After apologizing to conservatives last week for an offensive tweet, MSNBC now finds itself accused of “shameful smear tactics under the guise of journalism” for publishing a story that tries to show a connection between Virginia Republican Senate candidate Ed Gillespie and the war criminal Slobodan Milošević.
On Wednesday, MSNBC reporter Zachary Roth penned a story with the sensational headline, “GOP Senate candidate lobbied for company run by Milošević crony.”
Milošević is the former Serbian president who was charged with war crimes — including genocide — before his death in 2006.
The basis of the MSNBC story? Ed Gillespie co-founded a lobby firm called Quinn Gillespie & Associates that did lobbying for a foreign company called Pink International Corporation that runs Pink TV and was founded by Zeljko Mitrovic, who was once close to the family of Slobodan Milošević.
To go into more detail: In 2007, Quinn Gillespie & Associates lobbied on behalf of the Pink International Corporation for $300,000. Gillespie’s name is listed as a lobbyist on disclosure forms, but he left the firm that year to work in the Bush White House.
MSNBC argues this is bad because Pink International was founded by Zeljko Mitrovic, who was “personally close with the Milošević family.”
“Mitrovic was a high-ranking member of the Yugoslav Left party, run by Milošević’s wife and political partner Mirjana Markovic, and was personally close with the Milošević family,” Roth of MSNBC wrote.
Yet, a closer examination indicates Roth’s story might be a bit of a stretch: Roth’s own reporting in the story later refutes the argument that Mitrovic was a Milošević crony.
“By all accounts, Mitrovic wasn’t a pro-Milošević true believer,” Roth wrote. “Rather, he was a businessman who was willing to do what was necessary to grow Pink TV. And Pink didn’t produce explicit pro-Milošević propaganda.”
When Pink International Corporation became a client of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, both Pink and its founder Zeljko Mitrovic were supportive of the pro-western Serbian government. The LA Times reported in 2008 that “Mitrovic these days is an enthusiastic supporter of Serbia’s emergence from isolation and its tentative rapprochement with the West.”
MSNBC heavily promoted the story. The left-leaning news organization made it the number two story on its homepage Wednesday and tweeted it out several times.
Asked about the story on Thursday, Gillespie’s campaign slammed MSNBC.
“Here’s one thing Mark Warner and Ed can agree upon: Slobodan Milošević was a despicable person whose war crimes deserved worldwide condemnation,” Paul Logan, a spokesman for Gillespie’s campaign, told The Daily Caller. “It’s sad to see MSNBC participate in shameful smear tactics under the guise of journalism.”
Gillespie recently announced he would run in the race to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia.