Part 2—Worst cable transcript ever: Yesterday, at the Washington Post, insider journalist Jonathan Capehart did something very unusual.
In this very unusual post, Capehart said that he was mistaken in much of his past work about the shooting of Michael Brown.
He quoted at length from the recent Justice Department report, to which he reacted as follows:
CAPEHART (3/16/15): What DOJ found made me ill. Wilson knew about the theft of the cigarillos from the convenience store and had a description of the suspects. Brown fought with the officer and tried to take his gun. And the popular hands-up storyline, which isn’t corroborated by ballistic and DNA evidence and multiple witness statements, was perpetuated by Witness 101. In fact, just about everything said to the media by Witness 101, whom we all know as Dorian Johnson, the friend with Brown that day, was not supported by the evidence and other witness statements.In fact, Johnson’s hopelessly bungled account was supported by other witnesses, an important point which we will discuss below.
That said, Capehart did something yesterday that insider journalists never do. He actually said that he had been wrong on a major matter. Major insider “journalists” simply never do that.
As a horrible case in point, consider Lawrence O’Donnell, the Vesuvian Dorchester street kid who hosts a nightly cable “news” show on The One True Liberal Channel.
Lawrence O’Donnell isn’t acknowledging that his past work was wrong. Instead, the Vesuvian crackpot is doubling down on his egregious past work.
Last Friday, Lawrence went on Morning Joe and rather plainly misstated the findings of that recent Justice Department report about the shooting of Michael Brown. Even worse, his program’s web site is currently offering this as its number-one “Featured Post.”
Good God! That featured post is a news report from last August—a report about one of the worst performances in cable news history. It’s a report about the night when Lawrence interviewed a 27-year-old woman who had witnessed some or all of the shooting of Michael Brown.
Included is the videotape of Lawrence’s performance that night. In a truly egregious performance, Lawrence and a pair of hacks had tried to hang Officer Wilson high.
Uh-oh! In what follows, we will refer to Lawrence’s eyewitness guest that evening as “Witness 127,” the designation by which she is named in the Justice Department report.
We will assume that Witness 127 was acting in good faith that night. She was, after all, a young person who had been caught up in a very unusual event. And as everyone except lynch mobs knows, eyewitness testimony is frequently wrong, even when offered in good faith.
We’ll assume that Witness 127 was acting in good faith that night. By way of contrast, Lawrence O’Donnell, a professional “journalist,” almost never seems to act in good faith.
His performance on Morning Joe last Friday was pathetic and sad. His reposting of the videotape featuring Witness 127 is just this side of demonic.
Why do we make that overwrought statement? We say that because the Justice Department threw the testimony of Witness 127 under a very large bus in its recent report. Here’s part of what the Justice Department said about her account of the shooting:
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORT (page 56): Although Witness 127’s statements are materially consistent with each other, significant portions are contrary to the forensic and physical evidence and inconsistent with credible witness accounts. Witness 127 was unable to give reasonable explanations as to why the physical evidence might be inconsistent with what she remembers, and therefore prosecutors were left to conclude that she inaccurately perceived material portions of the shootings either because of the stress of incidents or because she was distracted. Accordingly, after a thorough review of the evidence, federal prosecutors determined material portions of this witness’s account not reliable...The Justice Department had worse things to say about two other eyewitnesses for whom O’Donnell and his analysts vouched. We refer to the aforementioned Dorian Johnson and to “Witness 118,” a 19-year-old employee of Witness 127 who was all over cable in the week after Brown’s death, making statements about the shooting which turned out to be false.
The Justice Department report rejects the testimony of all three witnesses. As we’ll show you below, O’Donnell and his panel of “legal analysts” aggressively vouched for all three that night.
The transcript of O’Donnell’s show that night is one of the worst in cable history. We liberals should be ashamed of ourselves for tolerating this routinely ridiculous man with his disordered conduct.
Let’s return to August 2014, when the shooting occurred:
Michael Brown was shot and killed on Saturday, August 9, 2014. By Monday, August 11, “Witness 118” was all over cable and broadcast news. Unfortunately, she was offering an account of the shooting which turned out to be flatly wrong on a wide array of points.
