MSNBC’s Brian Williams has quietly scaled back the number of Lincoln Project members to appear on his late-night program as scandals mount within the anti-Trump group, and what’s more, he no longer mentions one guest’s affiliation with it.
After having on Lincoln Project guests 13 times between December and late January, NewsBusters reported Tuesday that Williams has only had on Lincoln Project advisor Michael Steele since Jan. 27. Williams has also stopped referring to the organization when introducing him in his four appearances since that time.
It’s hardly a coincidence, as there have been a flurry of headlines since Jan. 11 about co-founder John Weaver’s predatory online behavior and what his fellow co-founders knew about it, as well as the group’s toxic work environment and questionable financial practices. Williams has not mentioned the allegations on his show in the past week, according to a search of the show’s transcripts.
After journalist Ryan Girdusky first reported on Weaver’s conduct last month, Fox News, the Associated Press, New York Magazine, The 19th, the New York Times and others have broken news about scandals at the anti-Trump group and former media darling.
Like much of MSNBC’s programming over the past year, Williams’ show, “The 11th Hour,” has been a stomping ground for the Lincoln Project, the group of former and current Republicans steadfastly opposed to former President Donald Trump. Williams, as well as MSNBC’s Morning Joe, even marked the one-year anniversary of its founding in December.
The latest report from The 19th revealed several Lincoln Project higher-ups, including former MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt, were aware of the sexual harassment allegations against Weaver as early as last March.
Former Lincoln Project executive director Sarah Lenti told The 19th that some of the group’s co-founders had knowledge of the allegations against Weaver earlier than they now claim. Multiple sources told The 19th that Schmidt was among them.
Schmidt resigned from the anti-Trump super PAC on Friday and announced he would step away from public life for a time, although he continued to claim he had no knowledge of Weaver’s predatory behavior toward dozens of men until last month, beyond some rumors Weaver was secretly gay.
The 19th’s report directly contradicts that claim, citing sources as well as on-the-record confirmation from Lenti, one of his former co-workers.
MSNBC told Fox News in December that Schmidt was no longer a contributor, although he was identified that way on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday.
He was a frequent guest on MSNBC during the Trump years, owing to his habit for dramatic diatribes denouncing the Trump administration. A former Republican strategist who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign, Schmidt officially became a Democrat in December.
He and other Lincoln Project members have often appeared on MSNBC’s hyperpartisan “Deadline: White House,” hosted by his friend and colleague on the McCain campaign, Nicolle Wallace.
Fox News and other outlets reported the Lincoln Project was aware of investigations into Weaver’s conduct last summer. Co-founder Rick Wilson even said Weaver’s behavior, which involved harassing young, gay men and dangling job opportunities and social media clout in exchange for potential sexual favors, was an “open secret” among reporters.
The Lincoln Project has also come under scrutiny for enriching its founders by funneling tens of millions in donations to firms and vendors under their umbrella.
After co-founder Jennifer Horn resigned last week, the Lincoln Project tweeted out her private, direct messages with a reporter for The 19th, drawing outrage for the breach of privacy. However, Twitter said the flagrant conduct did not violate its terms of service.
In addition to the flood of resignations, the Democrat-aligned Senate Majority PAC, as well Israeli Prime Minister candidate Gideon Sa’ar, who had hired several of its operatives to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu, have also cut ties with the group.
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