TOP RHODES SCHOLAR MUGS AND CLOWNS: The stars all knew how to open their shows!


The Scholar made us wait: Last Wednesday night—it was Wednesday evening, January 12—all the hosts on anti-Trump "cable news" knew how to open their TV programs.

Everyone knew what the key event had been that day! On CNN, at 8 P.M. Eastern, Anderson opened like this:

COOPER (1/12/22): Good evening. We begin tonight with breaking news that is not only a major step in the January 6th investigation but could also be a clear sign of where the House Select Committee is taking it.

The Committee late today asking the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to volunteer information about communications he had with the former President and the White House—former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows on and around the day.

Now, McCarthy as you know could have volumes to say about what the former President was saying and thinking as violent supporters assaulted the Capitol.

He was on the phone with him begging him to call off the mob he incited, only to be answered with the following, quote: "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." That's according to a Republican congresswoman who memorialized the exchange and notes at the time.

According to Cooper, this "breaking news" had been "a major step."

In fact, this "breaking news" could hardly have been much more underwhelming. The January 6 committee had asked Kevin McCarthy to volunteer information about his communications with former president Donald J. Trump! 

This "breaking news" could hardly have been less impressive. Consider:

The committee hadn't received any information from McCarthy about those communications. For that reason, the committee hadn't released any information on that topic.

Also, the committee hadn't subpoenaed McCarthy—hadn't issued a formal order that he should provide information. The committee had merely invited him to do so, possibly saying "please" as they did—and this request would be turned down before the evening was done.

This "breaking news" could hardly have been any less significant. Still, it neatly fit industry guidelines for prime time cable news product.

This "breaking news" was the type of product blue state cable had been selling us for years, dating back to the days when the fiercely independent Robert Mueller was going to lock Trump up.

Night after night, then year after year, the silly stars who people our cable had been pleasuring us with dreams of Trump's impending legal destruction. After Mueller crashed and burned, the silly stars on whom we rely moved on to other such empty assurances.

For the past five years, this has been the pleasing pablum with which they'd been sending us off to bed. And so, on this latest enchanted evening, all the vacuous cable news stars knew they should start their TV shows with this utterly pointless piddle, concerning which the wide range of non-tribal voters take no interest at all.

The stars all knew where to start that night. On CNN, Erin Burnett had started her show the same way, one hour before Cooper:

Erin Burnett, CNN: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Outfront tonight, the January 6 Select Committee raising the stakes, asking the House Minority Leader to meet with them, offering up to specific dates for his testimony. 

And here's their letter tonight to the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. They write, "We write to request your voluntary cooperation on a range of critical topics, including your conversations with President Trump."

So it's about five and a quarter pages here....

It was five and a quarter pages! The committee had raised the stakes by making that request!

And no, it wasn't just CNN. Over on The One True Channel, the 6, 7 and 8 P.M. stars had opened their programs as shown:

Ari Melber, MSNBC: Welcome to The Beat. I am Ari Melber.

We begin with breaking news in the January 6 probe. Congressional investigators are making it clear they want to hear from numero uno, Trump ally and the leader of the House Republicans Kevin McCarthy. They have asked him for an interview. That would be testimony, a big deal, as well as cooperation and provide information.

And they also are signaling, as they have in some of these other dramatic letters—there was the one that went out to Sean Hannity and other people—the information they have already gathered.

Joy Reid, MSNBC: Okay, good evening, everyone. We begin The ReidOut tonight with big news from the select committee. They have officially requested cooperation from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in their investigation of January 6th.

Now, while it's not a subpoena, it is a necessary step given McCarthy's extensive communications with Trump, including a phone call while the siege was underway. 

Chris Hayes, MSNBCGood evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. The committee investigating the January 6 insurrection is asking that the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, come and give them testimony before them.

This is the man poised to become Speaker of the House should Republicans take back control in the midterm elections later this year, which is certainly a strong possibility. But before that happens, they want to hear about what McCarthy knows about the insurrection.