Lawrence aired tape of Witness 118 on that Monday evening. Chris Hayes aired a slightly longer chunk of her disturbing account:
HAYES (8/11/14): Various news accounts refer to multiple witnesses, many of those witnesses unnamed, but one who is willing to offer account on camera, [Witness 118], described the event this way.A basic picture of the shooting emerged from this account and from the ever-expanding accounts offered by Dorian Johnson. As we will see tomorrow, the Justice Department rejected the bulk of what those young people said, saying their statements were contradicted by the forensic evidence.
WITNESS 118 (videotape): I heard gunshots fired, and I’m, like, “Oh my goodness, what’s going on?” I gathered all my things and looked back out the window. At this moment, he’s running, he’s chasing after Michael down the street and gunshots are being fired repeatedly as well.
I went from that window to my balcony where I then saw Michael. He’s running this way. He turns his body toward this way. Hands in the air. Being compliant. He gets shot in his face and chest and goes down and dies.
On August 11, 2014, there was no way for cable broadcasters or actual journalists to know what had actually happened. Given what everyone knows about the frequent problems with eyewitness accounts, a well-trained journalist would have been very careful in the way he treated the statements of Johnson and Witness 118. (According to the Justice report, they were regular social friends.)
Sensible journalists would have been careful with these inflammatory statements. Lawrence and his hang-him-high gang were made of sterner stuff.
On Wednesday, August 13, another eyewitness appeared. We refer to Witness 127, the 27-year-old employer of Witness 118.
Witness 127 had been on the scene in Ferguson that day to give Witness 118 a ride to work. On Thursday evening, August 14, Lawrence interviewed Witness 127 at length. He then staged two of the worst “analytical” segments in cable news history.
Witness 127 appeared with her lawyer, as was perfectly reasonable. Lawrence interviewed her for two full segments. Among other things, she said this:
O’DONNELL (8/14/14): You’re not from that neighborhood where this took place?(Just for the record: According to the Justice Department, “there is no credible evidence that establishes that Wilson fired at or struck Brown’s back as Brown fled.”)
MITCHELL: No...I was on my way to pick up an employee. She lives right in front of where it happened.
O’DONNELL: And tell us what you saw as you came into that area.
MITCHELL: OK. As I come around the corner, I hear tires squeaking and as I get closer, I see Michael and the officer like wrestling through the window. Michael was pushing like trying to get away from the officer, and the officer was trying to pull him in.
As I see this, I pull out my phone, because it just didn’t look right. You never just see an officer and someone just wrestling through the window.
So as I pull out my phone, the first shot was fired through the window and I just like try to get out of the way. I pull into the parking lot right beside where the cop car was. And that’s when Michael kind of broke away and started running down the street.
The officer gets out of his vehicle and he pursues him. As he’s following him, he’s shooting at him. And Michael’s body jerks as if he was hit. Then he turns around and he put his hands up. And the officer continued to walk up on him and shoot him until he goes all the way down to the ground.
Under Lawrence’s questioning, Witness 127 continued to make a string of assertions which were rejected as factually false in the Justice Department report.
She said she never saw Michael Brown’s hands or torso inside the officer’s car, a representation the Justice Department rejected based on forensic evidence. Most significantly, she helped establish the picture in which Michael Brown was attempting to surrender, with his hands up, while Officer Wilson “continued to walk up on him and shoot him until he goes all the way down to the ground.”
We will assume that Witness 127 gave her account in good faith. That said, eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable, and the Justice Department has rejected most of her testimony as inconsistent with the forensic evidence.
Eyewitness accounts are often wrong! In the interview that night, Witness 127 apparently made several inaccurate statements. In his subsequent “legal analysis,” O’Donnell created one of the worst transcripts in history of cable news.
Here’s what happened as that evening’s program continued. Don’t let the children see this:
At the end of that interview with Witness 127, a skilled journalist would have warned his viewers about the well-known danger of eyewitness accounts.
Lawrence isn’t like that! This is what he said as he thanked his guest:
O’DONNELL: [Witness 127], I thank you very much for coming in tonight. And Peter Cohen, your attorney, I thank him also for having you share your story with us.According to the credulous former street kid, Witness 127 had shared what was “obviously” “a very, very, very important perspective on this case.”
It’s obviously a very, very, very important perspective on this case. And we’re all very glad you were able to share that with us. Thank you very much, [Witness 127].
