‘A complete mess’: NBC caves to White House spin, issues correction on Brittney Griner swap story

NBC almost behaved like actual journalists. Almost, but not quite.

When the Biden administration agreed to swap WNBA star Brittney Griner for the “Merchant of Death,” Viktor Bout, heads exploded on social media over the “woke” decision to rescue a woman who seems to despise this country while leaving Marine veteran Paul Whelan, who has been languishing in a Russian prison for nearly four years, behind.

NBC published a story on the matter that was almost a bombshell. Almost, but not quite.

In the original version of the piece, as revealed by Outkick’s David Hookstead, NBC claimed that Russia gave the Biden administration a choice.

“NBC had a bombshell report that Russia offered America Brittney Griner OR Paul Whelan, citing a senior government official,” Hookstead tweeted on Friday. “It would be Biden’s choice which one to save.”

“The report was later edited without explanation to mirror Biden’s explanation that only Griner was offered,” he stated, along with a side-by-side comparison of the originally published story and the one that was revised.

That international arms dealer Viktor Bout was to be traded was never in question. Both versions of the story stated that the inspiration behind the Nicholas Cage movie Lord of War would be released after serving 11 years of his 25-year sentence.

“But the official said Russia has treated Whelan differently because he is an accused spy, and that the Kremlin gave the White House the choice of either Griner or Whelan — or none,” read the original story.

It directly contradicted the White House’s claims.

When asked why Whelan was left behind, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained, “Unfortunately, the choice became to either bring Brittney home or no one.”

And now, that’s exactly how NBC’s story reads.

“But the official said Russia has treated Whelan differently because he is accused of spying and that the Kremlin ultimately gave the White House the choice of Griner or no one after different options were proposed,” the revised story states.

A correction explaining that “an earlier version of this article misstated the choice the Biden administration was given over hostages. It was to swap for Griner or no one, not a choice between Griner or Whelan,” was tacked on for good measure.

We do know that, despite the White House’s claims, the Kremlin was, at one time, fine with swapping Whelan for Bout.

Speaking to CBS, former National Security Adviser John Bolton revealed that Trump declined an offer from Russia to make the exchange, after Whelan was detained in December 2018 over questionable claims of espionage, according to the New York Post.

“The possibility of a Bout-for-Whelan trade existed back then and it wasn’t made, for very good reasons having to deal with Viktor Bout,” Bolton stated. “Obviously, there’s a lot of very understandable human emotion here in getting Griner released, but this is a very bad mistake by the Biden administration.”


“This is not a deal. This is not a swap. This is a surrender,” he continued. “And terrorists and rogue states all around the world will take note of this, and it endangers other Americans in the future who can be grabbed and used as bargaining chips by people who don’t have the same morals and scruples that we do.”

Hookstead called the NBC flip-flop a “mess.”

“So, there is an update on the original NBC News report, but where the report is shared elsewhere, there is no correction or update of any kind,” he tweeted. “A complete mess for NBC.”


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