Scandal clowning reaches new heights!


Maddow trumps pitiful Matthews: To appreciate the depth of last evening’s scandal clowning, you have to consider the opening segment from Hardball the night before.

Remember the key rule of scandal entertainment: Each night, the TV stars must convey the impression that they’ve just uncovered an exciting new scandal.

On most nights, that won’t be true. On those nights, the stars will pretend.

There has to be a new scandal each night! On Tuesday night, frothing and foaming, Chris Matthews started his program as shown below.

As you can see, this opening passage is a masterwork of scandal clowning. This remarkable passage ought to go straight to the Cable BS Hall of Fame:
MATTHEWS (2/11/14): Christie claims executive privilege! Let’s play Hardball.

Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in Washington. Let’s start tonight with this report out of New Jersey that says the Christie administration will keep the governor’s staff from testifying before legislative committees.

Does this mean Governor Christie is claiming some sort of executive privilege, that he’s asserting the right to have his staff refuse to testify before committees, even those digging into the scandal involving the deliberate jamming up of traffic on the George Washington Bridge?

While a spokesman for Christie denies this is his claim, would this be Christie’s ultimate move to protect himself, by claiming his right to keep his top staff people, especially his chief of staff and counsel, from answering questions from the Democrats investigating him in Trenton, to resort to Richard Nixon’s defense that even in a case involving possible criminal charges, that the papers and communications of top government officials are beyond the reach of the law?

Well, tonight, we look at Chris Christie’s latest gambit, his administration’s declaration of independence from those in Trenton, even those investigating the infamous bridge scandal.
Wow! Let’s marvel at the perfect bullshit found in those five paragraphs:

As he started, a frothing Matthews announced that Christie was claiming executive privilege. But uh-oh:

By paragraph 3, Matthews’ stance had changed. By paragraph 3, he was asking a question: Is Christie making that claim?

In paragraph 4, things got worse. Matthews revealed that Christie’s spokesman says he isn’t claiming executive privilege! In response, Chris went subjunctive:

Excitedly, he suggested that this would be Christie’s ultimate move if he were actually making it! And of course, as required by Hard Pundit Law, he then compared Christie to Nixon!

Matthews finished his opening statement in a time-honored way. He said he’d examine Christie’s “declaration of independence”—the declaration Christie’s spokesman said he hasn’t made!

That progression represents the Platonic ideal of cable news buffoonism. In a rational world, news executives would take this buffoon by the scruff of the neck and kick him out into the street.

You don't live in any such world! Indeed, things only got worse as Matthews tried to explain what had him frothing so.

What had Matthews so excited? In this passage, he referred to “a remarkable story” which had appeared in the New Jersey press.

According to Matthews, Christie was claiming executive privilege! Except, he said he wasn’t!
MATTHEWS: A remarkable story hit the Jersey press today. A local news outlet called New Jersey Spotlight ran this report: "The Christie administration informed state senator Robert Gordon, Bergen, chairman of the Senate legislative oversight committee, that it is Christie administration policy that no members of the governor’s office are allowed to appear before legislative committees."

Well, in this particular case, it was Christie’s office stonewalling the state’s legislative oversight committee, which wanted access to Hurricane Sandy officials inside the governor’s office. But what this means for the state’s super-committee, which is leading the investigation into the bridge scandal itself, is the much bigger question.

We reached out to Christie’s office today and got a response from Colin Reed—that’s the governor’s spokesman—who said, in part, quote, "It doesn’t exist. It would be inaccurate to say this policy exists." So we’re getting crossed signals here.
In fact, the “remarkable story” in New Jersey Spotlight devoted exactly two paragraphs to the claim which had Matthews worked up. Spotlight quoted state senator Gordon saying that it was “a Christie administration policy” that no members of the governor’s office could appear before legislative committees.

Christie’s spokesman had told Matthews that Gordon was wrong, that no such policy exists. And uh-oh! When the cable star brought Gordon on, the hapless state senator said the same thing!

