Reporter: NBC Political Director Bullied Me 'On Behalf of the DNC' Over Report on Primary Debates

Dafna Linzer
March 29, 2019

Reporter Yashar Ali claimed in a lengthy Twitter thread Friday that an NBC News managing editor called "to bully me on behalf of the DNC" over a report he was about to publish on the first debates of the Democratic presidential primary season.

Dismissing it as a scoop of no particular significance, Ali tweeted about learning the first Democratic debates would be held June 26 and 27 and broadcast on NBC, liberal cable arm MSNBC, and Spanish-language station Telemundo. He described calling the DNC to confirm the story and being asked to delay it so the national committee could inform state parties; he said he declined, as he was running out of time before MSNBC would announce the news nugget itself.

Then, things got stranger. He laid out getting a phone call from Dafna Linzer, the managing editor overseeing political coverage for NBC News and MSNBC.

"After exchanging pleasantries, Dafna told me that she received a call from the DNC and was told I had a story," Ali tweeted. "Now it's not strange that the DNC called her, they were coordinating an announcement. What was strange was that she was calling me and taking a menacing tone. She asked if I could hold the story and I said I couldn't. She was agitated, 'why not?' I said I'm not going to lose a scoop. Then she got angrier and said 'Why not? It's not a big deal, let them make a few phone calls.'"

"My jaw dropped," he went on. "I realized that @DafnaLinzer, the head of all political coverage for NBC News and MSNBC wasn't calling to advocate for her network, she was calling to advocate the DNC's position. She wanted me to wait so they could call state party leaders."

Ali described Linzer as growing increasingly exasperated with him and said she was harkening back to her time as a Washington Post reporter, saying she delayed stories all the time for security reasons.

"I was so surprised that she was talking this way with a total stranger," he tweeted. "The head of the political division was trying to bully me at the behest of the DNC over a dumb scoop (even though they may not have asked her to)."

Ali said Linzer sought to go off the record well into their conversation—he didn't agree—and wanted to speak to his editor, which he took as a threat. He ended the conversation and concluded his Twitter thread on the matter by wondering why Linzer would open herself up to criticism over her behavior toward him.

Ali is a former Democratic operative with close ties to Hillary Clinton who has remade himself as a freelance journalist known for his scoops. He is a contributor to HuffPost and New York Magazine.

Linzer and representatives for NBC News did not respond to a request for comment.

The DNC announced earlier this month it would bar Fox News Channel from hosting any Democratic primary debates. DNC chair Tom Perez cited a New Yorker article, facets of which have been disputed, about the ties between the Donald Trump White House and leading Fox News personalities and executives.