We failed to capture the depth of the problem!

SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2013

Rachel Maddow’s bungled reports about Jonathan Karl: We’ll admit it!

In yesterday’s main report, we failed to capture the depth of the problem with Rachel Maddow’s gruesome reports concerning Jonathan Karl.

On May 15 and May 17, Maddow devoted lengthy segments to Karl’s now-famous May 10 report about the Benghazi talking points. In our view, her reports were appallingly inaccurate—so much so that we couldn’t convey the sweep of the offense in just one post.

In those segments, Maddow misstated what Karl had said in his report. In the process, she committed a wide range of journalistic offenses.

She also displayed her vast cluelessness about the breadth of the political problems surrounding Benghazi. But then, what else is new?

What made Maddow's work so appalling? For one thing, it was grossly inaccurate, in various ways. It’s always appalling when overpaid stars present such bogus work.

That said, several problems got obscured when Maddow pretended to blow Karl’s report out the door. In the process, she failed to answer a basic question: What was the source of the errors committed by Karl and by CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson?

A quick bit of background:

On May 10, Karl wrote a largely accurate report about the way the Benghazi talking points were revised on September 14 and 15 of last year. In the process, he seemed to quote one of the e-mails which helped produce the revisions.

Four days after his report appeared, Jake Tapper reported that Karl’s quotation was wrong. Maddow fulminated about this relatively inconsequential error on May 15 and May 17.

That said, Karl wasn’t alone in his error. On that same May 10, a report by Attkisson included similar bungled quotations from the e-mails which produced the revised talking points.

In a hopelessly illogical set of claims, Attkisson has said that she always knew the material she had received included summaries of the emails. She has said she always knew that the materials weren't necessarily quotations.

Attkisson’s statement could even be true. That said, her revised report at CBS News still makes no earthly sense. America’s upper-end pseudo-journalists are often grossly incompetent.

This returns us to our question: How did Karl and Attkisson come to make these mistakes? In truth, this is a fairly minor concern. Answering this question will not eliminate or resolve the inane complaints which are widespread concerning those talking points.

That said, the question has not been resolved, nor does anyone seem to be trying to do so. In her pair of fulminations, Maddow pretended she knew that Karl had been the victim of “a lie” by Republican sources. This made for a pleasing tribal tale, but Maddow showed no sign of actually knowing what happened.

How did Attkisson and Karl come to make these mistakes? No one is really trying to find out, least of all Maddow. She has never mentioned Attkisson’s bungles, and she only mentioned Karl’s name once in two nights of full-blown fulmination. Along the way, liberal viewers got handed a pleasing tale, even as Maddow eschewed a real attempt at figuring out what happened.

How did Karl and Attkisson come to make their errors? Maddow has shown no sign of knowing the answer. More significantly, she shows no sign of knowing how to address the larger political problem concerning the talking points.

Those reports by Maddow were terrible work. It really would take a string of reports to sketch out all her errors.

The greatest self-love of all: Good God! Maddow made many bogus statements in her pair of fulminations.

At one point, she added insult to injury.

Midway through her May 17 report, Maddow instructed ABC News to explain its mistake more fully. This is perfectly good advice. Both ABC and CBS have offered extremely evasive explanations of how they made these mistakes.

But good God! Maddow was making all sorts of bogus statements herself! Inevitably, though, the world soon found itself subjected to this familiar piece of self-praise:
MADDOW (5/17/13): The other thing I would say to my friends in the media on this is that it is OK to say that you got something wrong.

I mean, it sucks to say you’re wrong. But if you are wrong, it is better to say you’re wrong than to not say you’re wrong and just hope it all goes away.

Look, I can prove it! It sucks but you can say sorry:

(Beginning of video clips)

MADDOW: OK, Department of Corrections. I made an error on last night’s show.
MADDOW: It is embarrassing. I regret the error.
MADDOW: We have a correction to make.
MADDOW: I had no idea I made this error because I am now an old person.
MADDOW: Correction! I screwed up and I’m sorry.

(End of video clips)

It is awful and horrible, but you can just do it.