Hat in hand, the committee was asking McCarthy to testify; it would be "a big deal" if he did! Their letter constituted "big news." It had been "dramatic!"

The stars have been feeding us this gruel for more than five years now. By 10 P.M., the buzzkill had been delivered, though a good time had been had by all:

Don Lemon, CNN: This is Don Lemon Tonight. And here is our breaking news. 

We're watching the Djokovic decision that should come down during the show and we'll get you on that. But the big breaking news, Kevin McCarthy—you know who he is—he says that he will not cooperate with the January 6th committee, claiming that the committee's only objective is, and I quote here, "to attempt to damage its political opponents."

In fact, the committee is charged with getting to the truth of what happened on January 6th and who is responsible. The committee believes that McCarthy knows more than he is telling about January 6th and the days leading up to it and the then president's state of mind.

So, from the committee's letter, I have it right here and I quote, it says....

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, Lemon said as he continued. Forget the tennis fight for now. This was the big breaking news!

Again, it wasn't just CNN. Over at The One True Channel, Lawrence listed the names of his upcoming guests, then formally started as shown:

Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC: All of that is coming up. But the breaking news of the night is that Kevin McCarthy has proved himself a liar once again. After last year saying he would testify to a committee investigating the attack on the Capitol, tonight, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is refusing to testify to the committee.

In a written statement tonight, Kevin McCarthy said he is refusing to cooperate with the committee because the committee, quote, "wants to interview me about public statements that have been shared with the world and private conversations not remotely related to the violence that unfolded at the capitol. I have nothing else to add."

Lawrence always calls someone a liar. He can be sharper than the others, but that's the value he reliably adds.

Back to our basic point! The stars all knew how to open their TV shows this evening. Last night, everyone opened their shows the same way, with the exciting news about some actual subpoenas, which may simply be ignored.

Here in our utterly childish tribal world, the story has long been the same. Mueller is days away from locking Trump up. (He already has his tax records!) Or maybe Ivanka will get locked up. Or maybe those fake electors! (The ones the Michigan Attorney General doesn't seem willing to charge.)

This silly gruel gets ladled out night after night after night. It's the way we get sent off to bed, possibly alienated from the interests, frameworks, needs and concerns of the wider range of voters.

These investigations are actual news—but to us, they're the only news. Last Wednesday night, the various stars all knew that the dramatic letter about the request had been the day's breaking news. 

That said, one big star within the stable knew how to stretch out this "news." That major star was Rachel Maddow, best known as Our Own Rhodes Scholar. 

This major star had been a bit different—a little bit more—ever since she seceded from Tucker Carlson and set sail on cable news on her own.

She'd been reading the newspaper since she was 4—and she never talked baby talk. She'd never owned a TV set. More on these signs tomorrow. 

More on those auguries tomorrow! But on this latest special night, she too would build her endless opening spiel around that request to McCarthy—but she wouldn't specifically mention this breaking news until she was nine minutes in.

This particular cable star always offers a little bit more. On this evening, she mugged and clowned, and misled and misinformed viewers, for a full nine minutes and 15 seconds before she unveiled the day's major news.

Based upon that very strange nine minutes, she may have been having one of those possibly manic nights. At any rate, she mugged and clowned and entertained and gave us a look at one of the reasons why this nation's in big trouble—why we may be sinking fast.

Tomorrow: The Scholar's opening framework


  1. Yeah, dear Bob, can't teach CNN, the ol' good pedo-network, new tricks. And MSNBC ain't any better...

    Thanks for documenting this small portion of the latest liberal atrocities...

  2. "industry guidelines for prime time cable news product"

    That's well phrased.

    1. Do the same “industry guidelines” apply to Fox News prime time?

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  4. A supremely dumb post from Bob. In the old days, they used to scream “extra extra!” But yes, one of the dumb aspects in the presentation is that something earth shattering must always be going on you might switch stations. Bob knows this but must become snooty about it from time to time, it’s a handy item to yank of the shelf. Especially when MSNBC is talking about horrifying Republican corruption that is lying there for all to see. I suppose Bob thinks the major players refusing to testify about Trump’s rape of our Capitol is unimportant.

