On Thursday, MSNBC continued its quest to link conservatives with the birther movement- people who don't believe Barack Obama is constitutionally eligible to serve as President. Previewing an unrelated segment on this weekend's tea party convention, Norah O'Donnell played a clip of Obama criticizing those who raise the issue. She then compared, "President Obama sends a message to those who question his citizenship, this as the tea party movement gets ready for its first big convention."
At no point did O'Donnell explain or justify the connection, other than her apparent assumption that tea partiers equal birthers. The MSNBC host interviewed author Rick Scarborough, one of the speakers at the convention in Nashville. During the piece, this MSNBC graphic appeared in large font at the bottom of the screen: "Obama: Okay to Question My Policy, Not My Citizenship."
Again, this was not the topic of the segment and there was no attempt made to explain what it had to do with a tea party convention. MSNBC, also for no apparent reason, ran background footage of Sarah Palin from 2008, standing in front of turkeys being slaughtered.
All of this follows January talking points from Democratic Senatorial Committee Chairman Senator Robert Menendez. He told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that Republicans should be asked if they thought that the President was born in America.
Readers will remember that Norah O'Donnell was the reporter who broke out notes in 2009 to harass a young Sarah Palin fan, Jackie Seal, at a Sarah Palin book signing.
The segment, which aired at 3:22pm on February 4, follows:
BARACK OBAMA: Surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith or my citizenship.
NORAH O'DONNELL: President Obama sends a message to those who question his citizenship, this as the tea party movement gets ready for its first big convention.
O'DONNELL: Sarah Palin is still planning to headline the first annual tea party convention, despite other speakers pulling out, citing ethical questions about the for-profit event. Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Marsha Blackburn both cancelled appearances, citing these ethical concerns. And there have been protests within the movement over the cost of the event and the reported fee of $100,000 paid to land Sarah Palin as the keynote speaker. Well, Rick Scarborough is the founder of Vision America and the author of Enough is Enough: a Call to Christian Involvement. He's scheduled to conduct an organized prayer session later today. Mr. Scarborough, thank you so much for joining us.
RICK SCARBOROUGH: It's a pleasure to be with you, Norah.
O'DONNELL: Let me first ask you about, I understand Sarah Palin is the big head-liner. Why is she being paid $100,000 to attend this event?
SCARBOROUGH: You have to take this up with Sarah and her people. I told everybody I'd do it for half that much. The- I had nothing to do with that planning. I was invited to speak as she was.
O'DONNELL: Well, Dr. Scarborough, I know that Sarah Palin has said any compensation for her appearance will go right back to the cause of the tea party movement. Do you know how so? Does that raise any concerns for you?
SCARBOROUGH: It raises no concerns. You know, that's between her and the organizers the event. I'm just happy to be with 3,000 concerned Americans who pay their own way and care enough about this country to get involved and speak out. There's a revolution taking place and the focus of a few are on anything they can pick at. But the fact is, Sarah Palin is speaking. She says she's going to give the money away. I trust her at her word on that. I'm here to encourage these 3,000 activists to go back and find 300,000 more activists and lets change this country.
MSNBC GRAPHIC: Obama: Okay to Question My Policy, Not My Citizenship
O'DONNELL: Well, I know Dr. Scarborough that you feel very strongly about that, about this revolution about changing this country. So, that's why I'm asking about the finances of the organization. If you spend $100,000 for Sarah Palin to speak there, she says it's going to go back to the cause. It's likely going to go to her PAC. Did you know that according to the FEC records, she spent more money on buying her own books than on donations to candidates? Does that concern you?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Norah, I also know she was literally annihilated by the members of the left who went after her family, who said slanderous things about her, who did not allow her to be a governor of Alaska. And, frankly, a lot of us are just as happy as we can be that she now is making a good living and having money to do things for conservative candidates. And, once again, I'm not here to defend Sarah Palin. I'm not here to argue the point.
O'DONNELL: No, no, Dr. Scarborough, I think you may have misheard me. What I'm saying is her- No, no. I think you misheard me. FEC records show, though, she spent more money, $63,000 buying her own book from the PAC, more than the 40,000 that she contributed to candidates. Does that concern you?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, it doesn't concern me at all. In fact, I don't have a dog in that fight.
O'DONNELL: And it doesn't concern you that tea party funds that would go for her speech, would then be contributed to her PAC and that she might use that for personal gain?
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Norah, every person that has taken place in this tea party, myself included, knew what the cost was, paid the fee. In my case, I'm one of the sponsors of the event. I looked at the finances. I thought it was a good investment. I still think it's a good investment. How people on the other end handle the funds as far as I'm concerned is between them and their God. And, clearly, there's enough people who are watch dogs, like yourself, that will hold them accountable. What I intend to do the three different times I speak is encourage anyone I can, and through them encourage and hopefully millions of others, to get involved and taking this country back from the ruling class, who are right now cramming an agenda down the throats of the American people that is coming up choking us half to death. We're spending ourselves into bankruptcy. No matter what the people say, whether it’s in Massachusetts or Virginia or New Jersey, it doesn't seem that the administration has an ear. Their ears are either full of wax or they just don't care what people think. But, I think over the course of the next seven or eight months you're going to see a growing crescendo of voices.
O'DONNELL: Yeah, I understand that- Well, no doubt, Dr. Scarborough, but what I'm raising questions with you is someone who feels so strongly about this is whether the tea party is a actually a movement for change or one where people are making personal profit off some people who want to make change? And let me just show you, Think Progress, of course, which is a progressive organization, has recorded the events organizers of this, the Tea Party Express manager and Republican public relations firm Russo-Martin-Rogers, has padded its pockets with over $1 million in money raised by the tea party groups. Does that concern you that funds by people who want change are being used to pad consultants rather to elect people you want to change Washington?
SCARBOROUGH Once again, Norah, I'm not here to defend or deny. I don't have enough information to even make a judgment on those kinds of things. What I can say to you is that I am going to invest my time and energy and any finances people are gracious to give me to do it to find as many Christians, as many concerned Americans as I can, inform them of what the real issues are, and get them to the polls to vote in the primaries and finally in the election in the fall. I'm grateful for this opportunity to look anybody who will listen in the eye and say, hey, join us. Join us for the cause of changing America. That's what I'm here for and that’s what I’ll do.
O'DONNELL: I know, Dr. Scarborough, but the question- because of this for-profit nature of the very event that you're at, Michele Bachmann, who has been called leader of the tea party movement, or one of the leaders, is not going to show up, Marsha Blackburn is not showing up. So, there are already some issues that may prevent you from having the very people you need to, to carry out your revolution.
SCARBOROUGH: Sure. It won't keep me from carrying out mine, because both of them are allies for what we do and stand for the values we hold dear. As you, I trust, know Democrats and the majority who is sitting in Congress right now are filing all manner of investigations upon anyone on the conservative side. There are legal issues that have been raised. And even if these folks like Sarah Palin find in the course of law that they are right, it costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of distraction to prove their innocence. So I fully understand why some of these conservative congressmen pulled out. They are not opposed to this. They just don't want the hassle ethics committees will cause them. I don’t have that trouble, so here I am.