This show has been on the air almost five years now. Knock on wood, right? (Modestly knocks on own head.) And in that time, we’ve gotten some stuff wrong.

One of those ones that we just played a clip from was me screwing up “barrels” versus “gallons” when we were doing a story about oil. That is freaking embarrassing!

I mean, a barrel is really, really big, right? A gallon you can pick up in one hand. Did I screw up? Yes. I screwed that up, right?

But you know what? You guys screwed up on this Republican Benghazi-scam ABC thing. You screwed up something way bigger than that. You have to fix it.
It’s true that Karl should offer a clear explanation of how he made that mistake. But leave it to Maddow to deliver her latest speech about how amazingly honest she is.

Maddow once confused gallons with barrels! As she offered this innocuous example, we got to hear her announce her own vast honesty for perhaps the ten millionth time.

In reality, Maddow just isn’t obsessively honest. She may believe she is, but the evidence just isn’t there. That said, she does seem to have a compulsive need to tell us that she’s honest.

Here’s the reality:

On May 17, Maddow showed no sign of knowing whether Karl got “lied to” by “Republican congressional offices” who “shopped a false dossier.” That may be what happened to Karl, of course. But Attkisson had already said that it wasn’t what happened to her.

Did Republicans lie to Attkisson and Karl? Or did the tyros screw up in some way? We have no real way of knowing. Maddow doesn’t know either.

Whatever! In standard fashion, Maddow pretended to know, then gave a speech about her own honesty. We will assume she was sincere, but her work is quite often a wreck.

Benghazi remains a very serious political problem. But from last September to this very day, the children at The One True Channel have been disinclined to fight against the clownish attacks which swirl around Benghazi.

Now that Maddow has pretended to settle all issues, she seems to have returned to this default state of slumber. Why are the kids at The One True Channel so disinclined to fight?

In one last post on this topic, we will offer two suggestions. These suggestions will be drawn from the words of Maddow and Chris Hayes.


  1. Gee I wonder how this issue could be solved? I mean, just how could we find out just who fed Karl the dishonest quote? I wonder who knows that information. Oh, wait, I know, Karl could tell us, which is exactly what Rachel said he should do. Funny how you left that part out.

    1. No kidding. And if it's a minor matter that this stuff was leaked by Republicans, is it also a minor matter that writers would rely on edited material to for their stories while not telling the audience? Apparently Bob thinks so. How insignificant was the error in Karl's report?
      We never get to that because Bob has his hate on for Maddow. As is apt to happen, what Maddow makes silly Bob makes sillier.

  2. "Seemed to quote"? "Seemed to quote"? Seriously, Bob? You think there's some kind of ambiguity in the word "said" followed by quotation marks? Really?

    Your tribalism is increasingly embarrassing. Anybody Maddow criticizes must be given the benefit of the doubt, no matter what the record is, because you loathe Maddow. That's pathetic.

    Jonathan Karl -- *lied.* There's no question about it. He deliberately deceived the public in order to make his "scoop" seem even more glorious. He lied, Bob. There's no "seems" about it. He wrote it in black and white, and it was a lie.

  3. The matter of the "talking points" is of essentially no consequence. There was an attack on a US "diplomatic" facility, like many which have occurred in the past and will occur in the future - such attacks will not be avoided by hashing over the announcements. All those involved in endlessly squabbling over the details of how this was reported, including Maddow and Somerby, are falling in with the design of Republicans, who want to make a scandal out of nothing.

  4. I have gotten to the point that if BOB really hates something Maddow presented - then Maddow is probably right.

    Bob's hatred of Maddow is on full display here. The nit-picking of off-the-charts!

  5. Rachel Maddow has been a huge disappointment ever since she came on and was hired by MSNBC. From the first moment when she refused to accurately state what a tool Chris Matthews had been during the Clinton years. She's a lame excuse for a progressive, so feeble. The people here defending her are misguided. We should want someone much sharper than Maddow to represent the progressive position. She's a corporate hack and you guys are very naive to think she's looking out for liberal interests. She's not, she's looking out for her own pocketbook. Period.