    1. I agree with you, but I wouldn’t use the word “dumb” to describe the post. Sinister, maybe.

  5. “These investigations are actual news”

    At least Somerby acknowledges this.

    They are actually important news, about the way our democracy is dying - you know, the theme that Somerby keeps repeating lately, presumably because it’s important. What news is more important, according to Somerby?

    “Or maybe those fake electors!”

    Again, this strikes at a fundamental aspect of our system of government that Republicans seem to be attempting to upend.

    Whether the perpetrators get charged and/or convicted doesn’t mean it isn’t a worrisome development that, along with the cavalier refusal to follow congressional subpoenas, should never be allowed to become the new norm, however much Somerby wishes to shrug his shoulders at it and mock those who care about such things.

    1. It's only worrisome if you are a clueless MSNBC viewer who can't do their own research.

    2. 1:06-It has nothing to do with msnbc. It is a real story with real importance that can be found by doing one’s own research.

      Whatever your bag is, 1:06, whether you hate the mainstream media or Democrats or people who aren’t Bernie Sanders or whatever, you enable Republicans to do what they are doing by calling it made-up bs.

    3. OK - good luck pursuing this nonstory that you see as important and worrisome because of your poor research and gullibility.

    4. It is most definitely an important story. I don't know what you think you've proven. Yes it was reported at the time but it was not recognized as being part of the multi-level criminal conspiracy planned and executed by the ex-president. It was not fully investigated in light of the attempted insurrection on our nation's capital. It was not seen at the time how it fit in with all we've learned this past year thru the congressional committee investigating the Jan 6 attack on our Captital. These people didn't just do this all on their own initiative. Did the Washington Post publish all 7 forged documents exactly in the same format and compare them to the legitimate and legal documents?
      How did they expect these forged documents would be used? I for one would like Maddow and others to keep digging and get to the bottom of this ugly chapter in our nation's history.

      If it is no big deal for a sitting president to instigate multiple state officials to forge documents in order to overturn the election, let me know when in history this happened before. No big deal, right asshole.

    5. Some so-called nonstories have "legs" and end with Republicans resigning from Congress (just kidding, they never do that) and people going to jail for fraud, if not insurrection and sedition.

      We expected Mueller to honor his oath instead of bending to political pressure. It was apparently too much to ask of him. But there are Democrats in office and their appointees in power now. It is reasonable to expect things to be different and for wrongdoing to be punished instead of shielded by corrupt Republicans.

    6. I'm all for her to continue to investigate it too. Let's see what happens. But what happened between now and then that makes it a serious crime? Or did it lay dormant as a serious crime this whole time and now we're just getting around to thinking about it?

    7. It is recently discovered as part of the 1/6 investigation. People affiliated with Trump apparently forged the state seals on 7 different letters from 7 swing states. Those letters contained lists of an alternate set of electors. These forged letters were then sent as an "official" document to the national archives, just as legitimate elector lists are. It was purportedly intended to give cover to Pence so that he could set aside the vote certification and honor the objections being raised by several conservatives in Congress during the vote certification process (while the mob was outside putting pressure on those same Congress members, and Trump and his collaborators such as McCarthy were also pressuring Congress members to object as well). In other words, this is part of the plot to overturn the election, and that is certainly of major importance. It was covered up until the investigation found out about it. It is important evidence because of who was involved in creating the forgeries, their links to Trump and others who are denying involvement.

      Forging the seal of a state onto a document that is then mailed to the US government and represented as an official document is fraud. When it is done in service of an insurrection it is a more major crime. The bit about Michigan not charging the perpetrators is about their strength of evidence to convict those who did it, not the fact that the letters were sent to the National archives. Or it may be that the Michigan AG wishes to coordinate efforts with the 1/6 investigation and their referrals to DOJ for prosecution of those who did this. It doesn't mean there were no forgeries and nothing wrong happened.

