CREEPING HANNITYISM: Maddow tells a favorite tale!


And clips a favorite quote: When people tell stories on cable news shows, should their stories be accurate?

On Thursday night, Rachel Maddow told one of her favorite tales. But the story wasn’t true on February 1, when she built a long opening segment around it. And it wasn’t true Thursday night.

In and of itself, this particular story isn’t hugely important. Maddow likes the story because it lets her roll her eyes at Those Impossibly Stupid Republicans.

That said, the story just isn’t accurate. Back in February, it took us about two minutes to determine that fact.

Background: In 1994, satirist Lalo Alcaraz created a very funny character as a way of opposing California’s Proposition 187, the ballot measure which sought to deny state services to undocumented residents. The character’s name was Daniel D. Portado.

Supposedly, Portado was head of a conservative anti-immigration group, Hispanics Against Liberal Takeover (HALTO). The goal of the group was to supervise the self-deportation of California Hispanics.

On February 1, Maddow spent a great deal of time on this topic. (Alcaraz appeared for an interview.) Last night, she revisited the topic during her program’s first segment.

Her premise was the same each time. According to Maddow, Alcaraz invented a satirical term, “self-deportation,” in 1994. But Governor Pete Wilson was so clueless that he didn’t get the joke, which was aimed at himself.

As a result, he began using the satirical term himself!

Last night, Maddow rolled her eyes, once again, at Wilson’s pitiful cluelessness. To watch this full segment, click here:
MADDOW (6/21/12): It’s political satire at its very best, right? And like all of the very best political satire, it’s close enough to something that seems like a perversion of the truth that some people actually didn’t get the joke—like for example California’s Republican governor Pete Wilson, who was a specific target of that satire. He did not get the joke.

In an interview with the New York Times columnist William Safire in 1994, Mr. Wilson explained without irony that the goal of Prop 187 was, in fact, self-deportation. “You will self-deport.” He used exactly the phrase that was being used as satire about him without understanding its satirical origins.
Wilson failed to understand the satirical origins of the term, “self-deportation!” And sure enough! Last night, as she neared the nine-minute mark, Maddow played tape of Candidate Romney using the same term this year.

Incredibly, Romney has missed the joke too! How dumb, how clueless can these people be? In her standard mega-self-confident way, Maddow drove home the shiv:
MADDOW: “Self-deportation!” Invented by brilliant Latino satirists in California making fun of anti-immigrant Republicans, now being embraced, apparently completely without irony, by anti-immigrant Republicans. Pete Wilson was that guy in the 1990s. Mitt Romney is that guy right now.
These fellows have no sense of irony! In February, Maddow built her entire opening segment around this snark-laden premise. Last night, her first nine minutes were based on this idea.

Sadly, her premise is wrong. Alcaraz did some very funny work in 1994—but he didn’t invent the term “self-deportation.” The term had been in use since at least 1988, when it first appears in the current Nexis archives.

In February, it took us about two minutes to establish this fact, though we didn’t do a post on the topic. How did we come by this arcane knowledge? We engaged in a practice called “fact-checking.”

This practice was devised long ago. The practice is routinely avoided on Maddow’s fact-challenged program.

Was “self-deportation” invented in 1994, as a satirical term? Did Pete Wilson fail to get the joke? Sorry. Within the current Nexis archives, the term first appears in February 1988, used in an AP report about a Taiwanese dissident. (“Immigration officials said Hsu agreed to self-deportation, meaning he would be free to return to the Philippines.”)

In September of that year, the term appeared in the Boston Globe, used by Frank Sharry, an immigration rights activist in Boston. ("The Immigration and Naturalization Service in this area is not nearly as aggressive as it is in other areas," Sharry was quoted saying. "They seem to hope employer sanctions will squeeze people out of work and force them to self-deport.")

In 1990, the term appeared in the New York Times, in a report about a Canadian NHL player who had immigration problems in the United States. (“If he leaves the United States to play a game in Canada, his action will constitute voluntary self-deportation, and he will not be allowed to return, said James Montgomery, district director of the Detroit office of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.”)

