The managing editor for politics at MSNBC and NBC News tried to pressure a reporter who did not work at either of those outlets into holding back a story — not on behalf of her own networks, but for the Democratic National Committee, which wanted time to call some of its own people before the story broke.
Yashar Ali is a freelance reporter with bylines at New York Magazine and the Huffington Post. Although he started off his career in liberal politics, including working for now-California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, his reporting has earned the respect of those on both sides of the aisle.
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro told Buzzfeed in late 2017 that he respected Ali as someone who was "fair" and "strives for objectivity in his reportage."
On Thursday, he tweeted that he was contacted by NBC News and MSNBC managing editor for politics, Dafna Linzer in regard to a story he was working on. The story, which Ali noted seemed insignificant in itself, involved when MSNBC would be releasing the dates of the Democratic primary debates the network would be holding in 2020. He said that he initially thought the scoop was only worthy of a tweet, but later decided to include it in his newsletter.
As one might expect, Ali called the Democratic National Committee for comment. The DNC asked Ali to wait "so they could go through their important notification calls to state parties." Since waiting would make the story irrelevant, Ali refused.
Just two minutes after he hung up with the DNC, Linzer called him.
According to Ali, he initially assumed that she was calling to prevent him from breaking a story before her own network. But this was not the case.
After exchanging pleasantries, Dafna told me that she received a call from the DNC and was told I had a story. Now it's not strange that the DNC called her, they were coordinating an announcement. What was strange was that she was calling me and taking a menacing tone.
She asked if I could hold the story and I said I couldn't. She was agitated, "why not?" I said I'm not going to lose a scoop. Then she got angrier and said "Why not? It's not a big deal, let them make a few phone calls."
My jaw dropped.
Ali said that when she said this, it became clear to him that she was trying to lobby on behalf of the DNC, not her news organization. She even offered to let him publish hours ahead of MSNBC, if he would just let the DNC call their state parties first.
Ali said that he realized that "this incident is going to be twisted by some with an agenda to discredit the media and say they collude with political parties," a concept he personally disagrees with, but that he thought it was "more important to expose bad behavior than to keep it under wraps."
TheBlaze has reached out to NBC News for comment. CNN's Brian Stelter tweeted that NBC's public relations team had responded to him, but had refused to comment on the matter.
2. Dafna, who oversees the political coverage for NBC and MSNBC, was calling to bully me into delaying the publicat… https://t.co/gCRtIL0XbT— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879860.0
4. At first I thought it was just a fun tidbit that I could tweet out. But after I called several presidential camp… https://t.co/eg8gjeli3w— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879860.0
6. So I won't share most of what was said but can tell you it's pretty run-of-the mill stuff. I asked the DNC if my… https://t.co/W7nzUSHUSW— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879860.0
8. I've never spoken to Dafna by phone. A couple years ago she reached out to me to see if I wanted to have coffee… https://t.co/cVIONdU9Tx— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879860.0
10. After exchanging pleasantries, Dafna told me that she received a call from the DNC and was told I had a story.… https://t.co/tiOKrrrndC— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879861.0
12. I realized that @DafnaLinzer, the head of all political coverage for NBC News and MSNBC wasn't calling to advoc… https://t.co/jBK5XKsz1m— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879861.0
14. I would lose a scoop. Dafna reminded me she was a nat sec reporter at WAPO for ten years and they would hold st… https://t.co/gM8DXLNK4q— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879861.0
16. I kept telling Dafna no, that I wasn't waiting. And she kept getting more frustrated. She was exasperated...she… https://t.co/Mz2pp8jJek— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879861.0
18. 2/3 of the way into the conversation Dafna started a sentence with "this is off the record." She hadn't said it… https://t.co/p2W5jz6VCk— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879862.0
20. She said "off record" one more time later in the call and again I just let her keep talking, I did not agree to… https://t.co/MQsT1kYMuD— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879862.0
22. After the call with Dafna I published the stupid scoop. Then I did a gut check and over the next two hours I ca… https://t.co/3mvvpzFTai— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879862.0
24. There are plenty of times reporters will introduce people in politics to other reporters or TV people. I have d… https://t.co/5ee0qA9QTe— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1553879862.0