MSNBC anchor paid nearly $200K by unions

Bernie Goldberg examines the media ethics of Ed Shultz accepting money from unions he championed on television


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 19, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly.

In the "Weekdays with Bernie" segment tonight, MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz receiving $200,000 last year from the AFL-CIO. Schultz says he gave the money, including paid speeches, to the American Cancer Society.

However, the Web site Politico says Schultz donated only 100,000 to the cancer charity.

Joining us from Miami the purveyor of, Mr. Goldberg.

So I remember when I first was hired by CBS News. You were already there for, I think, 75 years when I came.


O'REILLY: They gave me, the CBS pinheads, a big packet of information...


O'REILLY: ... that said I couldn't take money from anyone I reported on.


O'REILLY: Obviously, Mr. Schultz, very pro-union person, a lot of union reporting. Have standards changed?

GOLDBERG: Well, when you and I were at CBS News, if we ever took $200,000 from either the AFL-CIO or some corporation and then did stories, presumably favorable stories about them.

They would throw us out so quickly, Bill, we wouldn't know what hit us. So -- so those standards haven't changed. What's changed is the media landscape.

Ed Schultz and a lot of others on cable TV aren't journalists. We were journalists. They're not journalists. But -- and this is where it gets tricky. But they do shows where they sit in front of, you know, in back of desks that look like anchor desks. They interview news makers. They talk about the news of the day. It sort of, kind of, looks like journalism, but it isn't journalism.

O'REILLY: Yes, but -- that's an important point. Because Ed Schultz primarily is a radio talk show guy. That's what he does. He's a daily radio talk show host. And he gives his opinion. And radio talk show hosts are allowed to take money, anybody. Anyone they want. All right? They can do commercials. They can juggle on the air and Ringling Brothers. They can do whatever they want.

But then when they get hired by NBC News, all right? Because that's who pays Schultz' salary. They pay his salary. All right? So, therefore, he's into a different world now. And there's no doubt about it. In one year the AFL-CIO gave him 200,000. That's a lot of money, ok? Now, whatever he did with the money really doesn't matter, because he didn't disclose during his commentaries on the air that are all pro-union 100 percent down the line that he received this enormous amount of money from this labor union. He didn't say it.

So, I'm saying to myself, gee, that seems to be a pretty flagrant violation of NBC News standards.

GOLDBERG: Yes, but it's not -- I agree it's wrong. But it's not a violation of MSNBC standards. Because we asked them about that today. And they said as long as he gives the money to charity and says in advance or asks permission in advance to speak to a certain group, it's ok.

O'REILLY: Well, he doesn't have to tell the viewer. He just has to get permission from the...

GOLDBERG: That's right. That's their standard. And they can have whatever standards they want. That is not my standard. I think that absolutely they have -- he has to tell the viewer that he's got a vested interest.

Now, I want to make something clear. I don't think for a second -- if the AFL-CIO was trying to buy goodwill with Ed Schultz for $200,000 dollars they wasted their money, because they would have got it for free anyway.

But $200,000 dollars is a lot of money. And I think there are some people in the media world who would -- who would go on television and say that their mother plays second base for the Mets if somebody paid them $200,000 dollars.

O'REILLY: Yes, but I think it's more than that, though. I think it's a reward. I think there is a -- you say they would have gotten it any way. It depends. It depends on how much passion you bring to it.

GOLDBERG: In this case.

O'REILLY: But say -- and this isn't a hypothetical, because we don't know where $100,000 dollars of this money is right now. We don't know. All right?

So, 100,000 has been established the cancer society got. But 100,000, according to Politico -- and we're taking their reporting and we haven't vetted it ourselves; it's very hard to do that. We don't have subpoena power to go in and look at anybody's tax return, OK? Say the 100,000 was kept by him or any other journalist or commentator. What happens?

GOLDBERG: Hey, Bill -- Bill, I don't care if he gave every single penny to a good cause like...

O'REILLY: But what happens if he can't send the money? What happens to NBC? What do they have to do if he kept some of the money?

GOLDBERG: Well, then he apparently is in violation of their standards.

But I want to make -- this is important it me. I don't care if he gave 200,000 -- every penny of it to the American Cancer Society or some other good cause. That doesn't justify what he did.

Here's how -- here's how I operate. All -- I owe -- my first allegiance. Let's put it this way. My first allegiance is to the audience. They don't have to agree with me. But they have to understand that I'm always going to give what I -- my honest opinion. Again, they don't have to agree with me.

But if it turns out that I'm taking money, hundreds of thousands of dollars, from some organization or some corporation, and I'm not disclosing this, they have every right to never trust me again.

And that's what MSNBC's management doesn't quite understand. While Ed Schultz may speak favorably of unions, because he honestly believes it, you have to disclose these things. You can't simply take money from an organization.

O'REILLY: But if there's no consequence -- if there's no consequence, why do you have to disclose it? No consequence.

GOLDBERG: What do you mean if there's no consequence?

O'REILLY: Nothing going to happen. MSNBC knows what happened. Nothing going to happen to him.

GOLDBERG: Well -- well, their position is if he gave the money to charity, there was no violation. I don't care if he did or not. It's not a good policy.

O'REILLY: No, it's not good.

GOLDBERG: The audience has every right to know. The audience has every right to know if I'm getting paid by somebody to say good things about them. They have every right to know that.

O'REILLY: Or if there's even a connection. Doesn't have to be a direct quid pro quo.

GOLDBERG: Even a connection.

O'REILLY: But 200,000 is a lot of jack, and he should have been absolutely upfront about it.

All right, Bernie, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

We'd like to mention the Web site Newsbusters first broke the Schultz story.

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