Those three uses of “very” showed where this gong-show was going. When he returned from commercial break, Lawrence played a bit of tape from Witness 127, then introduced a pair of hang him high “legal analysts.”
Just like that, Lawrence and his credulous friends were going for first-degree murder! In fairness, a couple of “ifs” were still in play at this point:
O’DONNELL: Some legal analysis of what you just heard. We’re joined now by James Cavanaugh, MSNBC law enforcement analyst and retired ATF special agent and Lisa Bloom, NBC legal analyst.Uh-oh! According to the Justice Department, the police story which Lawrence rejected turned out to be accurate! According to the Justice Department, the forensic evidence establishes that Brown did have his hands inside the car and on Officer Wilson’s gun, as Capehart mentioned.
Lisa, what I heard in that testimony, if it stands up in court, is a first-degree murder charge.
BLOOM: Absolutely. If Tiffany Mitchell is believed, she tells the story of a police officer shooting a man who is running away, shooting a man with his hands up. You know, the police officer is responsible for each bullet that has fired. So we don’t know what happened with regard to the first bullet. The police officer says there was a scuffle in the car. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for now on that one, because we don’t know what happened. But multiple witnesses now tell a story that Mike Brown is running away, he’s shot in the back, he turns, hands up, and he’s shot again. That’s first degree murder. That’s intentional taking of human life with premeditation.
O’DONNELL: And Jim Cavanaugh, according to what we just heard from Tiffany, who is the only witness we’ve heard from about exactly what happened at the car at that moment from that perspective, we have a first-degree murder charge in the first shot, because she says that Michael’s hands were outside the car when that first shot was fired, and that his hands were actually on the side of the car. And the police story—that is impossible in the police story.
Cavanaugh could have warned cable viewers about such possibilities. Instead, he began to vouch for the obvious accuracy of what had been said by Witness 127:
CAVANAUGH: Lisa is right and you’re right. That was a great examination of [Witness 127], a very brave young woman. And think she is very credible and truthful. And I agree with Lisa on first-degree murder. Because remember, in first degree murder, there only has to be a pause. I mean, there only has to be a slight pause. It doesn’t have to be planned for months or years. It is pre-planned or pre-thought out, but that can be a few seconds as well.According to Cavanaugh, the witness had been very brave—and also very truthful! Lisa Bloom, who’s always heinous, jacked things up at this point, with Lawrence chiming in:
BLOOM: That’s a very important point. Add to that that everyone seems to agree that Mike Brown was left in the street. The police did not render first aid. They didn’t render CPR. He was laying there 30 to 40 minutes, at least, before anyone rendered any medical care. Doesn’t that sound like a shooting in anger to you? Doesn’t that sound like the police officer was acting out of rage, out of anger, as human being so often do when they shoot each other and didn’t want to help Mike Brown, unarmed, lying in the street, dying?Before the week is done, we’ll show you what the Justice Department said about the delays in the handling of Michael Brown’s body that day. Lisa Bloom, who’s always heinous, already knew what it meant.
O’DONNELL: And you know, it actually sounds worse than that to me. It reminds me of a case in New York in the 1970s where the officer actually successfully pleaded temporary insanity because he simply shot a kid younger than this at point blank range with witnesses watching.
We are going to be back with more of the legal analysis in this case.
(To Lawrence, it actually sounded worse than Bloom had said. But then, it always does!)
When Lawrence returned from another break, he made things much, much worse. He now played tape of Dorian Johnson—and Johnson’s account was wildly inaccurate, according to the Justice Department’s account of the actual evidence.
There were no warnings about the possibility that Johnson’s account could be wrong. Instead, O’Donnell and his “legal analysts” insisted that Johnson was telling the truth—and Cavanaugh eventually vouched for Witness 118 as well!
This is one of the most awful transcript chunks in the history of cable “news:”
O’DONNELL: I want to listen to another witness to the killing of Michael Brown and this is, of course, his friend, Dorian Johnson, who was with him during this event. Let’s listen to this.By the end of that hideous segment, Cavanaugh has vouched for the truthfulness of Dorian Johnson’s account. He has even vouched for “the young woman on the balcony.”
