July 17, 2014

In its efforts to cover the Malaysia Airlines crash today, MSNBC stumbled. In this case, the enormity of the stumble can’t possibly be described, abridged, short-handed or whatever. Just read the transcript of the video above. The awfulness occurs as MSNBC host Krystal Ball takes a phone call from an alleged “eyewitness” to the crash:

Ball: Let’s turn now to an MSNBC exclusive. U.S. Staff Sgt. Michael Boyd is at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine and says that he saw a missile in the air hit the plane. He is on the phone with us. Sergeant, are you there?

Boyd: Yes, I’m here, can you hear me?

Ball: I can, please tell us what you saw there on the ground in Ukraine.

Boyd: Well, I was looking out the window and I saw a projectile flying through the sky and it would appear that the plane was shot down by a blast of wind from Howard Stern’s ass.

Ball: So it would appear that the plane was shot down. Can you tell us anything more from your military training of what sort of missile system that may have been coming from?

Boyd: Well, you’re a dumb—, aren’t you?

Ball: I’m sorry, sir. All right, we’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be back with all the latest next.

After a commercial break, Ball reported that the individual was “obviously not actually an eyewitness.”

We’ve reached out to MSNBC for an explanation. Absent such feedback, we’ll take a huge guess here as to what’s at the root of this disaster: Inadequate pre-interview vetting. As the New York Times has reported, the plane came down in an area with few structures in the vicinity, meaning that anyone claiming to have viewed all this from a window needs to be greeted with skepticism.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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