WaPo media critic calls out Rachel Maddow’s coverage of the Steele dossier

Something is going on when two mainstream journalists call out members of their own profession over coverage aimed at damaging and driving President Trump from office. Joining veteran Chicago columnist Dennis Byrne’s denunciation of his profession as a whole, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple chronicles top-rated MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s continual hyping of the Steele dossier.

Rachel Maddow (photo credit: YouTube screen grab)

Some examples below:

As part of her Russianist phase, Maddow became a clearinghouse for news increments regarding the dossier. Just days after BuzzFeed published the dossier in its entirety, she reported on the frustration of congressional Democrats with then-FBI Director James B. Comey, who was declining to divulge whether his people had opened an investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

Director Comey refused to answer my question about whether the FBI has investigated Trump campaign contacts with Russia

— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) January 10, 2017

Sorting through the silence from the FBI and the unverified claims in the dossier, Maddow riffed on her Jan. 13, 2017, program: “I mean, had the FBI looked into what was in that dossier and found that it was all patently false, they could tell us that now, right?” said Maddow. “I mean, the dossier has now been publicly released. If the FBI looked into it and they found it was all trash, there’s no reason they can’t tell us that now. They’re not telling us that now. They’re not saying that. They’re not saying anything.” (snip)

In March 2017, the host glommed onto recent reporting by CNN and the New Yorker to the effect that U.S. authorities had confirmed that “some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier,” according to CNN. The New Yorker wrote that U.S. intelligence had confirmed “some of its less explosive claims, relating to conversations with foreign nationals.” The “baseline” claim of the dossier — that the Trump campaign and Russia participated in a towering election conspiracy — hadn’t yet borne out, conceded Maddow. “But even if that is as yet in itself uncorroborated and undocumented,” she said, “all the supporting details are checking out, even the really outrageous ones. A lot of them are starting to bear out under scrutiny. It seems like a new one each passing day.”

On May 3, 2017, Maddow cited a CNN report that “parts of this dossier passed muster even in federal court when the dossier was used in part to justify a secret FISA court warrant for U.S. surveillance on a Trump campaign adviser.” Thanks to Horowitz, we now know that officials misused the dossier in this process, failing to disclose to the FISA court dossier-debunking information. Never place blind faith in the FBI!

“The Republican claim today was that the dossier has been increasingly discredited. That’s not true in terms of the public record about the dossier. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As time goes on, more and more pieces do get independently corroborated,” Maddow said.

On Aug. 23, 2017, Maddow said: “[Even] though the White House and people from the Trump campaign and the Trump administration keep denouncing it as like this dodgy dossier, reporters routinely talk about it as unverified and uncorroborated. You know what? That’s less and less true all the time.”

While Maddow used media reports to base her assertions on, those media reports were often the result of illegal leaks coming from the likes of Comey and Strzok. Sundance at The Conservative Treehouse thoroughly explores this cycle of mutual back-scratching between the deep state and the media. But he also highlights Maddow’s disgraceful reaction when theHorowitz report debunked the Steele dossier:

On the day Horowitz released his punishing report — with all its assertions about the dossier’s dubiety — Maddow chose not to focus on the integrity of the document that she’d once claimed was accumulating credibility on a nearly daily basis. She said this: “The inspector general debunks that there was any anti-Trump political bias motivating these decisions. They debunked the idea that the Christopher Steele dossier of opposition research against Trump was the basis for opening the FBI’s Russia investigation. It absolutely was not, and ‘Oh, by the way, no, there was no spying on the Trump campaign.’”

Wemple endorses this, writing, “All legitimate points.”

No, they are not in the least legitimate. Horowitz did not “debunk” the notion of political bias, he merely stated that he had not found documentary or testimonial evidence of bias. In other words, nobody explicitly confessed in print or in interviews with the IG to taking actions explicitly because of bias. But that does not “debunk” the existence of bias.

But Wemple does call out Maddow’s pattern:

When small bits of news arose in favor of the dossier, the franchise MSNBC host pumped air into them. At least some of her many fans surely came away from her broadcasts thinking the dossier was a serious piece of investigative research, not the flimflam, quick-twitch game of telephone outlined in the Horowitz report. She seemed to be rooting for the document.

“Rooting” is not journalism; it is propaganda.

So, what on earth is going on? There are a couple of basic possibilities:

1.     There is always the possibility that a guilty conscience prodded real professionals to speak out, now that the dimensions of the fraud behind the efforts to falsely attack Trump are coming into undeniable focus.

2.     As Roger Luchs emailed me this morning, “I don’t think it's intellectual honesty – I think it’s a signal to Democrats – warning them, so they can try to adjust their own message – before it’s too late.”

