THE SHOCKING MARSH-MOUSE TRUTH…. The New York Times had an item yesterday, describing the Republican Party’s vision of a “loyal opposition.” It noted Newt Gingrich, emphasizing the partisan benefits of rejecting the majority party’s agenda.

“Mr. Gingrich sees the stimulus bill as his party’s ticket to a revival in 2010,” the NYT‘s Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote, “as Republicans decry what they see as pork-barrel spending for projects like marsh-mouse preservation.”

The Times neglected to mention, of course, that there was no pork-barrel spending for marsh-mouse preservation. It’s a Republican talking point that isn’t true. Stolberg simply passed this along as if it were fact. It’s not.

This comes up quite a bit. MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” has been repeating the marsh-mouse claim quite a bit lately, and to its credit, the show invited’s Bill Adair on to the show this morning to scrutinize the story. Asked if MSNBC was “unfair” to go after this story, Adair said, “You were…. This one gets a ‘false’ on the Truth-o-Meter…. The reality is, the money is just not in the bill to do this the way that they said.”

Joe Scarborough said he’d talked to a Republican House member about this, who defended the claim. Adair said the GOP lawmaker “lied to you.”

But what I found most interesting about this wasn’t just the fact-checking, which was welcome, but the response from the “Morning Joe” crew, which was flabbergasted when confronted with reality. Take a listen around the 45-second mark, and note the amazement and incredulity when Adair started to explain why this bogus talking point isn’t grounded in reality.

It apparently never occurred to the on-air crew that the talking point they’d repeated ad nauseum might not be truthful, so they were stunned by the facts. Perhaps they should have had Adair on sooner.

Update: Greg Sargent thinks it’s even worse: “I actually think it’s more cringe-worthy than this. The Morning Joe dudes were noting ironically that they were surprised that the mouse money talking point was not true. It just wasn’t a big deal to them at all that this had happened.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.