During the 3:00PM ET hour of live coverage on MSNBC Friday, co-host David Shuster admitted that racially charged quotes he and other hosts attributed to Rush Limbaugh had not been verified: “MSNBC attributed that quote to a football player who was opposed to Limbaugh’s NFL bid. However, we have been unable to verify that quote independently. So, just to clarify.” Shuster did not formally retract the quote or apologize.
On Monday, Shuster revealed the supposed source of the false quote: “Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior says Limbaugh should be denied the privilege of owning an NFL franchise for comments like ‘slavery had its merits.’” Speaking with columnist Stephen A. Smith later that afternoon, Shuster’s co-host Tamron Hall wondered: “Should a person who says there are merits with slavery be able to have this privilege of owning a team?”
As result of the ensuing controversy raised by the false quotes reported by MSNBC, CNN, and other media outlets, Limbaugh was removed from an investment group that was considering purchasing the St. Louis Rams football team.
During Wednesday's Morning Joe program on MSNBC, host Joe Scarborough warned of false Limbaugh quotes being touted by his own network: "And a lot of those comments were actually not true. The quotes that we heard the most of, the people we interviewed on our shows came with articles, waving articles with quotes – completely made up. And Mike Barnicle, the dangerous thing is, that the media just flew right into it."
On Tuesday, Media Research Center President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell called on CNN and MSNBC to “immediately and publicly source when Limbaugh uttered this phrase....They can prove their innocence by documenting this accusation. If they can’t, then they are 100% guilty of character assassination.” Shuster failed to provide any such documentation, instead waiting days to acknowledge his false reporting.
Shuster’s full Friday statement:
DAVID SHUSTER: And Tamron, speaking of influence, we do have an update involving talk show host Rush Limbaugh and the controversy over his effort to help buy an NFL football team. Limbaugh denies he said quote, ‘slavery has its merits,’ it was a quote that appeared on MSNBC this past Monday and Tuesday. MSNBC attributed that quote to a football player who was opposed to Limbaugh’s NFL bid. However, we have been unable to verify that quote independently. So, just to clarify.