The ghosts of fake news past: Last evening, in the 6 PM hour, Chris Matthews interviewed Jacob Soboroff concerning that newly discovered monster, "fake news."
We can't link you to videotape or give you a transcript. Hardball aired separate programs at 6 and 7 last night, and the reliably haphazard MSNBC has posted a transcript for the 7 PM hour only.
That said, we can tell you what happened. For us, it very much called to mind the ghosts of fake news past.
Soboroff had ventured to California to interview a purveyor of "fake news." The purveyor said that he had voted for Hillary Clinton, but he had also created a widely-read fake news report, late in the campaign, saying that Clinton had been involved in the murder-suicide of an FBI agent.
You can see Soboroff's interview here, as it was aired by Brian Williams this Monday night.
Matthews played tape of Soboroff's interview, then angrily unloaded. Speaking in the aftermath of the dangerous Pizzagate near-disaster, he really let Soboroff's fake news purveyor have it.
Matthews said the fellow was likely "a sociopath." He also railed against all the "lying" involved when people create fake news.
Matthews was appalled by the potential loss of life in the Pizzagate incident, in which a crazy person with a gun showed up at a DC restaurant this weekend. Matthews' greatness of character was on vivid display.
Matthews was appalled by the purveyors of fake news present. As he ranted and raved, we thought we heard the ghosts of fake news past.
How odd! In May 1999, a mentally ill gunman went to the home of a Washington journalist. He went there in reaction to a false (and ridiculous) claim Matthews had caused to be made in the air.
Luckily, the journalist wasn't home at the time; the gunman was harmlessly arrested. Later, the journalist was able to prove that Matthews' ridiculous claim had been false.
Luckily, no one was home when that gunman arrived. But Matthews came that close to getting a journalist killed, so deeply invested had he been in pushing false claims about the Clintons.
(This particular false claim had originated with Kathleen Willey. She asserted that the journalist in question had murdered her pet cat—in league with the Clintons, of course. When Willey resisted saying the journalist's name on the air, Matthews blurted it for her. As recently as this fall, the New York Times was rehabilitating Willey as a flawless truth-teller.)
Seventeen years before Pizzagate, Matthews came that close to getting a journalist killed with a ludicrous fake report. Last night, he voiced outrage about the people who are creating such dangers now.
Matthews also voiced anger at the "lying" involved in spreading fake news. We thought about what he did in March 2000.
At the time, Matthews was in the employ of Jack Welch, the near-billionaire right-wing owner of NBC News, the man who made Matthews wealthy. A criminal trial was underway concerning the so-called "Buddhist temple" fund-raising matter. For several nights, Matthews spewed a series of astonishing bogus claims about that event.
Matthews' crazy claims that week were straight out of modern "fake news." His statements weren't simply wrong; they were crazily wrong, and they were ugly. His conduct on the air that week was a mind-bending journalistic disgrace. It was "fake news" at its stupidest and its most reprehensible.
Needless to say, the mainstream press, and the liberal world, pretended they couldn't see this.
Matthews seemed to be very upset last night. As Soboroff let the great man rant, we sensed the ghosts of fake news past.
We recalled Matthews' years of crazy fake claims. We even recalled the (several) times he almost got people killed.
We plan to do a series of reports on "fake news" next week. Many journalists are just discovering the troubling phenomenon.
They're ignoring the fact that they and their colleagues largely invented the practice.
As with the deranged purveyors of the Pizzagate tale, Matthews' claim about the murdered cat almost got somebody killed. That said, Matthews' misbehaved grossly for years, apparently as he did the bidding of Welch.
Within the press corps, all the players have agreed to pretend that none of this ever happened. Rachel Maddow swears that Chris is the best.
Dearest darlings, use your heads! Multimillion-dollar salaries are at stake! All the children understand this, and they assume that you don't.
Who was Chris Matthews: We just reread Matthews' interview with Dan Burton on March 2, 2000.
The interview concerned the Buddhist temple event. Aside from Matthews' endless array of blatantly false factual claims, he kept urging Burton to use the incident to take Gore down and out.
Yes, he was talking to that Dan Burton. Samples of what he said:
MATTHEWS (3/2/00): Nobody can get a damn conviction here. I don't understand.That's who Chris Matthews was when he was in service to Welch. Everyone wanted to appear on his show, so our favorite liberal heroes ignored his relentless misconduct.
MATTHEWS: Can't you guys in Congress make this case?
MATTHEWS: Well, if Al Gore gets elected this time, Mr. Burton, this will prove that they can beat you guys even when you have the goods on them.
MATTHEWS: I hope the American people are listening and watching and listening to you, because I think you're a fair man. And if they're listening to the facts, the American people have to hold these people accountable, and they should do it this fall.
For almost twenty years, we've tried to get liberals to discuss this. It simply can't be done.
We'll post more of the Burton interview next week. Fake news has played a key role in our discourse for a very long time now.
Our liberal heroes have accepted this existential threat to our culture every step of the way. It has finally yielded a President Trump, so now they're very upset.