He did so several times:
MATTHEWS: Let’s go to Senator Gordon. This is strange. You got—according to word we’re getting in our reporting, you got a very clear declaration from the administration in Trenton saying they’re not going to let staff people testify before your committee. And now we’re hearing from the spokesman for the governor, “Oh, no, there is no such policy.”

How do we put that together?

GORDON: Well, Chris, I don’t know about a policy. I was told clearly through my staff that no one from the governor’s office would be available to testify on the Sandy restoration program, which we were investigating today. I should say we were told–

MATTHEWS: Well, but that article–

GORDON: —that a cabinet member would be available, but no one from the governor’s office, particularly the person we wanted, who is the czar of the Sandy recovery program.

MATTHEWS: Well, according to the article that came out today in New Jersey Spotlight, it says the Christie administration policy is that no members of the governor’s office are allowed to appear. Was that what they told you, they had a—your staff people? Did the administration–

GORDON: I wasn’t—I didn’t hear the word “policy.” I was just told no one would be permitted from the governor’s office to testify.
This was already pathetic, although it would get a bit worse.

As you can see above, Gordon seemed to have played played a bit of “Pass It On.” Gordon had been relying on something a staffer had said; some Christie staffer said something to some Gordon staffer, who had then said something to Gordon. Meanwhile, this seemed to concern some particular request for testimony about one particular issue, not some sort of “policy.”

Speaking to Matthews, Gordon now said that he “didn’t hear the word ‘policy,’” “didn’t know about a policy.” That’s strange, because that’s what Gordon had been quoted saying in the “remarkable story” which had Matthews so overwrought.

Just for the record, Matthews’ segment eventually fell apart even further. In this passage, Gordon explained that his committee going to get the information it needed:
GORDON: The hearing was at 10 o’clock this morning. I heard late yesterday afternoon that no one from the governor’s office would be coming. We did hear that the commissioner of community affairs would make himself available at a date that worked for him. He’s a— He had a tough schedule today. And I spoke with him, and we are going to work out the scheduling so that he can testify. And I would say that he probably knows more about this problem than the folks in the governor’s office. So I’m confident that we’re going to get the information that we need.
Truly, this was pitiful. But so what? Matthews turned it into a spittle-flecked segment which ran more than thirteen minutes. All through the embarrassing, bungled segment, he frothed about a Nixonian executive privilege policy which doesn’t quite seem to exist.

On Tuesday night, that was a pitiful segment. But good God! One night later, on Wednesday night, Maddow took this same ridiculous story and conned her viewers with it.

Adding to the air of deception, she framed it in her now-standard way: The Maddow show was breaking some news! One night after Matthews’ meltdown, here’s how her bullshit began:
MADDOW (2/12/14): We have yet more new reporting tonight on the Chris Christie bridge scandal in New Jersey, new information that has not been reported elsewhere tonight about what could be the next big fight in this investigation. Or maybe what we’re about to say about it tonight will head it off. Kumbaya!
As always, Maddow was pretending to have “new information,” “yet more new reporting.” Her new information “has not been reported elsewhere tonight,” she said, failing to note that her new information drove Hardball’s opening segment one night before.

After killing a bit of time, she told her viewers that Tuesday had brought “a rather shocking revelation” in New Jersey Spotlight. She was discussing the same report with which Matthews struck out Tuesday night:
MADDOW: Yesterday [Tuesday], there was a rather shocking revelation involving that part of the story when New Jersey Spotlight published this piece, look at the headline here, "Rule prevents staff from testifying in Bridgegate, says Christie administration."

Senator Robert Gordon, who’s chairman of the legislative oversight committee in New Jersey, he announced yesterday that he had been told by the Christie administration, that it’s Christie administration policy that no members of the governor’s office are allowed to appear before legislative committees. Senator Gordon told the New Jersey Spotlight, quote, "This is a Christie administration policy. There was no such policy before this in previous administrations.
Twenty-six hours before, Gordon told Matthews that he never heard anything about a “policy.” Matthews reported that Christie’s spokesman said there was no such policy.

