Does Norah O'Donnell Work for MSNBC or the White House?

06/22/2010 05:13 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Norah O'Donnell, MSNBC's chief Washington correspondent, was on the panel last Sunday of NBC's Chris Matthews Show. The subject was BP and the $20 billion fund that President Obama had, the panelists (in addition to O'Donnell, Newsweek's Howard Fineman, the Washington Post's David Ignatius, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker) agreed, skillfully forced BP to cough up -- "at least $20 billion," Fineman said. He later added that "Obama plays a deep game." Chris Matthews went further, calling Obama's negotiation "a bit of world-class jawboning" and "miraculous, almost."

When it was her turn, Norah O'Donnell paid tribute to Obama's "one-on-one meeting where he really pressed the chairman of BP [Carl-Henric Svanberg] and got that $20 million." (A Wall Street Journal article published the next morning offered a more nuanced description that showed how lawyers hired by BP, including the well-connected Jamie Gorelick -- number two in Bill Clinton's Justice Department -- had pushed back and resisted two major demands from Obama.)

Obama's widely ridiculed Oval Office speech the Tuesday before was also up for discussion. That's when O'Donnell made a remark that made her sound more like a White House flack in a private strategy session than a newswoman. Matthews mentioned that during the Oval Office speech Obama had referred to BP being able to capture 90 percent of the oil "within the next several days." O'Donnell's response: "...and that was one promise that made me very nervous, because if the president cannot hold that -- to that number there's going to be hell to pay, quite frankly."

Why would an objective reporter be "nervous" about Obama's ability to keep his promise?