    8. It wasn't covered up though. It made the news when it happened.

    9. But what happened between now and then that makes it a serious crime?

      I think at the time, pre Jan. 6, it was seen as a amusing harmless joke.

      Since then we've learned quite a bit about the sinister conspiracy trump and his minions were plotting. Since the time it was reported, our nation's Capital was attacked on the very day these electors were supposed to be counted.

      Don't fucking play dumb.

    10. Has it been proven this was a part of a plot to overturn the election and has this been tied to Trump?

    11. Wait for it. It is coming.

    12. 2:37, only if you watch one of Trump’s speeches.

    13. It's true though you idiots will swallow anything Maddow gives you - even after Russiagate. Let's see if this one doesn't turn out to be total bs.

  6. How is Kevin McCarthy not a liar?

  7. "Forget the tennis fight for now. This was the big breaking news!"

    Actually, he said that he would interrupt the broadcast if a decision about the visa was handed down -- that is the opposite of "forgetting" the "tennis fight" which is actually not about tennis at all but about whether a nation will enforce a vaccine mandate on a major celebrity.

  8. "This major star had been a bit different—a little bit more—ever since she seceded from Tucker Carlson and set sail on cable news on her own."

    Notice Somerby's language here. He says Maddow "seceded," using the language of the right wing disaffected who don't want to be part of the US anymore. Maddow didn't secede from Carlson. She auditioned for a show by being a guest on Carlson's program, did well, and was then given her own show. Meanwhile, Carlson himself seceded from MSNBC to join Fox News. The term is appropriate for him because he left the network to move from mainstream media to the right wing noise machine, a change that has political implications, where Maddow's does not.

    But this is how Somerby put his thumb on the scales and tries hard to malign Maddow, without much to work with. It is where Somerby's animosity is most obvious. Word choices like these.

  9. "On this evening, she mugged and clowned, and misled and misinformed viewers, for a full nine minutes and 15 seconds before she unveiled the day's major news."

    How many days into this week must we be before Somerby finally tells us something inaccurate that Maddow said that would justify the word "misinformed" in his repetitious accusation? How many days is Somerby going to keep us waiting?

    It really does seem like Somerby is most irritated by the traits in Maddow that he himself posesses. Somerby routinely teases his upcoming topics. In Somerby's case, he often forgets to talk about those teased topics at all, especially when they involve accusations against female writers or someone like Maddow.

    First there is an accusation (voiced as a whining complaint), then a promise to give us all the details in a forthcoming essay (often blamed on lack of transcripts), then he repeats his accusations a few more times (in case we missed them), and then he goes on to some entirely different topic -- does he think he has done the job already, without having to supply any evidence of Maddow's humongous crime?

    So, where's the beef? What exactly was the misinformation she provided in those 9-1/2 minutes where Somerby had to wait to hear about a topic he tells us he had been hearing about all day long?

    It never seems to occur to Somerby that if the same breaking news is being repeated all day by other hosts, it might be important to Maddow's success that she talk about something else to keep viewers engaged. That would make her 9-1/2 minutes important, a method of providing her viewers with something they haven't already heard. And sometimes it may be about herself instead of Kevin McCarthy (who apparently was discussed later) or may involved her attempts at humor (which may not appeal to Somerby if it isn't Saget's brand of filth).

    Did Somerby's youth never teach him that fine old hippie phrase "Different strokes for different folks"? If Maddow is not to his taste, that doesn't make her a bad journalist. So far, he has told us nothing she said that was inaccurate or misleading or misinformation. Until he does that, this remains a matter of personal dislike or spite or (whisper it softly) bigotry, but cannot be about her competence as a cable news host.

  10. How did it become Maddow's fault that liberals would like to see the perpetrators of crimes against our nation be brought to justice?