Pay no attention to that! As we’ve told you, the rules of scandal culture are clear: Scandal hustlers like Maddow need new excitement each night.

After killing a bit more time, this is what she said. Note the way she kept pretending that this was exciting and new:
MADDOW: Senator Gordon wanted testimony from people who work in the governor’s office on a matter sort of unrelated to Bridgegate, it was something having to do with Hurricane Sandy recovery. But if it is a blanket policy of the Christie administration that’s just being announced now, that no staff from the governor’s office is never allowed to testify before the legislature, that has big implications for the whole scandal going forward, right, and this whole investigation.

Well, just tonight, we got copies of subpoenas four more people who work as staff in the governor’s office and getting a subpoena doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to be called to testify. But is there some rule? Some Governor Christie rule, some Christie administration rule that says anybody who works in the governor’s office isn’t allowed to testify if the legislature asks them to or tells them to?

Well, tonight, Governor Christies office says, despite this other reporting, despite what State Senator Robert Gordon says he was told by the governor’s office, the governor’s office tells us tonight that there is no policy in the Christie administration of preventing the governor’s staff testifying before the legislature.

The governor’s spokesman told us tonight, quote, “The New Jersey Spotlight story is wrong.”

Governor Christie’s spokesman tells us that the governor’s staff couldn’t attend a specific hearing held yesterday on the issue of Sandy, that was basically just a scheduling conflict." And that, quote, "the administration would welcome the opportunity to provide testimony later this month." The governor`s office added, quote, "Everyone here is committed to the highest levels of accountability and transparency."
“The governor’s office tells us tonight!” “The governor’s spokesman told us tonight!” Repeatedly, Maddow pretended that she was breaking new news. In the process, she quoted the Christie staff saying the same thing Matthews had reported them saying one day before.

Assuming minimal competence, you’re looking at a cable news con—a classic piece of scandal culture. It only got stupider when this big fraud asked Loretta Weinberg to comment.

Note how long Weinberg filibustered about her own greatness before she stamped this campfire out, speaking “somewhat in fairness:”
MADDOW: Joining us now is New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg. She’s the co-chair of the Legislative Select Committee investigating the lane closures. Senator Weinberg, thank you for being here.

WEINBERG: Thank you.

MADDOW: What do you make of the governor’s office in this rule about testifying before the legislature? They clearly were trying to tamp this down today and say this is not going to be an issue. There’s no administration rule that should make this a problem.

WEINBERG: Well, there’s no doubt this is one of the more closed administrations that I have ever seen. And when I served on the committee that had the hearing yesterday on Sandy, and when I sit across from advocates who had to go to court to get basic documents to find out how the money is flowing, and Sandy is so frustrated, I happen to be a great believer in open government, I have been the sponsor sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully of almost all the governor bills that come back before us in the last number of years, and to sit there, it is so frustrating to deal with a government with an executive who would much rather say no and make you fight for documents than to just hand them over.

These are things that are owned by the taxpayers who pay the salaries of all these folks that might or might not be allowed to testify before us. And I think, somewhat in fairness, I think there is—the governor’s office is probably making a distinction between a cabinet member, a commissioner or department head, versus staffers in his office. I don’t really recall that—I haven’t served on any committees in the recent past where we’ve had staffers from the governor`s office. We will soon see, as you pointed out.
Weinberg went on and on before she spoke to the matter at hand. When she did, she rather plainly seemed to say that this is a big nothingburger at this point.

“I haven’t served on any committees in the recent past where we’ve had staffers from the governor’s office,” Weinberg said. After two nights of cable bullshit, she spoke “somewhat in fairness.”

Senator Gordon’s performance was awful. Weinberg orated at length before finally dousing the flames.

But Matthews behaved like a clown Tuesday night. Assuming minimal competence, Maddow was that much worse.