JOHNSON (videotape): It definitely was horrible to watch. It was horrible to be front and center to that whole situation. I seen it in his eyes. It looked like it hurt him a lot. It hurt him a lot. I see it in his eyes. It hurt him a lot. But it wasn’t registering, because he was trying to tell the officer that he’s unarmed and he cannot do nothing to stop it. He couldn’t do nothing. Like he couldn’t feel the shots, but he knew he was being shot. And he shot and telling him to stop shooting him. And he continuously shooting him point blank range. He’s not trying to reach for his belt line. He’s not trying to run towards the officer. He stood and turned around towards the officer with his hands up. It was definitely like being shot like an animal. It was almost like putting someone on execution without remorse.
O’DONNELL: Lisa Bloom, two very valuable witnesses there, Dorian Johnson and [Witness 127]. [Witness 127] has the advantage, though, of not being a friend of Michael Brown. Juries, when they hear you’re talking about your friend, they’re going to assume often that you might shade it a little bit.
BLOOM: That’s true. And I can tell you, as a practicing trial lawyer, who assesses witnesses every day for a living. [Witness 127] is excellent. I give her an A. Why? Because she’s very clear about telling her story and then she stops. She doesn`t embellish when she doesn’t know in response to your questions, Lawrence. She says, “I don’t know.” When you asked her the same thing repeatedly, she told exactly the same story. She’s calm. She’s factual. And she doesn’t overstate. I think she’s a terrific witness.
O’DONNELL: And Jim Cavanaugh, as the police reveal absolutely nothing about what happened on that street, relentlessly continue to reveal nothing, the evidence continues to develop from witnesses who were there, that this was first-degree murder.
CAVANAUGH: I agree, Lawrence. And I thought Dorian was very credible, as well and watched his interviews. And when he talked about going behind the car there after Michael was first shot and he couldn’t move his leg, you know, that is a fear response, natural, or the brain makes you do that. I’ve felt like that in shootouts. Your legs feel like they are led and you have to consciously move them. Nobody can make that up.
A 22-year-old guy cannot make that up. He really experienced that neurological fear. And when I watched him say that, I said, “You know, this is a truthful recount, because nobody could make that up.” It’s a feeling you can’t even describe and he described it. And he was so scared that he stood still. But he also described the officer had tunnel vision and went right for Michael. And that’s another thing we get in a shootout is tunnel vision or a shooting situation.
So I think they’re both very credible. I think the young woman on the balcony is very credible. I could draw up a criminal complaint for murder, for civil rights violations on this case in an hour and have that officer arrested. And the evidence is strong and it’s not going to change.
O’DONNELL: Yes, and it actually could have been done that day. Lisa Bloom and Jim Cavanaugh, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.
That was a reference to Witness 118, whose mistaken account had been all over cable and broadcast news by that time. More on her statements tomorrow.
Lawrence O’Donnell often seems comfortable with a rope in his hand. If anything, the heinous Bloom is worse.
Cavanaugh, mind-reading wildly, seemed to be sure that all three witnesses had been making accurate statements. “The evidence isn’t going to change,” the analyst pitifully said.
This dead-end gang was fairly sure that Wilson had committed first-degree murder. He could have been arrested for that on the spot, Lawrence thoughtfully said.
This was American “Southern justice,” pseudo-liberal style. Not a word was said this night about the well-known problems with eyewitness testimony, especially in an emotional matter like this.
In this way, the wildly excitable Lawrence O’Donnell was getting us liberals all stirred up—based on the testimony of three eyewitnesses, each of whom the Justice Department has now thrown under the bus.
The Justice Department rejected the accounts of these witnesses. At one point, they even suggested that Witness 118 may not have seen the shooting at all!
By way of contrast, Lawrence and his “legal analysts” wanted to see the villain hang high. Lawrence continued to play tape of Witness 127, and vouch for her statements, over the next several weeks.
This is one of the worst transcripts in the history of cable news. But even today, at the Last Word site, viewers are urged to watch the tape of the interview with Witness 127. They’re even urged to watch the “legal analysis” which followed!
How do you solve a problem like Lawrence? He has engaged in crackpot Vesuvian outbursts for years. Often, we liberals have cheered him on.
How do you solve a problem like this? In our view, it’s time for the self-described liberal world to stop accepting this conduct.
Tomorrow: The witnesses whose accounts were wrong—and those who refused to come forward