Maddow Falsely Claims Politician Had Advance Warning of Oklahoma City Bombing

By Megan McArdle

I'm pretty sure that this was an error, not a knowing misstatement--when you're on a daily news cycle, the sad fact is that you probably won't remember everything you've ever said.  Nonetheless, this demands a retraction:


On Monday night, Rachel Maddow apparently made the following rather shocking claim:

MADDOW: Yes, this has happened to a smaller degree before. In 1994, in the first mid-term election after the last Democratic president was elected, we got a slate of candidates that included Helen Chenoweth of Idaho and Steve Stockman of Texas. These two were so close to the militia movement in this country that Mr. Stockman actually received advance notice that the Oklahoma City bombing was going to happen.

debunked on the public record for 15 years:

Telephone toll records indicate that the fax was sent about 10:50 a.m. EDT, about 50 minutes after the bombing, a federal official said.

It gets worse. Maddow seems to have known the claim was false when she said it Monday:

Maddow: Back in 1995 on the morning of the Oklahoma City bombing, just after the explosion a member of Congress named Steve Stockman (R-TX) was sent a fax touting the bombing. He was sent that fax by somebody in the militia movement. Mr. Stockman later turned that fax over to the FBI. He was never implicated in any way in the bombing itself. But there is a reason that the militia movement trusted a member of Congress enough to go to him with that. [Emphasis added.]

It's pretty hard for a public figure to win a defamation case since, under New York Times v. Sullivan, he must prove actual malice. However, having watched both videos to confirm that these two transcriptions are correct, Ms. Maddow may want to familiarize herself with the phrase "reckless disregard for the truth."*

Whether this was poor fact checking, or sloppy wording, with Maddow meaning to say that he got notice of militia involvement before the media, the implication of what she actually said is that he knew about the attacks before they happened.  I hope Maddow will correct this implication quickly.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/10/maddow-falsely-claims-politician-had-advance-warning-of-oklahoma-city-bombing/64870/