Accuracy in Media

Mark Thompson, a SiriusXM host and regular guest on MSNBC, called President Trump a “criminal,” seemingly unaware that journalistically, basic reporting standards are not to label anyone a “criminal” unless they are convicted.

When Thompson was challenged by MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle, the MSNBC anchor outsourced the task of explaining the basic journalistic principle to conservative guest Noah Rothman, an editor at Commentary and an MSNBC contributor.

“I don’t think this should just be treated matter-of-factually,” Thompson said this morning as he tried to hype up the congressional testimony of Michael Cohen, a convicted felon who lied to Congress and yesterday was the key witness in a partisan hearing seeking to attack President Trump. “This is major. the president is a criminal. that’s all there is to it. And if he’s writing checks from behind that oval office desk outside of the auspices of the F.E.C.–”

“Mark, he’s not a convicted criminal. He’s not,” Ruhle interjected.

“He’s not convicted, but he’s still a criminal,” Thompson said. “I mean, you have to be convicted to be considered a criminal?”

Ruhle, who is supposed to fill the role of a neutral anchor, tried to offer some cover for Thompson by attacking the president from a different angle.

“I mean, I think it’s tough to make the argument the president of the United States is a criminal,” Ruhle said. “We know that the president is a liar. But to say that the president is a criminal –”

“Well, if you are paying off someone to benefit your campaign outside of Federal Election Commission filings, that’s not an act of criminality?” Thompson asked.

Ruhle turned to Rothman.

“Noah, what do you think?” Ruhle said.

“Well, it would be if it is proven in a court of law and if there is a conviction. then you can say ‘criminal.’ but until such time you can say ‘suspected’ or even ‘alleged,’ although even ‘alleged’ isn’t even appropriate,” Rothman said.

Photo by nan palmero

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