Something is going on when two mainstream journalists call out members of their own profession over coverage aimed at damaging and driving President Trump from office. Joining veteran Chicago columnist Dennis Byrne’s denunciation of his profession as a whole, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple chronicles top-rated MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s continual hyping of the Steele dossier.

Rachel Maddow (photo credit: YouTube screen grab)

Some examples below:

As part of her Russianist phase, Maddow became a clearinghouse for news increments regarding the dossier. Just days after BuzzFeed published the dossier in its entirety, she reported on the frustration of congressional Democrats with then-FBI Director James B. Comey, who was declining to divulge whether his people had opened an investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

Director Comey refused to answer my question about whether the FBI has investigated Trump campaign contacts with Russia

— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) January 10, 2017

Sorting through the silence from the FBI and the unverified claims in the dossier, Maddow riffed on her Jan. 13, 2017, program: “I mean, had the FBI looked into what was in that dossier and found that it was all patently false, they could tell us that now, right?” said Maddow. “I mean, the dossier has now been publicly released. If the FBI looked into it and they found it was all trash, there’s no reason they can’t tell us that now. They’re not telling us that now. They’re not saying that. They’re not saying anything.” (snip)

In March 2017, the host glommed onto recent reporting by CNN and the New Yorker to the effect that U.S. authorities had confirmed that “some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier,” according to CNN. The New Yorker wrote that U.S. intelligence had confirmed “some of its less explosive claims, relating to conversations with foreign nationals.” The “baseline” claim of the dossier — that the Trump campaign and Russia participated in a towering election conspiracy — hadn’t yet borne out, conceded Maddow. “But even if that is as yet in itself uncorroborated and undocumented,” she said, “all the supporting details are checking out, even the really outrageous ones. A lot of them are starting to bear out under scrutiny. It seems like a new one each passing day.”

On May 3, 2017, Maddow cited a CNN report that “parts of this dossier passed muster even in federal court when the dossier was used in part to justify a secret FISA court warrant for U.S. surveillance on a Trump campaign adviser.” Thanks to Horowitz, we now know that officials misused the dossier in this process, failing to disclose to the FISA court dossier-debunking information. Never place blind faith in the FBI!

“The Republican claim today was that the dossier has been increasingly discredited. That’s not true in terms of the public record about the dossier. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As time goes on, more and more pieces do get independently corroborated,” Maddow said.

On Aug. 23, 2017, Maddow said: “[Even] though the White House and people from the Trump campaign and the Trump administration keep denouncing it as like this dodgy dossier, reporters routinely talk about it as unverified and uncorroborated. You know what? That’s less and less true all the time.”

While Maddow used media reports to base her assertions on, those media reports were often the result of illegal leaks coming from the likes of Comey and Strzok. Sundance at The Conservative Treehouse thoroughly explores this cycle of mutual back-scratching between the deep state and the media. But he also highlights Maddow’s disgraceful reaction when theHorowitz report debunked the Steele dossier:

On the day Horowitz released his punishing report — with all its assertions about the dossier’s dubiety — Maddow chose not to focus on the integrity of the document that she’d once claimed was accumulating credibility on a nearly daily basis. She said this: “The inspector general debunks that there was any anti-Trump political bias motivating these decisions. They debunked the idea that the Christopher Steele dossier of opposition research against Trump was the basis for opening the FBI’s Russia investigation. It absolutely was not, and ‘Oh, by the way, no, there was no spying on the Trump campaign.’”

Wemple endorses this, writing, “All legitimate points.”

No, they are not in the least legitimate. Horowitz did not “debunk” the notion of political bias, he merely stated that he had not found documentary or testimonial evidence of bias. In other words, nobody explicitly confessed in print or in interviews with the IG to taking actions explicitly because of bias. But that does not “debunk” the existence of bias.

But Wemple does call out Maddow’s pattern:

When small bits of news arose in favor of the dossier, the franchise MSNBC host pumped air into them. At least some of her many fans surely came away from her broadcasts thinking the dossier was a serious piece of investigative research, not the flimflam, quick-twitch game of telephone outlined in the Horowitz report. She seemed to be rooting for the document.

“Rooting” is not journalism; it is propaganda.

So, what on earth is going on? There are a couple of basic possibilities:

1.     There is always the possibility that a guilty conscience prodded real professionals to speak out, now that the dimensions of the fraud behind the efforts to falsely attack Trump are coming into undeniable focus.

2.     As Roger Luchs emailed me this morning, “I don’t think it's intellectual honesty – I think it’s a signal to Democrats – warning them, so they can try to adjust their own message – before it’s too late.”