, you gotta ask yourself: What do you have to do to get kicked out of office if you're a Democrat? I mean, this is a party that basically, you know -- this is Barney Frank who ran a male prostitute ring out of his basement. Now you have Blagojevich."
Witt did not note that during a December 9 press conference announcing the charges against Blagojevich, Fitzgerald told reporters, "The complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever." In addition, Fitzgerald cautioned the press to "not cast aspersions on people for being named or being discussed or if you learn they're being interviewed." Indeed, Media Matters for America has documented that the complaint against Blagojevich does not include a single allegation of misconduct by Obama, and at least one mention of "president-elect" in the complaint affirmatively undermines any suggestion of wrongdoing on Obama's part. In that instance, the complaint alleges that Blagojevich "said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but 'they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them.' "
As Media Matters has also repeatedly noted, the House ethics committee -- which, at Frank's request, investigated the allegations made by Stephen Gobie that Gobie was running a prostitution ring out of Frank's house with Frank's knowledge -- determined in 1990 that Frank "did not have either prior or concomitant knowledge of prostitution activities involving third parties alleged to have taken place in his apartment." Moreover, the committee did not conclusively determine whether Gobie was even using Frank's apartment for "prostitution activities," noting in its report that purported evidence offered by Gobie that he had been conducting a prostitution ring from Frank's apartment collapsed under scrutiny.
From the 10 a.m. ET hour of the December 21 edition of MSNBC Live:
WITT: And this week, Barack Obama is expected to release the findings of an internal investigation as to whether anyone in his ranks had improper contact with the Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Joining us now live from Washington, D.C., to talk about it: Democratic strategist Josh Gottheimer and Republican strategist Tripp Baird.
Hello, guys. Good to see you both.
GOTTHEIMER: Hi Alex, how are you?
WITT: I'm great. I hope you are too. As we begin with you, Josh, Barack Obama says that he is eager to release the internal investigation results. Why is that? What do you expect to hear from this report?
GOTTHEIMER: Well, I think probably what we've been hearing to date is that, you know, his incoming administration had nothing to do with any kind of deal-making that was going on, and I think, you know, the president-elect has been very clear all along that he believes in transparency. And so, that -- I think the fact that he ordered an immediate investigation and the fact that he's going to bring out his findings is in line with everything he's been saying all along. So I think this will be good. We'll keep moving forward and focus on what we should be focusing on, which is the economy, and how we're going to solve it.
WITT: OK, what would be good, I presume, Tripp, would be, by releasing this report, it would effectively end all the whispering that there is out there, about there could be some sort of an Obama connection to the Illinois Senate seat scandal. You think that's what's going to happen when all is said and done?
BAIRD: No, I think this is feeding the beast. I mean, this is the last thing the Obama administration wants to do is release an investigation report on corruption that they all have something to do with. I think for most people out there, you gotta ask yourself: What do you have to do to get kicked out of office if you're a Democrat? I mean, this is a party that basically, you know -- this is Barney Frank who ran a male prostitute ring out of his basement. Now you have Blagojevich. Bob Byrd --
GOTTHEIMER: Come on.
BAIRD: -- says the n-word. These guys are all still around. I mean, Blagojevich is going to stay in there and fight this thing, and I think it kind of -- you kind of ask yourself: What do Democrats have to do or say to get people out of office? I mean, at least Republicans -- at least Republicans, you know, there is some --
BAIRD: -- consequences for bad behavior.
WITT: But --
BAIRD: It doesn't seem that way looking at the Democratic side of the aisle.
WITT: But, you know what? Tripp, I want to stay on target here with this message. And the question is whether or not Barack Obama's office or administration had discussions with Blagojevich, which indeed they did and indeed --
WITT: -- they ought to, correct? I mean, they're replacing his seat. Certainly it would stand a reason that you might have someone like his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, speaking with Rod Blagojevich. And the concept of throwing out names they might be interested in seeing appointed -- I mean, how normal is that?
BAIRD: It's very normal. I mean, Barack Obama did not win this election by just letting things happen. I mean, his staff and him do not leave rocks unturned. I am sure they had many conversations with the governor. Now, what the content of those conversations were and how they're going to be portrayed to the press and how it's going to be spun, that's a totally different proposition. But I'm sure they had conversations.
Now, whether, you know, Rahm Emanuel is actually responsible or involved in putting together a package for this Senate seat or not, we'll have to see. But look, you know, [U.S. attorney Patrick] Fitzgerald has thrown this thing out there. He -- I think he assumed that Blagojevich -- and everyone assumed after the indictment and the press conference -- that this would all go away. He would step aside and this would all go away. But it hasn't. And so, it's stucken around. And so, I think more and more people as the days and months go by -- this will not be a quick process -- more and more people are going to get pulled into this.
WITT: Hey, and you know, Josh, for anyone that thought Rod Blagojevich might step aside, he put an end to that speculation Friday. He issued that public statement. Here's part of what he had to say.