Heckled or Not Heckled? MSNBC is Looking into Selective Editing, Other Nets Too

By Chris Ariens 

MSNBC is facing criticism today about the editing of a portion of the legislative hearing on guns in Hartford, CT earlier this week. Neil Heslin, the father of a Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting victim, was speaking before a committee at which local citizens, including gun rights advocates, attended. MSNBC portrayed a portion of the clip — toward the end of Heslin’s 15 minutes of testimony — as though he was being heckled. The 33-second clip aired on Tamron Hall’s show, Martin Bashir’s show and later on Al Sharpton’s show. Here it is:

But MSNBC edited out the fact that Heslin posed a question: “I wish … I ask if there’s anybody in this room that can give me one reason…,” he began. Fox News produced a segment today taking MSNBC to task over the edit. An MSNBC spokesperson tells WaPo’s Eric Wemple, “We’re reviewing the video in question.”

But the storyline continued into primetime, on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show. Meanwhile, rather than talk around the issue, CNN’s Piers Morgan actually talked with Heslin. “It didn’t really faze me and it was no more and no less than I would have expected,” he said. “It wasn’t the answer to my question. It was a response.” But was it heckling? MSNBC, for one, has decided it is.

> Update: MSNBC will address the edit on Bashir’s show Wednesday.

> More: Ari Melber, filling in for Bashir, played the entire clip including Heslin’s question. At the end of the clip, Melber said, “Martin and many other who is saw Mr. Heslin’s testimony have called that interruption heckling. Some disagree. He wanted you to hear it in full so you can draw your own conclusion.”

Inside Cable News which has been closely monitoring MSNBC’s programming shift from news to opinion, has this take:

Ever since [MSNBC president] Phil Griffin all but gutted news in favor of political POV opinion analysis he’s been hammering home the point about how smart it is. This show is smart. That person is doing smart TV. Our analysis is smart. Regardless of whether you think it really is smart or not, it’s an interesting branding ploy that seems to be working… or at the very least not blowing up in the network’s face.

But incidents like this edited video undermine all the buzz that Griffin is trying to create. How can your network be smart, have smart hosts, have smart guests, have smart analysis, when your production staff is either doctoring video or using doctored video doctored elsewhere for subjects your smart team tackles? You can’t.