NBC Punts on Joe McGinniss' Death; Hyped Palin-Bashing Book in 2011

CNN's New Day on Tuesday devoted a 23-second news brief to the death of author Joe McGinniss on Monday, noting that "McGinniss made headlines again in 2010, when he moved next door to Sarah Palin's Alaska home in order to research his book, 'The Rogue.' Palin threatened to sue him, but never did."

However, Tuesday's Today on NBC, which touted their interview of McGinnis in September 2011 by hyping his supposed "stunning allegations made about Sarah Palin in a bombshell book," omitted his passing on Tuesday. Anchor Savannah Guthrie gave the writer a platform during the segment to forward his unsubstantiated claims about the former Alaska governor:

JOE MCGINNISS: An utter fraud. An absolute and utter fraud.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: You call her a tenth grade mean girl.

MCGINNISS: Oh, that's – those are kind words compared to a lot of what you would hear in Wasilla today. The thing that I found, Savannah, that really surprised me, was that the people who know her best like her least.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss spent four months in Alaska, claims he spoke to approximately 200 people, a mix of Palin's old associates, acquaintances, and former friends. But his book was causing controversy before he wrote even one word. She had a problem with you living next door.

MCGINNISS: Well, she did. And I don't know why she did, because-

GUTHRIE: Really? You don't know why?

MCGINNISS: I really don't.

Over a year earlier, McGinniss did his best to pass himself off as a victim during a June 2010 appearance on Today, and likened Mrs. Palin to the Nazis:

MATT LAUER: ...[T]he reaction has gotten a little bit scary. There have been death threats against you. I know the FBI is involved.....There was a Craigslist posting that asked a question of where in the woods your body would be found over the weekend....The local Wasilla newspaper, The Frontiersman, published an editorial that read, quote 'Those who are fond of Joe McGinniss might remind him, if he doesn't already know, that Alaska has a law that allows the use of deadly force in protection of life and property.' I mean, any regrets to all this? Do you wish you just rented a different house?

MCGINNISS: No. You know what actually what I've learned from that, Matt. And what you just recited, it's very informative. And I think it's probably a lesson for the American people of the power Palin has to incite hatred and her willingness and readiness to do it. She has pushed a button and unleashed the hounds of hell, and now that they're out there slavering and barking and growling. And that's the same kind of tactic and I'm not calling her a Nazi, but that's the same kind of tactic that the Nazi troopers used in Germany in the '30s. And I don't think there is any place for it in America.

On Tuesday, the New York Times' obituary for the author included the following sub-headline in the print edition: "an author who was known for diving deeply into each story." Reporter Emma G. Fitzsimmons noted that "McGinniss, the author who reported on political campaigns and murder cases in the books 'The Selling of the President' and 'Fatal Vision,' died on Monday....His death was confirmed on his Facebook page, where he frequently posted updates about his treatment for terminal prostate cancer over the last year."

After highlighting some of his early books,  Fitzsimmons pointed out that "McGinniss made headlines in 2010 when, for his next book, he moved in next door to Sarah Palin and her family in Wasilla, Alaska. Mr. McGinniss said he was offended when the conservative TV host Glenn Beck suggested that he was a peeping Tom who wanted to peer into her daughters' bedrooms. The book, 'The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin,' included sensational allegations about the family, including the claim that Ms. Palin had taken drugs when she was young."

The New York Times writer repeated the "diving deeply into each story" line near the end of her write-up, but then added that "he also received criticism for his reporting techniques. Dr. MacDonald sued Mr. McGinniss, saying that he had cooperated because he thought the book would portray him sympathetically. Dr. MacDonald received $325,000 in an out-of-court settlement."

Fitzsimmons omitted that McGinness also wrote a biography of Ted Kennedy in 1993. The Washington Post didn't publish an obituary in its Tuesday edition, but its website reran its July 28, 1993 review of the "unauthorized biography." Write Jonathan Yardley acknowledged that "the conventional wisdom had settled into place long before 'The Last Brother' lurched into the bookstores...It concluded that...[the book] was a mixture of unattributed fact and unsubstantiated fiction; that McGinniss had borrowed liberally from, if not actually plagiarized, earlier books by William Manchester, Doris Kearns Goodwin and other keepers of the Kennedy flame." But Yardley then spent the bulk of his article giving a scathing critique of McGinniss' book:

...Now that it is possible to read "The Last Brother," judgment must be even more damning than advance speculation had suggested. Not merely is "The Last Brother" a textbook example of shoddy journalistic and publishing ethics; it is also a genuinely, unrelievedly rotten book, one without a single redeeming virtue, an embarrassment that should bring nothing except shame to everyone associated with it....

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.