By 1992, the term was being used in the Washington Post in a report on Marlene Chalmers Cooke, the flamboyant, Bolivian-born wife of Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke. (“Cooke ran into a problem, however, when she left the country briefly on a trip before that appeal was resolved, the sources said. ‘It was in effect a self-deportation,’ said one source.”)

Duh. “Self-deportation” was part of official immigration-speak long before 1994. (We’ve presented four examples from a larger selection.) Earlier this year, it took us about two minutes to establish this fact.

But Maddow has a story she likes. Perhaps believing her story is true, she told it again last night.

In her story, Wilson and Romney are laughable dummies who didn’t know that the term was invented for satirical use. In fact, it’s Maddow herself who has erred about the origins of this term, in two long presentations in which she poured on the snark and displayed vast self-assurance.

In itself, this doesn’t hugely matter—but Maddow always has to be fact-checked. And uh-oh! In the course of Thursday’s report, she made a more significant error. She quoted Romney in a way which was plainly misleading.

The short, clipped quote was cadged from a GOP debate on February 22. Below, you see the tape Maddow played from that debate, which was hosted by CNN’s John King live and direct from Arizona.

As she introduced the tape, Maddow told viewers that Romney praised Arizona’s controversial immigration law as a model for the nation:
MADDOW (6/21/12): That hugely controversial, hugely divisive legislation in Arizona, constitutional or not, is seen by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, he says, as a model for the nation.

(Start of videotape)

KING: Should there be aggressive, seek-them-out, find them and arrest them, as Sheriff Arpaio advocates?

ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model here in Arizona.

(End of videotape)
If you believe what you see on this program, that was the end of Romney’s statement. As presented, the tape makes it seem like Romney was endorsing Arpaio’s draconian approach. Maddow specifically said that Romney was endorsing the controversial Arizona law as a model for the nation.

But if you review Romney’s full statement, that just isn’t what he said. Below, you see his full response to King. What was he praising as “a model?” He was referring to the use of E-Verify, a federal program which Obama semi-endorses:
KING: Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them, as the Sheriff Arpaio advocates?

ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model here in Arizona. They passed a law here that says—that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on E-Verify. This E-Verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally.

And as a result of E-Verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent. So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn't doing.

And I will drop those lawsuits on day one. I'll also complete the fence. I'll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence. And I will make sure we have an E-Verify system and require employers to check the documents of workers, and to check E-Verify. And if an employer hires someone that has not gone through E-Verify, they're going to get sanctioned just like they do for not paying their taxes.

You do that, and just as Arizona is finding out, you can stop illegal immigration. It's time we finally did it.
Implicitly, Romney endorsed the Arizona law, saying he’d drop the lawsuit against it. But when he said “I think you see a model here in Arizona,” he was talking about the use of E-Verify, not the controversial Arizona law.

(Beyond that, he wasn’t endorsing Arpaio’s draconian approach. In theory, E-Verify leads to so-called self-deportation as it becomes hard to find work. This replaces the need for Arpaio’s approach, the method King asked about.)

Whatever you think of Romney’s immigration views (or lack of same), that’s what he said that night. Maddow routinely plays the shortened quote; she then tells viewers that Romney was recommending the controversial Arizona law as a model for the nation.

(How tightly clipped is Maddow’s quote? On her videotape, you can see Romney’s lips continuing to move as he’s cut after just eleven words. This is often a clue.)

On Wednesday night, Lawrence O’Donnell did a very good segment in which he savaged Sean Hannity for clipping a quote of Obama’s in a similar way. Granted, he mainly played tape of Jon Stewart nailing Hannity for the clip job.

Hannity’s clip job was worse than Maddow’s. But as MSNBC keeps chasing Fox, it seems the leaders of our warring tribes may be reaching some points of agreement.

In each tribe, our leaders enjoy telling us things which aren’t true, preferably with plenty of attitude. And they like to clip the quotes of the other tribe’s leaders.

