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A freelance journalist has gone public about a bizarre intimidation attempt by a senior MSNBC editor who tried to “bully” him into keeping a story under wraps – on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, not the network.
MSNBC politics managing editor Dafna Linzer tried to pressure Yashar Ali, a journalist who has written for the Huffington Post and New York Magazine, into holding back the release of the Democratic primary debate dates, Ali has claimed in a series of tweets. Linzer wasn’t trying to beat him to the story, or calling on behalf of her own network at all – she was acting wholly on behalf of the DNC, according to Ali.
Ali got wind of the Democratic primary dates, information even the candidates didn’t have, on Thursday morning and called the party to verify them before publishing. They asked him to hold back the information while they made a few calls – which he refused, not wanting to lose the scoop – and then things got weird.
Linzer then called Ali and asked him to hold the story in order to give the DNC time to “make a few phone calls” to state party leaders, informing them of the debate dates. While her own network was planning to break the news later on that day, she spent the call “menacing” Ali, threatening to call his editor and trying several lines of reasoning to convince him to sit on the story – even bringing up her own history as a national security reporter at the Washington Post, when they “would hold stuff all the time.”
While MSNBC generally favors the Democratic Party in its news coverage, the network isn’t a party organ – not officially, at least – and Linzer’s “unethical” behavior, conspiring with party leadership to quash another journalist’s story, set off alarm bells in the journalist. Several other reporters he spoke to urged him to go public.
Neither MSNBC nor Linzer have made any public comment in response to Ali’s tweets so far. In the week since Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation, Rachel Maddow and other top-rated MSNBC shows have lost 20 percent of their viewers as Americans realize they spent the last two years being led down the garden path. It’s understandable that Linzer might be a little stressed, now that so much is riding on the network’s “pivot to 2020.”