As we’ve often told you, Maddow isn’t obsessively honest. As scandal culture grips her less than obsessively honest soul, her apparent self-promotional illness seems to be getting much worse.

We’re discussing a pair of cable TV scandal clowns. You may choose not to see that.


  1. It seems to me this may be happening because these MSNBC hosts may be carrying out a partisan goal of eliminating Christie as a potential candidate in 2016. If so, then it doesn't matter whether what is reported is true or not, as long as it is negative about Christie. Saying as many negative things as possible, as often as possible, seems to be the goal. Whether any of those things stick is irrelevant because the goal is to create a tarnished overall impression of him that will prevent prospective voters from being receptive to whatever might come next should he begin to seriously campaign.

    If so, the problem is that MSNBC is being used for partisan purposes. This implies also that Maddow and Matthews are tools in this campaign, not independent journalists seeking to inform the public. This sort of campaign amounts to propaganda, not news. By implication we then live in an environment where our news sources are not about news but about manipulating the public for purposes that are not revealed.

    Perhaps the best approach to dealing with this is to stop watching entirely.

    1. Yessirree! MSNBC is the perp, Christie the victim!

      The Christie Defense Team has found a home, and just in the nick of time to replace the Zimmerman Defense Team.

      Let the clicks continue! Bob needs all the eyeballs he can get!

    2. As Somerby pointed out earlier this week, Christie is the victim today but Clinton was the victim in 2008. The point isn't who is being promoted or targeted but that partisan tactics are being used under the guise of presenting news. You can chase your partisan tail as much as you like. That is what rube-running is all about.

    3. And of course, we'll ignore those people caught in the "traffic problems in Fort Lee" as we weep giant tears over the way that mean Rachel Maddow is picking on defenseless Chris Christie.

      Good lord, just a short time after Somerby had to disappear the dead body of an unarmed teenager to identify the "real" victim and make MSNBC the perp again, we get this bullroar.

    4. Surely 3:03 meant 1998 instead of 2008. Or does she/he have the other Clinton in mind?

    5. No, Chris Matthews said mean things about Hillary in 2008. In the mind of Bob, that is the only reason she is not president today.

    6. Well then it's 1999 if the reference is to things Somerby wrote about this week. Let's not get him repeating things he posted from 2008 as well. Then he would be as repetitive as...

    7. As repetitive as a guy approaching his 40th birthday who still wears his high school letter jacket and spins tales of his glorious triumphs on the field of football from two decades before?

      I have a friend like that. He reminds me of this blog.

    8. Dear @ 3:44 Re: Your high school friend

      I feel your pain. I knew someone like that in high school. We later went on to accomplish great things together when we teamed up professionally later in life. then when things got tough he said "“We didn't travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. Who knew waht Mr. Unreliable was doing then."

      Unemployed in NJ

  2. "Note how long Weinberg filibustered about her own greatness before she stamped this campfire out, speaking “somewhat in fairness:”

    Note how long Gore filibustered about his own greatness before he lit the bonfire and never answered the question.

    ”BLITZER: Why should you instead of Bill Bradley...? What do you have to bring to this that he doesn't necessarily bring to this process?

    GORE: Well, I will be offering -- I'll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.

    But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I've traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

    During a quarter century of public service, including most of it long before I came into my current job, I have worked to try to improve the quality of life in our country and in our world. And what I've seen during that experience is an emerging future that's very exciting, about which I'm very optimistic, and toward which I want to lead."

    1. And there you have the elephant in the room as Somerby muses on the War on Gore.

      Never before and never again in my lifetime have I ever voted for a non-incumbent more qualified to be president that Al Gore.

      But the man was a completely, utterly, painfully, boring.

      And woe be to anyone who dares say, "Why didn't the Al Gore of 'Inconvenient Truth' run for president?"

      We will be reminded, as we have for lo these 15 years of all the mean things Chris Matthews and Maureen Dowd said about him.

