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MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell flamed for Dianne Feinstein take

SF Gate logo SF Gate 4/14/2022 Eric Ting
Lawrence O'Donnell attends the 12th Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball in New York on  Nov. 29, 2016. © Evan Agostini, Associated Press

Lawrence O'Donnell attends the 12th Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball in New York on  Nov. 29, 2016.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, facing reports of diminished mental facilities that have grown so pronounced that a member of Congress said they needed to reintroduce themselves to her multiple times during a conversation, may have found a defender in MSNBC prime time host Lawrence O'Donnell, who later insisted that he was not, in fact, defending her.

On Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle published an explosive report citing an unnamed member of the House of Representatives and four unnamed senators who allege that the 88-year-old Feinstein's mental capabilities are "bad" and "getting worse" (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently of one another). Feinstein subsequently faced new calls for her resignation.

O'Donnell, meanwhile, offered a slightly different view of the matter. 

"I understand concerns about Dianne Feinstein but read whispers about her in this Senate context: at least 50 senators are 100% dependent on staff, most senators are over 90% dependent on staff & Strom Thurmond died in office in 2003 at age 100 long after obvious mental decline," he tweeted.


Video: Is Sen. Dianne Feinstein mentally unfit to serve? (ABC 7 San Francisco)

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Why yes, Lawrence. Just because "at least 50 senators" do a thing, that thing must therefore be normal and not worthy of criticism. Also, Feinstein must love being compared to fellow filibuster enthusiast Strom Thurmond.

"I'm struggling to come up with anything that could possibly be less exonerating than the context presented in this tweet," New Republic columnist Natalie Shure tweeted in response to O'Donnell. 

O'Donnell proceeded to reply to critics who wanted to know whether O'Donnell was seriously arguing that if Strom Thurmond did it, then Dianne Feinstein should be able do it. He said that he was not, and that Feinstein "shouldn't be" in the Senate.

"I used the word context," he wrote. "Not defense. The context explains why she's still there when she shouldn't be. It also shows this terrible idea of senators over 80 yrs old has a history. No one should ever try to do anything Strom Thurmond did. I'm surprised you didn't grasp that."

Pro tip, Lawrence: Any tweet that begins with "I understand concerns about Dianne Feinstein but" is likely going to be read as a defense.

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