Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has been in damage control mode all day after she was caught falsely claiming she has never "ever" met with a Russian ambassador in her capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Unfortunately, the truth of her bogus charge came out only after MSNBC and CNN gave it uncritical coverage.
As is usually the case with these media misfires, this story requires some unpacking.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday afternoon he would recuse himself from parts of an ongoing investigation into Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 presidential election. He made the announcement after it was revealed this week he that had failed to disclose during his confirmation that he spoke twice last year with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Prior to Sessions' announcement, however, McCaskill said the following on social media:
I've been on the Armed Services Com for 10 years.No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever. Ambassadors call members of Foreign Rel Com.
This, of course, is not true, as National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke proved after running a basic search of the senator's Twitter profile.
On Jan. 30, 2013, for example, McCaskill said, "Off to meeting w/Russian ambassador. Upset about the arbitrary/cruel decision to end all US adoptions, even those in process."
Later, on Aug. 6, 2015, the senator tweeted, "Today calls with British, Russian, and German Ambassadors re: Iran deal."
These older tweets are sitting in plain sight for the whole world to see. Yet, they went unnoticed early Thursday morning as CNN and MSNBC uncritically repeated McCaskill's tweet about never "ever" meeting with the Russian ambassador.
CNN's Chris Cuomo featured the senator's note during his morning broadcast, and he did nothing to challenge it. MSNBC' Mika Brzezinski and Stephanie Ruhle also repeated the claim without first checking to see it was true. At around the time that these cable news personalities were parroting McCaskill's Twitter account, Cooke's note that the senator wasn't being 100 percent accurate prompted a swift backtrack.
McCaskill admitted to CNN's Ashley Killough that she had, in fact, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. However, the senator stressed, it was never a "one-on-one." She also blamed Twitter's character limit for prohibiting her from being more precise.
McCaskill then had the following exchange with a reporter:
Here's Claire McCaskill's response after tweeting that she's never met with the Russian ambassador — when 4 years ago she tweeted she did. pic.twitter.com/8MJINEkR8W— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 2, 2017
She said later on Twitter, "Again, As senior member of Armed Serv, never received call or request from Russian Amb for meeting. Never met one on one w/him."
"[Four] years ago went to meeting of many Senators about international adoptions. Russian Amb also attended," she added.
The senator said elsewhere in yet another set of remarks to reporters that, "The Russian ambassador never called me. The Russian ambassador has never asked for a meeting with me … you cannot say that having a one-on-one meeting with the Russian ambassador was a common thing to occur."
Given that the truth of the matter was so readily available this whole time, it's really rather startling that it managed to go unnoticed for so long by CNN and MSNBC (Fox News' morning crew, for its part, largely downplayed the Sessions story Thursday, as they are wont to do with press that reflects poorly on Trump).