Alcaraz didn’t invent the term “self-deportation,” although his work was very sharp and very funny. But so what! It feels good to say that he did—to mock the dummies who are so dumb that they didn’t and still don’t realize.

Fact-checking is a major pain. Increasingly, this is a third major point on which warring leaders agree.

The greatest love of all: Maddow’s strangest segment Thursday night was her last, in which she rampaged through the fields chasing Scott Brown again.

Segments like this are very strange. This kind of work is very bad for our tribe’s intellectual health.

Also, note the way Maddow continues to name-drop her own name in this segment. (This seems to be her favorite pastime.) In the segment, she hammers Brown for disguised forms of bragging.

Further agreement! We’d have to say that she was engaged in a form of this practice herself!


  1. Great catch on the "self-deport" language. And the concept of self-deportation lives: In 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched a program called "Scheduled Departure" to encourage illegal immigrants to self-deport. It was rolled up after a few weeks when only a handful volunteered.

    Rachel can pretend that it's a satirical term, but it was an official federal government policy, at least briefly, as late as four years ago.

  2. None of this changes the fact that the concept of self-deportation as an actual policy is ridiculous on its face.

  3. The Whiny MaddowphileJune 23, 2012 at 10:19 AM


    You need to balance this criticism with some talk about how super valuable everything else Rachel does is!

  4. Rachel Maddow was on Bill Maher last night. A clip was shown of her insisting that another guest not interrupt her so she could complete her thought. Then she did the same thing in the live portion of the show. Then she proceeded to interrupt other guests, not permitting them the same courtesy of completing their sentences. In my view she came across as a rude loudmouth, while the Reason Editor came across as intelligent because he actually knew facts about topics such as fracking, while Maddow and especially Ruffalo did not.

  5. You know, I got hooked on this blog more than a decade ago, and still visit it every day hoping that once again he'll have something original and thoughtful to say.

    But once again, today I am treated to another screed about Rachel Maddow that I can scroll through without reading because I know exactly what it says.

    Bob, you've finally bored me to death. Adios, and it was fun while it lasted.

    1. Baloney! The Daily Howler has ALWAYS been very repetitious. That's not new at all. There's a reason it's repetitious: we keep seeing the same behavior from our press corps.

    2. Oh no! Not you! I think I speak for all Daily Howler readers, and Somerby himself, when I say losing you was our greatest fear!

      Is there any point in living anymore?

  6. No one can defend Maddow indefinitely. Those that try eventually take their ball and go home.

  7. Maddow is a clown who wears some of the largest clown shoes out there. Endlessly deceitful.

  8. I watched the debate and saw and heard Romney use the term “Self-deportation!”

    'nuff said!

  9. "Implicitly, Romney endorsed the Arizona law, saying he’d drop the lawsuit against it. But when he said “I think you see a model here in Arizona,” he was talking about the use of E-Verify, not the controversial Arizona law."

    Implicitly? He was talking only about E-verify?

    Bob, on which planet do you now reside?

  10. Here's a thought. Rather than endless "gotcha" stories (even accurate ones) elaborated with condescending snark or self-righteous bravado, how about substantive reporting? I mean stories by a Rachel (or real reporter who could replace or supplement her), not Bob S. (who doesn't pretend to be a reporter or to oversee a reporting operation).

    Of course, that would cost money. Maybe if Rachel got paid $250,000 a year (a nice fat salary, after all), several real researchers/reporters could be hired by (MS)NBC at still very good salaries. Reminds me of the way high-paid stars eat up so much of the budget for a Hollywood movie (when the best acting often comes from "character actors" whose names we usually do not remember).

    1. I don't think anyone would watch "substantive reporting" of the sort a corporate-owned media would give them. Maddow's audience is getting what it wants, and other audiences are getting what they want by watching Hollywood Wives and Jersey Shore and the like. One audience laughs at the made-up antics of Snooki; the other laughs at the made-up antics of Republicans and conservatives. The dynamic is the same, and it's devastating for the country, and has to be broken if we're going to get out of this slow death spiral.

