Part 2—The case of the four extra hands: Last evening, at 6 PM Eastern, the bosses at The One True Liberal Channel rolled out their exciting new high-end model.
They rolled The Greta into the showroom. As advertised, Greta Van Susteren began her new show with a pair of (stultifying) interviews with leading Republican figures.
First McCain was slapped with wet noodles, then it was Priebus' turn. By 6:15, the analysts were fighting to stay awake.
It doesn't seem likely that Greta Van Susteren will be able to lure Donald J. Trump onto MSNBC's air. But who knows? Maybe her new program, For The Record, really was created in hopes of attracting more Republican guests, as Rachel Maddow semi-suggested last Thursday night.
In Part 1 of this report, we showed you the bulk of Maddow's gushing and fawning about The Greta. For today, let's examine one of her carnival barker-like claims, the claim lodged in this early part of her pitch:
MADDOW (1/5/17): In telling the stories of the day, covering the day's news, on this show, we tend to show a lot of archive footage...To watch the whole segment, click here.
We play a lot less contemporary news coverage on this show. I know a lot of other shows do it, but I just don't end up showing a lot of, you know, "Here's a thing somebody said on TV last night." It just doesn't come up that often on this show.
One thing I have noticed, though, over the eight years or so that we've been doing this show, is that when I do use contemporary footage...that footage disproportionately and by a mile tends to come from one place. It has come from one show, hosted by one particular person, who we've used footage from over and over and over again.
[Brief video clips of several exchanges involving Van Susteren]
If you want to count on your fingers how many times we on this show have played clips of Greta Van Susteren over the years, you could not do it. You need like four extra hands.
According to Maddow's pitch, Maddow herself has played endless footage from Van Susteren down through the years. A person would "need like four extra hands" to tote up all the examples!
Maddow went on to describe Van Susteren's greatness, explaining why she's played so many clips of Van Susteren's work at Fox. We'll examine the alleged greatness later this week. For today, let's concentrate on that alleged large number of clips featuring Greta's work.
For ourselves, we've learned to adopt a standard approach to Maddow's various claims. "Mistrust and try to verify," we've been forced to tell our crestfallen analysts.
Rachel Maddow has a way of—how shall we put it?—occasionally letting her enthusiasms trump the literal truth. We discovered that it had happened again when we checked her "four extra hands" statement.
Have Maddow viewers been swimming in tape displaying Van Susteren's greatness? Using Nexis, we conducted a search.
This is what we found:
Over the five previous years—2012 through 2016—we found a total of thirteen instances when Maddow played videotape in which Van Susteren was shown interacting with a guest at the Fox News Channel. According to our Arithmetical Analytics Division, you couldn't count these instances on two hands, but you wouldn't need four more hands either.
Viewers of the Maddow Show haven't exactly been swimming in Greta Van Susteren clips. On a year-by-year basis, this is what we found:
Number of instances in which the Maddow Show played videotape of Greta Van Susteren interacting with a guest:Our jealous analysts quickly noted that one of the instances from last year occurred in late December. In retrospect, it would seem to qualify as the start of Maddow's pitch for her channel's new car.
Total number: 13
Whatever! Our analysts judged, with moderate confidence, that you actually don't need a million new hands to count up all those examples. They also stressed an important point:
That total number of instances may be misleading, given Maddow's repeated play of two favorite pieces of tape.
Good lord! Five of those thirteen instances involved a single piece of tape. In this particular instance, Van Susteren took a walk on the mild side while interviewing Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr. in October 2014.
Last Thursday night, selling the Greta, Maddow played a version of that tape for the sixth time. This is what viewers saw on that occasion:
MADDOW (1/5/17): This was one of my all-time favorite Greta moments from when she was on Fox.Already, you can see that Van Susteren's second question didn't exactly make sense. By the end of the week, we'll show you how modest her effort actually was on that treasured occasion.
(videotape from October 7, 2014)
HUNTER: I know that at least ten ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas. There's nobody talking about it, there's—
VAN SUSTEREN: How do you know that?
HUNTER: Because I've asked, because I've asked the border patrol, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: And the border patrol, they just let ISIS members come across the border?
(end of video clip)
No matter! Maddow fell in love with the clip; she played chunks of that exchange on five different programs in 2014, 2015 and 2016. And of the remaining eight video clips from the past five years, three of them were a single exchange with Donald J. Trump about his secret, foolproof plan to defeat the losers from ISIS.
Here's the truncated way that exchange was shown as Maddow sold the car last week. The original exchange occurred in May 2015:
TRUMP (5/27/15): Bring ISIS to the table or beyond that, defeat ISIS very quickly, and I'm not going to tell you what it is tonight. You know, one of the problems that we have—In 2015 and 2016, Maddow played that tape three times. It's hard to see what's so amazing about Van Susteren's performance there. But in truth, there weren't that many discrete examples of Van Susteren's work which Maddow played in the past five years. The ISIS tapes with Hunter and Trump constitute eight of the thirteen examples which we've recorded above.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why won't you tell us? Hey, Donald, Donald—
TRUMP: I'll tell you what, because I don't want to, Greta. I'll tell you what—
VAN SUSTEREN: Donald, why don't you tell?
On this basis, our analysts judged, with high confidence and several sighs, that Maddow was perhaps embellishing a tad with her claim about the need for "like four extra hands." Again, we're only talking about her quantitative claims at this point. Maddow's qualitative claims about Van Susteren's work were vastly more ridiculous.
According to Maddow's pitch for the car, why had she played tape of Van Susteren so often? Here's what Maddow said:
MADDOW (1/5/17): Greta Van Susteren is great. She is. And she has an uncanny ability to make newsworthy things happen when the red light is on the camera and she is on TV talking about the news. She can get anybody to talk to her. She has reported from all over the world. She had a decade at CNN. She had 14 years at Fox.According to Maddow, she has played footage of Greta again and again because her work is so great. According to Maddow, Greta "has an uncanny ability to make newsworthy things happen" when she's on the air. "She can get anybody to talk to her," Maddow admiringly said.
Truth to tell, we see little evidence of any such skill in the clips Maddow has played. In particular, Van Susteren served as a useful idiot for Donald J. Trump as he pimped his birther claims all around the land.
We'll examine that explosive claim later this week. For today, we'll only say this:
You may not need four extra hands to count up Maddow's airings of Greta. Last Thursday, Rachel was selling a car to us rubes.
Bullshit was likely to follow.
Tomorrow: It happened in 2010