Ed Schultz confused the witness stand with his television studio Monday and may have alienated his most important audience ever: the eight District of Columbia residents charged with deciding whether he breached his alleged partnership with Michael Queen.
The MSNBC host took the stand around 3:20 p.m. He finally stepped down, all red-faced, about five minutes before his “Ed Show” was set to air.
Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson was the guest host.
Schultz was certainly in no position to do the show when his testimony ended. When Schultz returned to defendant’s table in the well of the courtroom even his neck was red.
And no wonder.
Under gentle questioning from Catfish Abbott, the quintessential folksy trial lawyer, Schultz was alternately belligerent and evasive.
Treating Abbott like some kind of insolent and ignorant guest, Schultz lectured him on the broadcast industry and even the proper protocol for presidential news conferences.
Schultz had an uphill battle, and he stumbled badly. The behemoth broadcaster basically needed to prove two negatives: he did not have a partnership with Queen and that, regardless, didn’t get him his MSNBC show.
The problem is emails tell no lies. Queen has 1,100 that he exchanged with Schultz. One of the most damning was Schultz telling Queen on April 22, 2008 that “Hopefully, Fox or MSNBC will come through for us.”
It was blown up and displayed on a giant easel for the jury.
After asking Schultz about some of the emails, Abbott harked back to the start of Queen’s relationship with Schultz. Trying to sound indifferent, Schultz said Queen approached him in the hallway of the local NBC Washington station right after he appeared on the now defunct “Chris Matthews Show.”
Schultz said he gave Queen his business card and “he started calling me.” Queen proposed trying to get Schulz a show. Abbott asked, “Did you think it was a good idea?”
Schultz replied nonchalantly that, “We started a conversation about a joint venture.”
Abbott zeroed in on the claim by MSNBC president Phil Griffin that he approached Schultz on his own after seeing him at the first row of an Obama’s press conference in 2009. Queen says he sent Griffin a pilot for “The Ed Show.”
Griffin said he never got it. And what about that press conference that so impressed Griffin? Schultz said, “I was there as a reporter.”
Abbott asked him if he took any notes. “I took some notes, Mr. Abbott. Are you for real?”
Abbott noted that the video of the press conference did not show Schultz writing anything down or even holding a pen. Schultz said he put the paper in his “lapel” and “that is not unusual for me.”
Abbott pressed on: “Were you asking questions?”
Schultz: “I was not called on.”
At this point, Schultz saw fit to lecture Abbott on the presidential press conferences. You don’t yell out “Barack, call on me,” Schultz said sarcastically, waving his arms toward the jury.
“You know who he is going to call on,” Schultz explained. He said the president might call on Chuck Todd, then NBC News chief White House correspondent or HuffPost reporter Sam Stein.
With his schooling in presidential press conferences complete, Abbott zeroed in on the pilot that Queen made for Schultz. Griffin claims he never saw the pilot because unsolicited materials are returned unopened. But Abbott noted that NBC had no record of returning the pilot.
Abbott asked Schultz if he had ever made a pilot before. “I don’t recall,” Schultz insisted.
He then claimed to not have seen the pilot. But just knew the pilot show was “so-so.”
Abbott wondered how Schultz could know that without seeing the show. Schultz then lectured Abbott that with decades of broadcasting experience he could gauge a show without actually viewing it.
Queen paid $11,000 for the pilot. Abbott asked Schultz if it was true he told Queen he would need to sue NBC to get his money back. Schultz hemmed and hawed then finally admitted he did say that but he was “joking.”
Abbott, as low-key as ever, told Schultz he did not know much about emails. But don’t you usually put “LOL” when you are joking? Did Schultz add an “LOL?”
No, he did not, Schultz conceded.
Abbott turned to the email exchanges between Schultz and Queen. He asked Schultz if he remembered sending him an email form May 28, 2008 saying “you weren’t going to screw him.”
Schultz said he did.
Abbott asked Schultz if he recalled telling Queen that he wanted him to be his partner.
Schultz said, “I told him that because we were not” partners.
That is a decent line for a television exchange. But it was perhaps too clever by half for a jury.