  11. Self-deportation was used in the plain meaning of the word in the previous cases mentioned in the post. Self-deportation was used to represent individuals who under certain circumstances by returning to their country of origin would in effect, "self-deport."

    What make Willard's and Pete's statements ridiculous are that the goof balls advanced "self-deportation" as a program concept for immigration reform, and that is worthy of rolling one's eyes. It is a big difference and Rachael Maddow saw it as I do and I'm certain many others as well.

    In this particular case it is you who is twisting the story to fit a preconceived prejudice not Rachael Maddow. I see her weaknesses too, but whether or not her mistakes require relentless criticism is questionable.

    I agree with the concept that reporters, liberal and conservative, should be held to a higher standard of professional journalism, but that idea is not advanced by practicing reporting in the same or similar manner that is being criticized.

    1. "What make Willard's and Pete's statements ridiculous are that the goof balls advanced "self-deportation" as a program concept for immigration reform, and that is worthy of rolling one's eyes."

      The biggest problem the left has today is that it prizes "rolling one's eyes" above all else.

      Condescending snark directed at those crazy clueless straightlaced bumpkin rubes - the same ones that keep kicking the shit out of us come election time.

      But hey, at least we get to pleasure ourselves over how sophisticated and hip we are!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I concede to the fact that republican leaders and radical right wingers are far better at pushing people's buttons than anyone on the left, but part of the mojo of republican arguments is that they receive plenty of support in the msm. Pew Research stated that between January of this year and April 39% of the news coverage was pro Willard and only 18% was pro President Obama.

      IMHO writers and journalists who arrogantly believe they have the intelligence to manipulate others even though they have no idea of the consequences of their mendacity, are deliberately harming the democratic republic. Therefore, they are guilty of sedition.

      An oligarchy, plutocracy, corporatism and fascism are potentially as dangerous to a democratic republic, possibly more so than international terrorism, because they are the result a sickness that is nurtured by authoritarians, (of which there are many,) from within the republic.

      If there were any decent politicians remaining they would continue to reinforce the principles of a democratic republic; instead, of making excuses for, creating slogans for and manipulating toward totalitarian styles of governance.

    4. Earlier on another thread, someone tried a thumbnail sketch of Maddow.

      But this has it perfectly.

      Rachel Maddow is, precisely, a "writer and journalist who arrogantly believes she has the intelligence to manipulate others even though she has no idea of the consequences of their mendacity."

      Thanks gcwall.

  12. It may have been 1994 when self-deportation was used satirically to describe the republican approach to immigration reform. It can't be determined from your article the exact date that self-deportation was used in this manner.

  13. A comparable media misrepresentation was Andrea Mitchell's deceptive editing of a Romney quote on NBC News. The Dowdified quote made it appear that Romney was amazed by Wawa supermarket's sandwich-ordering system. He was actually contrasting the over-regulation of the public sector with the efficiency of the private sector. He used the electronic ordering system at WAWAs as an example. After widespread criticism, Mitchell was forced to "clarify" her report.

    IMHO this incident shows the power of today's internet in correcting mainstream media errors. Bloggers, including Bob Somerby, have made it more difficult for the media to get away with crude mischaracterizations. If today's sophisticated bloggers had been around in 2000, perhaps the mischaracterizations of Gore's comments would have been refuted real time.

  14. I'm told that Rachel wrote a book, so clearly she (or her interns) has the ability to do actual research when she cares to.

    1. You're assuming that she actually wrote the book, of course, and that it includes meaningful and accurate facts. I've been suckered into several of the "latest and greatest" books (What Happened, and The Operators for instance) and found them to be filled with nothing but trivial and largely unsourced gossip. If any research was done for them the result of it was not included in the book.

  15. The "over regulation" of the public sector is required to protect how taxpayer dollars are spent, (not always successfully,) and the main thrust of public sector work is service rather than profit. The most efficient football quarterbacks complete about sixty percent of their passes, not one-hundred percent. The players' goal is to play the best they can. The owners of a team's goal is to maximize profit. Most arguments against "over regulation" would eliminate government services altogether, making them one-hundred percent efficient in their minds.

