NBC putting 'both thumbs on the scale' for McConnell's 2020 challenger, critic says

NBC has been criticized over a newly-released report on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and its coverage of his 2020 Democratic opponent Amy McGrath, who officially launched her Senate candidacy Tuesday morning -- with some saying that the news outlet seems to be "putting both thumbs on the scale."

On Monday evening, NBC News published a report suggesting McConnell's opposition to reparations hits "close to home" because two of his great-great-grandparents were slaveowners.

McConnell rejected the idea of reparations last month as the issue became a topic of conversation among 2020 Democratic hopefuls, with prominent candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro in favor of allocating federal funds to the descendants of slaves.

NBC News' initial report accused McConnell of having a "family history deeply entwined in the issue" of reparations since two of his great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, had fourteen slaves according to 1850 and 1860 censuses. NBC added, however, in the piece that Sen. McConnell "has generally been supportive of civil rights measures."

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Speaking to Fox News, DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall said that McConnell's opposition to reparations would be a "rather thin journalistic rationale" for NBC News to look into his ancestry.

"NBC surely is not planning to do such research on all politicians who oppose reparations, so this one-off report about McConnell looks like a rather capricious bit of investigative journalism," McCall elaborated.

And McCall wasn't the only person to be critical of the piece, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also taking it to task.

"Even given the derangement gripping our current politics it's still stunning to see a major news outlet write something up like this," Rubio tweeted.

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However, some took the critique a step further, suggesting the piece was rolled out to help McConnell's new opponent in McGrath.

Newsbusters Managing Editor Curtis Houck told Fox News that the release of the McConnell report and McGrath having a lengthy interview the on MSNBC the following day could be a coincidence, but suggested that it's "hard to argue that it's not coordinated."

"Between a story about McConnell's ancestors, her 11 minutes on 'Morning Joe'... the liberal media have shown on day one of this race that they'll put both thumbs on the scale for McGrath," Houck said.

McCall also took some issue with the timing of events, which he described as "curious," but "would be difficult to suggest any sort of conspiracy."

"Given that McConnell is likely considered to be a villain by many MSNBC hosts and viewers, it would not be surprising to see MSNBC want to hype the Kentucky senate race, even if McConnell would be considered the favorite to retain the seat," McCall told Fox News.

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McGrath, a former fighter pilot in the U.S. Marines, previously ran for Congress in 2018 but was defeated by the GOP incumbent, Rep. Andy Barr, by more than 10,000 votes.

NBC News or MSNBC did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.