Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
False
Limbaugh
When news broke that Ferguson 18-year-old Michael Brown was a suspect in a robbery, "MSNBC practically went off the air for a while to have behind-closed-doors meetings to figure out how to deal with this new revelation."

Rush Limbaugh on Friday, August 15th, 2014 in comments on his radio show

Limbaugh: MSNBC 'went off air' after news that Michael Brown was a suspect in Ferguson robbery

MSNBC was the first of the three cable networks to air surveillance video of the alleged robbery in Ferguson, Mo.

Knowledge of Michael Brown’s alleged involvement in a convenience store robbery before he was killed by police changed the entire narrative of Ferguson, Mo., but the "drive-by-media" couldn’t handle it, according to Rush Limbaugh.

On Aug. 15, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson released the name of the officer who shot Brown, six-year force veteran Darren Wilson, as well as a video allegedly showing Brown stealing a box of cigars from a convenience store minutes before he was shot.

These details reveal the media-spun racial profiling tragedy as a simple episode of cops and robbers, Limbaugh said on his show on the same day. And in typical drive-by-media fashion, he said, reporters rushed to spread lies when the news broke and were just as quick to exit when the facts emerged.

"MSNBC went to paid programming while they had editorial conferences to figure out how to deal with this!" Limbaugh said, and emphasized the point later in his program. "MSNBC, like I said, practically went off the air for a while to have behind-closed-doors meetings to figure out how to deal with this new revelation."

We wondered did MSNBC interrupt their programming for an extended commercial break after the details of Brown’s theft were released?

Pressing matters

We should note that the timeline of the revelations is fragmented. Information was released incrementally during three press conferences on Aug. 15.

In the first press conference, which lasted from 9:43 to 9:47 a.m. Eastern Time, Ferguson police chief Jackson revealed Wilson’s name, gave a timeline of the events surrounding the shooting and robbery and announced he would take no questions. Members of the media received documents on the case and still images from surveillance footage of the robbery in press packets.

The police report said that "Brown is the primary suspect in the robbery," and Jackson’s comments seemed to suggest that the encounter between Brown and Wilson was related to the robbery.

Later that afternoon, the entire video of the robbery was released, around the time of a separate press conference held by Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. Johnson expressed his frustration at the Ferguson police’s handling of the case. That press conference lasted from 12:09 p.m  to 12:45 p.m. Eastern.

As for the surveillance video Jackson alluded to in his morning briefing, the exact timing of the full footage release is unclear, with dissonance between the three major cable networks.

To the best of our knowledge, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was one of the first -- if not, the first -- news outlet to air the video at noon Eastern. MSNBC led with the footage minutes later on Andrea Mitchell, after the show began at noon. Fox News aired it 40 minutes later. On CNN’s Wolf, reporter Don Lemon said at 1:13 p.m. that the network still didn’t have the tape in its hands. By 1:25 p.m., host Wolf Blitzer said CNN had the tape but is "vetting it before we put it on air."

In a later press conference from 3:05 p.m. to 3:14 p.m., Jackson clarified that Wilson did not know Brown was a suspect in the robbery case when he stopped the 18-year-old. Jackson also said that the matter is under investigation and that he released the documents because of Freedom of Information requests.

Timeline of coverage

Using a software called Critical Mention, we found when the three major cable news networks released the materials related to Brown’s death and robbery and when they went to commercial break on Aug.15. Here’s a timeline (all times Eastern):

 

MSNBC

CNN

Fox News

The Daily Rundown

9:43 a.m.: Ferguson police press conference

 

9:57 a.m.: Program ends, commercial break

 

José Díaz-Balart

10:42 a.m: Still images from surveillance tape shown

 

10:47 a.m.: Commercial break

 

Andrea Mitchell Reports

12:03 p.m.: Full video shown

 

12:09 p.m.: Missouri State Highway Patrol and Governor press conference

 

12:57 p.m.: Program ends, commercial break

 

The Cycle

3:05 p.m.: Ferguson police press conference

 

3:27 p.m.: Commercial break

CNN Newsroom

9:43 a.m.: Ferguson police press conference

 

9:52 a.m.: Commercial break

 

10:07 a.m.: Still images of surveillance tape shown

 

10:17 a.m.: Commercial break

 

Legal View

12:09 p.m.: Missouri State Highway Patrol and Governor press conference

 

No commercial break

 

Wolf

1:43 p.m.: Full video shown

 

1:47 p.m.: Commercial break

 

CNN Newsroom

3:05 p.m.: Ferguson police press conference

 

3:19 p.m.: Commercial break

America’s Newsroom

9:43 a.m.: Ferguson police press conference

 

9:51 a.m.: Commercial break

 

10:10 a.m.: Still images of surveillance tape shown

 

10:14 a.m.: Commercial break

 

Outnumbered

12:09 p.m.: Missouri State Highway Patrol  and Governor press conference

 

12:43 p.m. Full video shown

 

12:48 p.m.: Commercial break

 

Shepard Smith Reporting

3:05 p.m.: Ferguson police press conference

 

3:14 p.m.: Press conference ends, commercial break

 

As you can see, MSNBC was actually the first of the three cable networks to show the full video of Brown in the convenience store. It also aired all three press conferences that day, and for longer than either CNN or Fox News. There were no longer-than-usual commercial breaks and certainly no extended commercials or infomercials as Limbaugh's comments suggest. In fact, MSNBC was on air for 54 straight minutes after first airing the surveillance video.

The ruling

Limbaugh said, "MSNBC practically went off the air for a while to have behind-closed-doors meetings to figure out how to deal with this new revelation," rolling paid advertising in lieu of programming.

The release of information by the Ferguson police in the morning left Brown’s ties to the robbery unclear. Still MSNBC did not go to commercial break immediately. Nor did it go to break after showing frames from the video police alluded to. And certainly MSNBC never aired an extended commerical or infomercial as Limbaugh's statements suggest.

Though when exactly the entire surveillance video was released is hard to say, MSNBC was one of the first news outlets to air it. After, MSNBC did not go to commercial break and had pundits discuss the video on air until a live press conference began.

We rate Limbaugh’s claim False.