Friday, March 29, 2019

NBC Political Editor Bullies HuffPost Reporter on DNC's Behalf

Yashar Ali of HuffPost published an eye-opening thread on Twitter Friday accusing an NBC/MSNBC political editor of "bullying him" on behalf of the Democratic National Committee to delay an "innocuous" debate-schedule scoop he'd been given....

Tweets follow: 8. I've never spoken to Dafna by phone. A couple years ago she reached out to me to see if I wanted to have coffee and talk about working at NBC News but I declined as I was actively investigating NBC matters and thought it would be strange if I discussed a job.

9. So when I saw Dafna calling I assumed she would ask me to consider delaying my post so that MSNBC could announce it first. Given that this was an innocuous scoop and not some investigative story I wouldn't have lost sleep if I had delayed. But that's not why she was calling.

10. After exchanging pleasantries, Dafna told me that she received a call from the DNC and was told I had a story. Now it's not strange that the DNC called her, they were coordinating an announcement. What was strange was that she was calling me and taking a menacing tone.

11. She asked if I could hold the story and I said I couldn't. She was agitated, "why not?" I said I'm not going to lose a scoop. Then she got angrier and said "Why not? It's not a big deal, let them make a few phone calls."

My jaw dropped.

12. I realized that @DafnaLinzer, the head of all political coverage for NBC News and MSNBC wasn't calling to advocate for her network, she was calling to advocate the DNC's position. She wanted me to wait so they could call state party leaders.

13. I thought to myself "this is how people think it works." It's not. But Dafna was doing it. She kept pressing me. Now I acknowledged, for stuff that isn't about serious investigative reporting, there is no problem holding something. But I knew once others got the call 14. I would lose a scoop. Dafna reminded me she was a nat sec reporter at WAPO [Washington Post] for ten years and they would hold stuff all the time (note: so people wouldn't get killed). "Why can't you just wait, let them make their calls, then you'll be the first to put it into print," she said

17. I was so surprised me that she was talking this way with a total stranger. The head of the political division was trying to bully me at the behest of the DNC over a dumb scoop (even though they may not have asked her to)

18. 2/3 of the way into the conversation Dafna started a sentence with "this is off the record." She hadn't said it at the beginning of our conversation and most important at no point did I agree when she said "off record" to keep it off record.

19. I'm not one of those gotcha reporters, I think it's bad for sourcing relationships to make people like they constantly feel like they have to say "off record." But Dafna isn't a source and she was calling to intimidate me, so she doesn't get the benefit.

20. She said "off record" one more time later in the call and again I just let her keep talking, I did not agree to anything. I then told her I had to go talk to my editor and she got even more frustrated and said "No. I want to talk to you about this."

21. I said "no, I want to go talk to my editor." Then she sent me over the edge and said "What's your editors name, I want to talk to them." She was trying to intimidate me..on behalf of the DNC. I ended the call.

22. After the call with Dafna I published the stupid scoop. Then I did a gut check and over the next two hours I called 10 experienced prominent reporters and told them the story. They were all stunned by what Dafna did and encouraged me to share it publicly.

23. I'm not naive to the fact that this incident is going to be twisted by some with an agenda to discredit the media and say they collude with political parties. But I think its more important to expose bad behavior then keep it under wraps. What Dafna did was unethical

24. There are plenty of times reporters will introduce people in politics to other reporters or TV people. I have done it many times, that is advocating for more coverage, not less. Dafna was advocating for me to not do something on behalf of a political party.

25. What I can't figure out is (and no one else I spoke to could understand), why open yourself up to this for a stupid story? How was this worth it?