What a difference a few days makes. On Monday, Paste reported that MSNBC that pundit Joy Reid’s misattribution of work from DeSmog Blog would result in a correction on Saturday. Paste reported that DeSmog writer Steve Horn was invited on the show to report on the work that he had done with fellow reporter Itai Vardi.
Paste confirmed on Friday with Brendan DeMelle, the editor of DeSmog, that Horn will not be appearing on the weekend’s show. And an apology appears unlikely after Reid lashed out at Horn on Twitter Tuesday.
It all started with a segment from Reid’s Sunday, Mar. 5 show on the Keystone Pipeline and the potential use of steel made by a Russian company in the pipeline’s construction. In the introduction to a panel discussion on the topic, Reid reported on the facts so far: that the pipeline may be made with steel from Russia based Evraz, owned by oligarch Roman Abramovitch whose wife is a friend of Ivanka Trump’s.
As Horn and Vardi quickly pointed out on Twitter, Reid’s segment was based on their reporting—the information was not collected in that manner elsewhere, and the order of Reid’s segment was correlated with Horn and Vardi’s report.
Reid seldom replies to criticism. An August appearance by Malcolm Nance on Reid's show resulted in the former intelligence agent claiming that Green Party 2016 presidential candidate Jill Stein had a show on Russian network RT, a blatant lie that Reid refused to correct. In fact, Reid refused to correct it even after FAIR media analyst Adam Johnson publicly brought it to her attention.
Reid, of course, never replied to Johnson nor corrected Nance's assertion.
Yet it seemed that Reid would issue a correction in Horn and Vardi's case. When Paste reached out to Reid's team on Monday, Mar. 6, we received information on the condition of anonymity from a member of Reid's staff. The staffer told Paste that Reid would acknowledge Horn and Vardi's reporting on Saturday, Mar. 11 and that the show's host would have Horn on the show.
That was Monday. By Tuesday evening it was clear that Horn's appearance on the show was on thin ice.
Nobody accused Reid of plagiarism. Horn and Vardi took issue with the lack of attribution, but there’s a big difference between failing to cite the work done by reporters whose work you’re using and plagiarism. As Columbia School of Journalism Professor Lonnie Isabel explained to Paste on Monday, in order for the misattribution to be plagiarism, one must prove intent. That standard does not appear to have been met here.
Horn was not available for comment Friday. But DeMelle appears ready to accept Reid’s official line on the controversy despite her attacks on his reporter.
“Based on our conversations with the show’s producers, it was not an intentional oversight, and we look forward to further mainstream coverage of DeSmog’s investigations into the Keystone XL and Dakota Access controversies,” DeMelle said in a statement.
Intentional or not, the incident shows that Reid’s team is more enthusiastic about doubling down on a perceived error than admitting fault. That’s a disappointing example of Reid’s journalistic ethics—and it reflects poorly on MSNBC as well.
Reid and MSNBC did not return requests for comment by press time.
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