    A democratic republic is not the most efficient style of governance, but when properly conceived and advanced it is the most respectful of citizens.

    I wouldn't get too excited about efficiency considering that it served as an excuse for the more nightmarish attributes of fascism.

  16. Public sector budgets are also miniscule when compared to the private sector. When I worked for the government our gray steel desks were bought in the fifties. We were the last to have modern technology improvements, (imagine the excitement over receiving IBM Selectrics.) We had to account for all administration supplies, equipment repair, (rarely replaced,) and the interiors of buildings were painted or repaired in over twenty years. Profit taking is not the end all and be all of a successful society, but when it is war is inevitable. Society must be careful of becoming too punitive by nature, because that nature can be sourced to pathologial feelings of superiority, (fascism is its heir.)

    1. gewall -- yes, the purpose of regulation is to try to protect the public. However, agencies tend to add regulations indefinitely. Eventually, the regs become unreasonably burdensome. Romney's example was an optometrist who had to fill out a 33-page form because he moved his office to another address within the same town.

  17. It is sad to see how irrelevant Bob is becoming as he quibbles over words to attack those friendly to the issues he supposedly supports.

    1. Unknown what are you referring to. Somersby us clearly not supporting innacyrate reporting to further your point as lung as it is done by a "friend"

      I think that's the while point. If it is wrong for Hannity them it is wrong for Maddow.

      Hypocrisy is the greatest luxury!

      As Bartcop, the savant of Tulsa, often writes. "If you have to lie to make your point you don't have a point"

      Maddow is am entertainer like Limbaugh, Hannity and Oreily. You can quibble about motives or respond to the facts presented

  18. I can't watch Maddow. She's so verbose and so smug. How can people stand her, honestly? Speaking as a leftwinger.

    1. What I can't stand is the constant girlish giggling.

  19. This post really shows of useful, and how bad The Daily Howler can be, even in the same post.
    As to the "Self-Deportation" you could MAYBE strain to defend Maddow in terms of the use of the term being in a specific context fair from the ones The Daily Howler mentions, but the bottom line is She is being an entertainer, smugly confusing the issues and being way, way to cute. Fair enough.
    As to the rest, PUUUULLLLEEAAAZZZZZZEEEEEEE! Romney was asked a specific, direct question, which he ignored and started answering a different question, sort of. When Politicos do this, they are not entitled to the benefit of the endless doubt the Daily Howler is always so hot to extend to Romney.
    Romney endorsed the way they are doing things in Arizona, and only failed to endorse the most draconian measures (though, carefully, he didn't distance himself from them either), although he may also "implicitly" endorse them.
    Given the question and the answer, it is The Daily Howler who is telling you what Romney REALLY meant, not what he said. The Maddow snippet was perfectly fair, and representative the whole, slippery answer. The Daily Howler is special pleading, playing his readers for rubes. "I think you see a model here in Arizona," It's what he said and what he meant.
    Romney is having to walk back the positions he took in the primary, it is only fair that the press view this typical voter manipulation under the toughest scrutiny. You have to wonder if Bob would want Romney to HAVE to answer directly about his immigration policy, I mean, wouldn't that be like asking him about his goofy religion or his history of beating up the weak kid in High School? From the Daily Howler's viewpoint, this election is shaping up to be a referendum on the Bain Pension Funds, period.

    1. Greg, you just don't get it.

      You see, self-deportation wasn't a term coined by a Latino comic in 1994. It was used as far back as 1088.


      And of course, Mitt didn't endorse Arpaio's "draconian measures" although Arpaio was Mitt's Arizona campaign chairman in 2008, and had lots to say back then about how he and Mitt were on the same page on immigration.

      It's that "Etch-A-Sketch" thing you know. Everything that Romney said or did before yesterday doesn't count.

    2. Ooops! Of course, I meant 1988, although the term might have been used during the Battle of Hastings.

  20. What a waste of words!
    Trying to read the minds of various people to tell if they assosiated self deportation with satire or not? wow.
    How come the old posts are really good and now not so much?

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