    2. When Somerby muses on the War on Gore does the elephant go to sleep too?

    3. Elephants, zebras, giraffes, the entire zoo.

      All except Bob fans who can't wait for Grandpa to tell his thrilling story yet again.

    4. Do you imagine it hurts Somerby's feelings when you say mean things about Gore? Pretty childish trolling today.

    5. I'd say Bob's feeling were hurt enough when people said mean things about Gore that the hurt has turned into 16 years of bile.

  3. OMB (No doubt About It...BOB Plays by the Rules)

    "Remember the key rule of scandal entertainment: Each night, the TV stars must convey the impression that they’ve just uncovered an exciting new scandal." BOB This post.

    We searched the famous Howler archives for "key rule of scandal entertainment." We are happy to report that in all his 16 years of scandal culture coverage, BOB has never taught us this rule. So, unlike Chris and Rachel, he is bringing us something new in this now painfully overcovered story here and on the OTC. Be sure and remember the rule. And who gave you the exclusive that it was a first for BOB!

    Of course BOB did give us other rules in this genre:

    Below, you see two basic principles of modern scandal journalism:

    First rule: If the anointed “good guy” in some scandal seems to pretty much change his story, the press corps will struggle not to notice that fact.

    Second rule: The rules are completely different for one of the press corps’ targeted pols. In that case, journalists will break their backs to report that the target has changed his tale." BOB 2/10/14

    Now, in deference to critics of our royal court who claim our noting petty hypocrisy from BOB is old news so we should quit, we point out that BOB is just adding details to his rules, not changing them.

    Today we are getting the "key" rule to scandal "entertainment." Just the other day we were provided numerically ranked rules of scandal "culture journalism."

    We applaud BOB for coming around to our way of thinking. We have long noted that neither Maddow or Matthews, by anything in their educational or professional experience can lay claim to being now, or having ever been, a journalist. They are entertainers. TV hosts. Cable TV at that.

    That said, let's talk. Matthews and Maddow did take a silly turn here, making a mountain out of a molehill, and in Maddow's case recycling the molehill out of dust Matthews had clawed together and pretty much pooed in. But what, dear readers, in this effort to show you how much of a wasted story they were hyping, did BOB leave unmentioned in his ever continuing coverage of their coverage? We'll tell you later. We'll give you a fuzzy hint: It's Fuzzy! Coverage continues.


  4. Have for many years been unable to watch most especially Chris Matthews but also Ms. Maddow; of the two, however, I find Matthews particularly inept and ill-informed (don't enjoy the spittle either).

    Sorry to say this but I sometimes wonder whether Mr. Somerby has massive misogynistic tendencies; so much of his opprobrium is directed at female commentators (Collins, Maddow, et al.). I wish he would diversify his analyses to other targets occasionally; am getting somewhat bored with the ongoing and unremitting usual targets.

    1. Yes, Chris Matthews does seem kind of girlie to me too.

  5. Another absurd article in which TDH looks for the speck in Maddow's eye yet ignores the log in Christie's.

    Does anybody seriously believe Christie is cooperating to his fullest with these multiple investigations? Would we even be here 5 months into it?

    1. What Matthews said:

      "Does this mean Governor Christie is claiming some sort of executive privilege . . .?"

      What Somerby says that Matthews said:

      " . . . a frothing Matthews announced that Christie was claiming executive privilege . . ."

      Interesting. A question about "some sort of executive privilege" becomes a definitive announcement of a claim to executive privilege, with "frothing" thrown in for good measure.

      If any of Somerby's favorite targets had done such a thing, Somerby would be frothing about it for the next 16 years.

    2. Somerby said: "As he started, a frothing Matthews announced that Christie was claiming executive privilege..."

      Matthews' opening quote (as he started): "Christie claims executive privilege! Let's play Hardball."

      That's the quote Somerby was referring to.

    3. Yes, but we are presented with two different quotes from the same person, and the emphasis on each seems to be determined by whether Somerby considers him a "good guy" or a "target."

