Ed Schultz is a classic school yard bully.
So it makes perverse sense that the deposition of MSNBC President Phil Griffin turned into a show and tell exhibit, with the MSNBC president forced to read back all the emails Schultz sent his ex-business partner Michael Queen promising him a piece of the pie.
And that was even before Griffin volunteered that he was just so impressed with Schultz when he thought he saw him ask a question at Barack Obama’s first presidential news conference.
The Mirror has exclusively obtained the video of Griffin’s deposition on September 4, 2014 at NBC headquarters in New York. Lawyers presented Griffin with email after email that Schultz wrote to Queen making clear they had partnered to get Schultz a TV show.
Abbott had Griffin read the emails aloud and then asked if Schultz ever discussed them with him.
The point was that Schultz deliberately cut Queen out of the loop when he inked a deal with Griffin. About 15 minutes into the deposition, Catfish Abbott, the trial lawyer for Queen, gave Griffin a June 7, 2008 email from Schultz to Queen about the show pilot.
Like a chastened schoolboy, Griffin [at 14:30 on the video] dutifully read it aloud.
“Michael,” Griffin enunciated. “We have some work to do. I’ll get right to it. It was your idea.
What’s that worth?”
Did Schultz ever mention that?
“No,” Griffin replied.
Just to drive the point home, Abbott made Griffin [at 15:27] also read from an email Schultz sent Queen on April 10, 2008 saying, “Any TV deal will obviously involve you.”
Griffin [18:56] was also presented with an email from Schultz to Queen promising in no uncertain terms not to double cross him. The MSNBC president dutifully read Schultz’s words for the camera, “I am not going to screw you or work with anyone else.”
Abbott pounced: “In fact Ed Schultz did work with someone else—being MSNBC? Would you agree with that?”
Like a scolded miscreant, Griffin replied meekly, “He obviously works with MSNBC.”
When Abbott asked Griffin to read yet another email aloud, the lawyer for NBC snorted, “Mr. Abbott, I think we have established already that Mr. Griffin can read.”
Mr. Griffin can also see—stuff that nobody else does.
Only snippets of the videotaped deposition were played in court. The show and tell part was entirely omitted.
But a review of the entire video shows that Griffin has yet another reason to fire Ed Schultz.
It was Schultz’s own lawyer who elicited false testimony from Griffin.
Jurors at the trial, of course, watched Griffin testifying in his deposition that the behemoth broadcaster caught his attention by asking Obama a question at his first presidential news conference.
Griffin did not immediately reply to a request for comment, which was cced to NBC News president Deborah Turness.
Under cross-examination, Schultz made a liar out of Griffin by conceding he never quizzed Obama at the press conference.
So what happened? Did Griffin unwittingly step into trap laid down at his deposition by the lawyer for plaintiff Michael Queen?
Griffin served up his whopper in response to an inquiry from Schultz’s lawyer, Nixon Peabody partner John Hayes.
In others words, Hayes provided the yarn and Griffin did the spinning. Finally, Schultz did the unwinding.
It is hard to think of three men who have worked so well together in tandem since the “Three Stooges.”
Initially, Griffin simply told the plaintiff’s Catfish Abbott that he saw Schultz at the press conference.
“I met with him I believe it was late January or early February 2009 after I saw him at President Obama’s first press conference on TV.”
And that was it; no mention of Schultz actually questioning the President.
But when later deposed by Hayes, Griffin really stepped in the stuff that WaPo Erik Wemple’s wife allegedly once hurled at the owner of a doggie care center in her neighborhood.
Hayes: “You told us you saw Mr. Schultz at President Obama’s news conference. What if anything did you do after you saw him ?”
Griffin: “I was surprised to see him in the first row. He has been asked by the president a question. It just occurred to me. I was just curious. How did Ed Schultz end up in the front row and get a question at the press conference.”
When Hayes was finished helping his client’s boss possibly perjure himself, Abbott asked Griffin if he ever received any tapes of Schultz’s TV appearances that Queen was shopping around.
But Griffin, determined to show that he discovered the immense talent that is Ed Schultz all on his own, stuck to his newly-minted story. “I can’t make this any clearer. I saw Ed. I was sort of like interested. Oh, how did this [asking Obama a question] happen?’”
Uh, Phil, it didn’t.
The real question is: When did Phil Griffin start experimenting with LSD?
Griffin has an uphill battle to deny perjuring himself…
Geoffrey Hazard, Jr., an expert on legal ethics who is an emeritus law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, told The Mirror that “perjury requires intentional awareness of what you said is false. The person can say I was confused or whatever. It could well be that [Griffin] knowingly lied but it could be his contention that he was confused.”
But confused with what?
Schultz has never asked a question at any Obama press conference. There does not even appear to be any video of Schultz directly interacting with Barack Obama.
So an acid trip, rather than confusion, may very well be Griffin’s best defense.
Hazzard added that perjury in civil cases is rarely prosecuted but “it can be done.”