    Of course we want McCarthy to be subpoenaed and those who submitted the lists of fake electors tried for fraud and all of the 1/6 insurrectionists who engaged in violence put in jail (whether they cry real tears or crocodile ones). We want to see this happen so that it will be a warning and a deterrent to others who might attack our government, and thus be a protection of an entity that ensures the safety and security of all who live in the USA.

    Why doesn't Somerby want such things? He seems to only care about getting Maddow thrown off TV, and that makes him a very strange duck, as a liberal. Of course, as a conservative, that would be perfectly normal.

  11. When there is important news, such as the minority speaker in congress being asked to testify about an insurrection, why wouldn't all of the cable news hosts open with it on the day it happens? No coordination is needed, other than the news itself happening. Similarly, on the day the trade towers fell, no one needed to tell TV news reporters what to talk about.

    It might be odd if Maddow had not talked about McCarthy at all, but she DID, just like all of the other hosts. But she did it later in the day because he show starts later than theirs. And she talked about other things first, not other news but what Somerby calls "clowning". Somerby had already heard the major news because he had watched those other shows (presumably). It seems likely other viewers might have too. So what is the harm in delaying her McCarthy reporting for 9-1/2 minutes? I fail to see the gravity of Somerby's complaint today.

    Does Somerby think that Maddow would have clowned around before reporting that the trade towers had been attacked? Somerby himself calls the McCarthy story not especially earthshaking. Why is Maddow not permitted to make a similar judgment and delay her report on McCarthy? It seems like Maddow would be damned in Somerby's eyes if she immediately led with the McCarthy story, implying that it was majorly important, or if she delayed it, implying that it was less important, which is what she did -- damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. It doesn't sound like there is anything Maddow does that would please Somerby, and thank God she isn't trying. It would be a major waste of her time to try to please assholes like Somerby, who just cannot watch a female cable news host without gritting his teeth.

  12. "On this evening, she mugged and clowned, and misled and misinformed viewers, for a full nine minutes and 15 seconds before she unveiled the day's major news."

    Does Somerby have so little going on in his life that he would sit there for 9-1/2 minutes with a stopwatch in his hand, timing the intro to Maddow's show? He needs to get a life.

  13. My boyfriend wants to know why Somerby gets to clown around for the 9-1/2 minutes it took to read his essay, instead of discussing the important stuff, such as those slates of fake electors manufactured to overturn the 2020 election and what is being done about it. What's up with that (in the immortal words of Seinfeld, who was a better comic than Saget and much less filthy).

    1. It's not important. It's a non-story foisted upon your dimwitted boyfriend by charlatans.

    2. You're going to need to tell your boo the story is the "type of product blue state cable had been selling us for years, dating back to the days when the fiercely independent Robert Mueller was going to lock Trump up."

    3. I love my boo too much to feed him lies like yours.

    4. I’m sure Mueller would have named the Republican who isn’t a bigot in his report if there was one.

    5. Mueller wasn’t able to name a single Republican who isn’t a bigot, any more than 1:22 could.

    6. @1:22 doesn't know that Mueller was a Republican with Barr and Trump looking over his shoulder.

      Occasionally a lower level Republican elected to office tells the media what it is like to fear for your family when the death threats start rolling in, after Trump sics his rabid mob on them. It is why election officials and public health officials and mayors have been resigning all over the country and why those who voted to impeach Trump are not running for reelection.

      Should bullies be running our country like this? I don't think so and that means we need to be persistent in bringing these miscreants to justice, no matter how long it takes.

      Those who mock or impede that effort are taking the conservative's side, whether the own it or not. That includes Somerby.

  14. “Or maybe those fake electors! (The ones the Michigan Attorney General doesn't seem willing to charge.)”

    1. Now the troll farms are using regional dialects (y'all) to fool readers into thinking that they aren't part of an ongoing social media campaign to help the next pro-Putin conservative Trump-like daddy figure win election.