      For instance, if Matthews were a Somerby "good guy" and one of his "targets" accused him of saying Christie claimed executive privilege, Somerby would go keister-busting stressing the second quote, and how it only says "some sort of executive privilege" while merely asking a question and posing that as a possibility.

  6. "And I would say that he probably knows more about this problem than the folks in the governor’s office. So I’m confident that we’re going to get the information that we need."

    This is nonsense, though. The whole point of the inquiry is to determine if the governor's office is running the program properly. Behind that is the question of whether the governor's office is improperly interfering in the distribution of program funds.
    They have to ask someone from the governor's office.
    You know, if Matthews and Maddow want to do a good job, they have to hold the Democrats accountable, too.
    This is a time-honored method of pretending to investigate corruption, where there's bipartisan agreement there shouldn't be any real investigation. There's a real risk of that here, because obviously Christie works with many powerful Democrats, and many of those Democrats have benefitted from their relationship with Christie.
    I don't have a whole lot of hope anything useful will come out of the legislative inquiry. I can't remember a time where anything useful HAS come out of a legislative inquiry, in fact, because there's always this ass-covering.
    People in NJ better hope they have a clean, competent US attorney. That's all that they have. It isn't supposed to work like this, by the way. The federal prosecutor is not intended to be the single oversight mechanism in a state, but more and more that's how it is playing out.
    We have a problem with corruption in this country. Both the legislative branch and the executive branch in NJ are captured.
    I am of the opinion a lot of our other problems could be solved if we attack the corruption problem, and I'm increasingly convinced tackling corruption and capture by elected officials may be a prerequisite to solving any of the other problems.

    1. But at the same time, "Everyone is corrupt" is a poor excuse for not going after any corruption when you find it.

  7. OMB (So what were we forgetting)

    One commenter recently took note of the repetitive nature of another aspect of the MSNBC coverage in Bridgegate, the subpoenas issued this week by the Joint Committee of the New Jersey Legislature. Maddow covered the same set of subpoenas for three nights.

    We might have thought this would be an aspect of coverage the OTB might use to justifiably launch a laser like repetoire of mixed meme morphirng metaphors. However, the focal point of the subpoenas and Maddow's coverage seemed to be a topic BOB had already covered himself. He devoted a whole post decrying Maddow's repetiviness. He also used the word "fuzzy" more times than it appears in the nursery rhyme about the bear.

    You may not remember it for the frequency it featured "fuzzy." You might like how it jumped from Salem witch hunting and dunking to Tailgunner Joe comparisons. But the subject was "cover story."
    And the target was Baroni. And a possible accomplice was Kwon.
    Seems like the subpoenas are indicating YOUR MADDOW GETS RESULTS. Or perhaps it means that, whether or not you agree with BOB's premise that "Rachel Maddow’s Monday night program was pretty much a disgrace," she may have been howling up the right tree, or dunking the donut in the right cup, or tailgunning fish of a different color in a barrel. Or something.

    The committee seems obsessed with Baroni's testimony and who played a role in it.

    The cover story fuzzy story disappeared here.


    1. "The committee seems obsessed with Baroni's testimony and who played a role in it"

      Yes, glad you noticed. While Bob focused on one tiny little bit of the testimony and spent paragraph after paragraph ridiculing Maddow, he seems to have missed the point that the entire multiple hour testimony was a lie from start to finish. When Baroni's mouth was moving, he was lying.

  8. Some posts appear completely unaware (or simply don't care) that they are claiming they "know" who is lying and they "believe" things to be true without any actual evidence. Further, many make the same complaints after every post without (apparently) having even (or needing to) read what was actually written. But what is really a puzzle is why persons with no interest in journalism or how it is done spend their time on this blog.

    1. But here's the problem. TDH isn't some omniscient being. He brings his own biases. His criticism of "journalism" is based on his own subjective interpretation of the facts and the evidence. It is impossible to debate Bob's critique without challenging his interpretation of the facts. Anyone who attempts to do this is then labeled a "troll". That's a nice level playing field you got there.