MSNBC Doesn't Tell the Whole Story on Trump's Minneapolis Security Controversy

October 11th, 2019 3:54 PM

On his Thursday show, MSNBC Live host Craig Melvin invited in Jacob Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to discuss President Trump's campaign rally in that city as well as the price tag that comes with it. After the segment was over, the viewer was left to conclude that Trump is a hypocrite and a cheat who doesn't pay his security bills, but Melvin left out some crucial facts that render this controversy rather non-controversial.

Melvin led off the segment by telling viewers that Trump's battle with Frey is not an isolated incident as the Trump campaign is on the hook for over $800,000 in security costs across ten cities. Melvin then introduced Frey and asked him what his big concern about the rally was. Frey described past rallies as "hateful" and "divisive" and that such rallies have "no place in Minneapolis. Perhaps aware that answer had nothing to do with money, Melvin asked about the security bill, which Frey estimated would be over $500,000, over six times the average one of Melvin's other ten cities.



Frey decried it as "unfair" that Trump would make the city pay for the extra security, especially as he not coming as part of official government business, but rather to campaign. He ultimately concluded that Trump is a hypocrite on supporting law enforcement, as Frey declared that most of the cost, some $400,000, would be to pay the city's police officers for overtime work. Then the segment ended, but unfortunately MSNBC viewers came away under-informed on the controversy.

If $530,000 for security seems excessive, that is because it is. In the fight between Trump and Frey leading up to the rally, Trump said that price tag is over 26 times that of an Obama rally at the same venue. Even PolitiFact rated that as "True." Speaking of Obama, the same organization that Melvin got his Trump numbers from, the Center for Public Integrity, also found that Obama did not always pay his security bills.

Furthermore, some 2020 Democrats have not even responded to CPI's questions about security.  The only reference to any of this was a brief screenshot of a Trump tweet that contained Trump's claim that "Presidents Clinton and Obama paid almost nothing," but Melvin did not read that part out loud, instead choosing to focus on the personal feud between Trump and Frey. It would have been nice if Melvin asked Frey about the discrepancy, but he did not.

MSNBC saw what they thought was an easy opportunity to score some anti-Trump points, but in doing so they purposefully left out key facts that disprove the narative.

Here is a transcript for the October 10 show:


MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin

11:54 AM ET

CRAIG MELVIN: Tonight President Trump will rally voters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with an eye on turning Minnesota red in 2020. But there's one figure taking on the president directly ahead of his visit, the city's mayor. Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey says the rally will leave Minneapolis on the hook for an estimated half million dollars in security costs. The president heard about it and in a Twitter thread blasted the mayor for, quote, stifling free speech. Wouldn’t be the first time  the Trump campaign didn’t pay its bills for a rally though. A report from the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity with NBC News found that as of June, ten city governments complained that the president's political committee stiffed them out of more than $800,000 in total security costs. I think we have them back there. No? Yes, we have a great graphic, showing that, demonstrating that for you. There it is right there. All right. President Trump, his campaign committee's unpaid security bills showing a number of the states there, the cities, and the total amount. I'm joined now by the mayor of Minneapolis, his name is Jacob Frey. Mayor Frey, thank you for your time, though sir. 

JACOB FREY: Thanks so much for having me, Craig. 

MELVIN: As you know, President Trump called you a radical left mayor. He says you're stifling free speech. What's been your chief concern with the president's visit? 

FREY: Well, first off, Minneapolis is a welcoming place. We also stand by people's First Amendment rights. And we know what the president has said at some of these past rallies. It is divisive, it is hateful. That kind of speech really has no place in Minneapolis. But the president can say what he wants. But I as mayor of the city can also say what I want. And what we're saying is we stand up for our diverse communities and in fact we view that as a form of our strength. 

MELVIN: I want to go back to the report about the unpaid security bills by the Trump Campaign. The Center for Public Integrity with NBC News found that, again, as of June, ten city governments still have not been paid for more than $840,000 in security costs. Some of the invoices are three years old. With the rally there happening in a matter of hours, who is going to pay for what you estimate to be $500,000 in costs for tonight's rally? Who is picking up the tab? 

FREY: Well, you're right, we've seen this same narrative repeat itself over and over again with several different cities. Cities are already stretched extremely thin. And so to force us to pay all of the associated costs when President Trump comes to town for a campaign rally, I think just plainly it is unfair. And so I believe that the President of the United States should pay his bills, even if he really doesn't like paying his bills. That's just -- 

MELVIN: Here's my question, mayor. If you're dealing with a guy, in this case the president, who has a reputation for not paying his bill, then why extend credit? Why would the city not say, you know what, we know we don't pay your bills, we're not going to front the 500 K? 

FREY: We didn't extend credit. Trump coming to town, I only found out about a week ago. And what we're making clear is that regardless, we need to ensure public safety. That's my number one priority, especially today. Whether you're attending in support or protesting I opposition, we need to ensure public safety, regardless. Now, we have a broker for the Target Center which is AEG, AEG then has a contract directly with the Trump campaign and we have made it clear to AEG that we expect those associated costs are going to get paid. 

MELVIN: We reached out directly to the Trump campaign to see if they have paid the security costs we mentioned in that report. We should point out, we have not heard back. Politico talked to the campaign about the unpaid bills. The campaign COO said this, “It is the Secret Service, not the campaign, which coordinates with local law enforcement. The campaign itself does not contract with local governments for police involvement. All billing inquiries should always go to the Secret Service.” The Secret Service replied--

FREYY: Let's talk about that. 

MELVIN: Okay, go ahead. 

FREY: Let's talk about that. President trump is not coming here on behalf of the United States government or the office of the President of the United States. He's coming here for a campaign rally. And when you're coming here for a campaign rally, yeah, absolutely, we expect those expenses to be paid. I think that goes without question. When you talk about the expenses, they're not exorbitant, they're not unreasonable. We had NCAA final four here, that was $1.5 million in associated costs, we had the Super Bowl, that was $6 million in costs, what we’re talking about is $530,000, by the way, 400,000 of which goes to supporting the pay of overtime for our police officers. President Trump oftentimes will talk about our police officers but clearly he doesn't want to pay the bill to get them paid. 

MELVIN: Mayor Jacob Frey, Mayor of Minneapolis. Mayor, I was just in your city a couple of weeks ago, it's a delightful place, thank you for your time, and we'll talk to you soon.