Morning Joe bungles again: Thanks to the magic of connectivity, we were able to read Gene Lyons' new column at The Daily Memo today.
When he read yesterday's New York Times, Lyons was struck by one particular passage. We were struck by that passage too. Here's what Lyons said:
LYONS (8/31/16): On TV in particular, the concept of “balance” requires solemnly equating the truly consequential with the utterly absurd..."Try to believe that the New York Times published this sentence," Lyons said.
Meanwhile, this just in! Huma Abedin’s crazy husband has been texting dirty pictures again. Try to believe the New York Times published this sentence: “Mr. Weiner’s extramarital behavior also threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage over the decades, including Mrs. Clinton’s much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.”
Much debated by the voices in columnist Maureen Dowd’s head, perhaps. Most rationally consequent adults long ago decided that other people’s marriages are a foreign country where they don’t speak the language and got on with their lives. Weiner’s clearly mentally ill; journalists compulsively focused on Bill Clinton’s zipper twenty years after the fact appear similarly deranged.
We had been struck by that sentence too—and by the sentence which followed it! In hard copy, the sentences appeared above the fold on the New York Times' front page, in a piece about Anthony Weiner's latest sexting episode.
This piece was written by Amy Chozick. Above the fold, on the paper's front page, this full passage appeared:
CHOZICK (8/30/16): Mr. Weiner’s extramarital behavior also threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage over the decades, including Mrs. Clinton’s much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Ms. Abedin’s choice to separate from her husband evokes the debates that erupted over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the Lewinsky affair, a scandal her campaign wants left in the past.Does Weiner's behavior "threaten to remind voters" of Bill Clinton's affair with Miss Lewinsky? After the New York Times gets through, we'd have to say that it does!
Should Chozick have raised those connections in her news report? Please note—she didn't report that some political player had been making those connections. She simply made the connections herself, in paragraph 5 of a news report atop the front page of the Times.
Eighteen years later, your upper-end mainstream press corps still lives for that connection. They love to think about Miss Lewinsky; they're quick to suggest that you should follow suit.
She never seems to be far from their minds. Their ardor hasn't cooled.
Does Abedin's decision to separate from Weiner "evoke the debates that erupted over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the Lewinsky affair, a scandal her campaign wants left in the past?" For Chozick and her unnamed editor, yes—quite plainly, it does!
Meanwhile, the factual bungling was general during the opening segment of today's Morning Joe. The segment re-aired at 8 AM Eastern. Here's how the segment went down:
Mika said she was reading a piece by "the New York Times editorial board." Moments later, a chyron appeared supporting that false attribution.
In fact, Mika was reading at length, and somewhat selectively, from this opinion column by Richard Painter, who's described in the Times as "the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush."
The column Mika was reading hadn't been written by the board. It wasn't a New York Times editorial, as the chyron mistakenly said. That said, no one on the Morning Joe panel corrected the false attribution. Several seemed to follow Mika in making the bogus claim.
By the end of the segment in question, Mika was grossly misrepresenting her earlier, staff-written account of the claims in a recent Wall Street Journal report. For Kevin Drum's words of caution about that report, you can just click here.
This is the way such "cable news" programs now work. The multimillionaire cable hosts perform exactly zero prep. The staff equips them with bad information and faulty chyrons. When they proceed to make false statements, their panelists refuse to correct them.
To watch the Morning Joe segment, click here. If engineers built our bridges this way, our bridges would all fall down.