    2. Reminds me of the famous time a white Republican went online and said, "As a black man..."

  15. Notice how frequently Somerby has used the word "manic" in today's essay, referring to Maddow. This is another thumb on the scale as he tries to discredit her reporting without presenting any evidence whatsoever. I agree with mh that the timing of this attack (to coincide with her reporting on the alternate elector lists) is suspicious and sinister.

    Why is manic a dirty adjective? Because it is associated with mental illness and because Maddow has previously said that she is bipolar (the current name for manic depression). The many people who are bipolar lead normal lives, sometimes with help of medication, but they are not impaired to the point of being unable to competently report the news and host a show. Mike Wallace did it during his career, without the help of modern medications.

    Just as Somerby invokes mental illness to excuse Trump for his actions, he uses it to attack Maddow (without ever presenting evidence that she has done anything wrong). It is despicable when someone does this, because it harms not just Maddow (who can defend herself) but also the many people similarly struggling with disorders while leading their lives. It was brave of Maddow to tell people, she didn't have to, but it is wrong for Somerby to use that against her (in the total absence of any other evidence that she is not doing her job well). The ADA protects people with mental disorders in the workplace -- but not from assholes like Somerby.

    Here are his not-so-subtle digs at Maddow's mental health:

    "This major star had been a bit different—a little bit more—ever since she seceded from Tucker Carlson and set sail on cable news on her own."

    "Based upon that very strange nine minutes, she may have been having one of those possibly manic nights."

    Others who didn't hate Maddow's guts (why?) might call Maddow's exuberance charisma. But there are some men who dislike bubbly, talkative, women. And some men who use the traits rewarded in femininity against women who attempt serious careers in male-dominated fields. Maddow's inner struggles have nothing to do with her performance as a journalist. If Somerby thinks they do, he needs to present some actual evidence of how she has misled or misinformed anyone. Simply saying this, repeatedly, is character assassination. Without evidence, I for one will assume he is lying. Because that is what conservative propagandists do when they are desperate to undercut a major negative news story and they have no recourse against the substance of the story itself. Attack the messenger.

  16. Bob was talking the other day about an upcoming piece about absolving Trump because he believes what he is saying. It seems to be proving a tough assignment he has given himself.,So, back to Maddow in the lamest possible way. A default position.

    1. Maddow may fully believe what she says too. Would that absolve her in Somerby's eyes? I doubt it.

  17. I'm not sure why Somerby doesn't think we would believe him if he simply said that every other MSNBC and CNN host led with the story about Kevin McCarthy. I don't think we needed to see those excerpts and they seem like padding. That raises the question of "who cares how long Somerby's essays are?" and whether Somerby is getting paid by the word to post here daily. If he weren't, it doesn't make sense why he would have cut and pasted those excerpts that add nothing to his point.

  18. From Talking Points Memo:

    "New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who was one of the GOP’s top recruitment targets for the 2022 Senate midterms, was “pretty close” to throwing his hat into the race — until he found out his only purpose in the Senate would be to help Republicans keep the whole chamber dysfunctional."

  19. "Though the Trump Org. spokesperson, the ex-president and his family went after James personally. The company didn't respond to any of the specific allegations, only to say that the "facts" were "misrepresented."

    So, the Trump organization is responding to charges against them by attacking the Attorney General of New York, not by addressing the charges themselves.

    This is exactly what Somerby is doing today. He is attempting to defend the charges in the stories Maddow has been reporting by attacking Maddow herself, and not her newsreporting but her personality. Because this is how Republicans do things, from Trump down to MTG and Boebert.

    In the old days, we would think that someone who attacked the AG instead of defending the charges was doing so because they had no defense and were guilty as hell. But Trump lies about everything and attacks people for no good reason, so when he attacks someone strategically it just seems like more of the same. But with Somerby, he used to make some reasoned complaints against the media, so his unsupported attacks against Maddow these days seem more motivated. It is just unclear what is motivating them. They could just be misogyny, but they could also be part of a paid campaign to kneecap a liberal media MVP. Or both. Or something else.

  20. "Breaking news" means about as much as "low sodium" on food labels, except they have opposite effects on your blood pressure