If a regular fan of MSNBC primetime were to chime into a water cooler conversation with the words, "Terror plot? I haven't heard of any terror plot?" such an MSNBC devotee couldn't be blamed for not knowing about one of the big news stories of the past two weeks.
While the arrest of terror suspect Najibullah Zazi -- who admitted to training with al-Qaeda in Pakistan and is believed to have been planning to target New York City -- featured prominently on every broadcast network evening newscast in the past couple of weeks as well as some evening shows on CNN and FNC, there was barely a mention during MSNBC's primetime schedule of the terror plot described by NBC Nightly news anchor Brian Williams as "one of the more serious terror plots since 9/11."
A Nexis search of MSNBC's evening shows that air after 6:00 p.m. EST, -- The Ed Show, Hardball, Countdown, and the Rachel Maddow Show -- only seems to turn up one mention of the terror plot -- when it was reported in a news brief that aired during the Friday, September 25, Hardball, read by correspondent Christina Brown: "Terror suspect Najibullah Zazi is back in New York. He was flown from Colorado to a detention facility in Brooklyn to face charges of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction on U.S. soil."
By contrast, FNC's The O'Reilly Factor mentioned the story twice during the past week, while FNC's Special Report with Bret Baier mentioned it three times -- on September 18, 21, and 25. CNN's Campbell Brown covered the story even more aggressively, as the story received attention on her show on September 16, 18, 21, 22, 24, and 25. News of the plot also ran several times on both Anderson Cooper 360 and on Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN.
ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, the CBS Evening News, and the NBC Nightly News all ran several reports on the story over the past two weeks.
Below is the complete transcript of one such story which aired on the NBC Nightly News on Monday, September 21:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: We turn now to what is being called one of the more serious terror plots since 9/11. Three men arrested over the weekend appeared in federal courtrooms today in Denver and New York, and officials say more arrests may be coming in this case. We get details from our justice correspondent Pete Williams.
PETE WILLIAMS: After a frenetic week of searching, FBI officials say they have some idea of who was involved, but not what the target was, when an attack was to happen or how it was to be done. Three men arrested over the weekend and charged with lying to FBI investigators appeared today to face the charges, including Najibullah Zazi of Denver. He showed up in New York a week and a half ago carrying a laptop computer that the FBI says contained detailed instructions on how to make bombs. Investigators say it was a formula for the same type of explosive used in the 2005 London bus and subway bombings and hidden in the shoes of would-be airplane bomber Richard Reid. The FBI says Zazi admitted learning about explosives last year at an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan. Also arrested Zazi's father, Mohammed, and a New York Muslim cleric, Ahmad Afzali, both accused of lying about tipping Zazi off to the investigation. Afzali's lawyer says he's being made a scapegoat.
RON KUBY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The government wants somebody to blame for the fact that they haven't caught any terrorists.
PETE WILLIAMS: But former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says uncovering the apparent plot is a big success.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There's no question that there's cause for a satisfaction in having brought at least part of this case down.
PETE WILLIAMS: Because backpacks were found in last week's New York searches in this case, the government, strictly as a precaution, has urged the nation's train and subway operators to be extra vigilant and conduct random backpack checks. Officials say more arrests are coming. They're urging other suspects, some under surveillance, to cooperate now or face the prospect of long sentences when the plot is unraveled. Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.