MSNBC aired a feature touting a company's "incredible" steel-making process this week, two months after saying the company would be its partner on a reporting trip about the American economy.
The five-minute feature on Nucor Corp. on Wednesday's edition of "The Dylan Ratigan Show" raised questions about whether a news organization was granting positive publicity to a company in return for financial help.
MSNBC didn't address what the partnership entailed, either in host Dylan Ratigan's story or in its December announcement of his "Steel on Wheels" reporting trip. A network spokeswoman, Lauren Skowronski, said Thursday that MSNBC would not comment on what Nucor provided.
The Nucor story, posted Thursday on the Mediaite website, featured Ratigan on the floor of Nucor's steel-making plant in Seattle. Ratigan reported on the company's use of recycled materials, calling it an "incredible process that transforms piles of scrap metal, shredded cars, washing machines into valuable steel products."
He talked to employees about the "family" atmosphere at the plant.
"Good gig, right?" Ratigan asked one employee.
"I love it," the worker replied.
At the end of the story, Ratigan described his visit as "an incredible experience."
Skowronski said MSNBC has had sponsorships before, with companies helping to pay when Chris Matthews takes his "Hardball" show on the road to colleges. Starbucks paid for promotional considerations to have MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program described as "brewed by Starbucks."
"We've been very clear and have disclosed several times that Nucor is a sponsor of the 'Steel on Wheels' tour," Skowronski said. "This sponsorship provided the program an opportunity to highlight a variety of American innovations — from advancements made throughout history to organizations including Boeing, Mayo Clinic and the Buffett Foundation that are now offering creative solutions for improving the country."
Nucor's chairman and CEO, Dan DiMicco, said when the partnership was announced that it would "highlight the traits that make America great and how we can harness them to ensure America's future prosperity."
He wasn't at Nucor's office Thursday, an operator at the corporation's headquarters said, and a spokesman didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.