Apology NOT accepted!
President Donald Trump’s middle son, Eric Trump, announced Wednesday evening on social media that he doesn’t accept MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell’s pro forma apology.
“This was a reckless attempt to slander our family and smear a great company,” Eric, who serves as the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, wrote in a tweet.
“Apologies are not enough when the true intent was solely to damage and cause harm. As a company, we will be taking legal action. This unethical behavior has to stop.”
This was a reckless attempt to slander our family and smear a great company. Apologies are not enough when the true intent was solely to damage and cause harm. As a company, we will be taking legal action. This unethical behavior has to stop. @Lawrence @MSNBC https://t.co/i4X6CcdkCm
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) August 29, 2019
He posted the tweet about five hours after O’Donnell issued his first apology on Twitter and about an hour and a half before the host went on to further clarify his apology on air.
In both instances, the longtime MSNBC host refused to say the words “I’m sorry.” Worse, he kept the conspiracy theorizing alive by suggesting that his original claim might still be true.
Uttered Tuesday evening on MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” the claim by O’Donnell was that a loan provided to the president by Deutsche Bank had been co-signed by Russian oligarchs.
As evidence, he cited a “single source” — an anonymous, unidentified one at that. But after widespread backlash began brewing, the host started to backtrack.
First with this tweet posted Wednesday afternoon:
Last night I made an error in judgment by reporting an item about the president’s finances that didn’t go through our rigorous verification and standards process. I shouldn’t have reported it and I was wrong to discuss it on the air. I will address the issue on my show tonight.
— Lawrence O’Donnell (@Lawrence) August 28, 2019
And then later Wednesday evening with the following on-air apology:
“Last night on this show I discussed information that wasn’t ready for reporting,” he said. “I repeated statements a single source told me about the president’s finances and loan documents with Deutsche Bank.”
“Saying ‘if true’ as I discussed the information was not good enough. I did not go through the rigorous verification and standards process here at MSNBC before repeating what I heard from my source. Had it gone through that process I would not have been permitted to report it.”
“I should not have said it on air or posted it on Twitter,” the host’s apology continued. “I was wrong to do so. This afternoon, attorneys for the president sent us a letter asserting the story is false. They demanded a retraction. Tonight we are retracting the story. We don’t know whether the information is inaccurate. But the fact is, we do know it wasn’t ready for broadcast, and for that I apologize.”
He was right about one thing — the president did involve himself in the matter by having his personal attorney Charles Harder send a letter to NBCUniversal demanding a retraction and apology.
“These statements are false and defamatory, and extremely damaging,” the letter reads. “The only borrowers under these loans are Trump entities, and Mr. Trump is the only guarantor. Numerous documents for each of these loans are also recorded, publicly available and searchable online. Thus, actual malice can easily be proven based on your reckless disregard of the truth and unreasonable reliance on an alleged ‘source’ who you will not even identify in your story and likely is seeking to mislead you and the public for political reasons or other ulterior motives.”
“Please confirm in writing within twenty-four (24) hours of the transmission of this letter that Mr. O’Donnell and NBCU will immediately and prominently retract, correct and apologize for the aforementioned false and defamatory statements,” the letter adds.
“Failure to do so will leave my clients with no alternative but to consider their legal options which could include immediate legal proceedings against Mr. O’Donnell and NBCU.”
The problem is that O’Donnell technically never apologized. Writing on Twitter, former New York Times reporter turned CNN analyst Bill Carter opined that the “apology” seemed insincere, as if it was just a rote performance versus something from the heart.
“O’Donnell retracted his Deutschebank story at top of his hour on MSNBC,” he wrote. “Pro forma. No extraordinary mea culpa. Clearly an effort to move past a pretty serious breach of journalistic standards.”
To do something “pro forma” is to do it as a formality versus to do it with sincerity. Likewise, to deliver a “mea culpa” is to apologize in a way that demonstrates that you’re taking responsibility.
O’Donnell retracted his Deutschebank story at top of his hour on MSNBC. Pro forma. No extraordinary mea culpa. Clearly an effort to move past a pretty serious breach of journalistic standards.
— Bill Carter (@wjcarter) August 29, 2019
This may explain Eric’s decision to pursue further legal action. What remains unclear is what exactly that action will be.