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

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

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?