Once again, reminiscent of Fox: For decades now, our public discourse has turned on phony, high-profile stories.
In 1972, Muskie wept—until David Broder acknowledged that maybe he didn’t. In 1997, Al Gore said he inspired Love Story—unless you spoke to the two journalists who were present to hear what he actually said.
The stories just keep coming. Just this week, Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Fact Checker, debunked two tales that were too good to check—Paul Ryan’s story about the kid who wanted his lunch in a brown paper bag, and Julie Boonstra’s refusal to believe the truth about her own health plan.
A nation that tolerates this type of journalistic culture is a nation in headlong decline.
Last night, we watched Rachel Maddow continue to supersize her revulsion concerning Team Christie. We’ll admit it—we don’t feel entirely sure that her revulsion is real.
The stories Maddow told last night didn’t fact-check brilliantly, either. Then too, there was the overt religiosity she began to throw into the stew.
Last night, Maddow continued to supersize her revulsion about the way Team Christie handled the tons of steel which remained from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. On Tuesday night, she had really poured it on as she expressed her revulsion.
“If you feel the need to hit pause and go take a shower to rid yourself of the feeling you are having right now, I understand,” she said at one point that night.
Later, she referred to a “cringe-inducing [New York Times] article that makes you want to run into every social studies class in the country and tell the kids not to go into politics unless they’re emigrating to a country where it isn’t this disgusting.”
Last night, Maddow kept pouring it on. She again referred to “this cringe-inducing story about political scheming by the Christie administration involving one of the most sacred events in American history.” She said the report in the New York Times had caused “the world” to “collectively wretch in response.”
We’ll be honest. We’re inclined to think Maddow is maybe faking revulsion as she descends into the religiosity associated with Foxist outrage. We can’t know what she really feels. But no, we don’t believe her.
Tomorrow, we’re going to offer a second possible explanation for Maddow’s very strange scandal reporting. For today, we thought it was worth recording her second straight night of supersized revulsion, while presenting the background to the story that has her so upset.
Why is Maddow telling children to emigrate to other countries, while suggesting that adult viewers might feel the need to shower? In the main, her revulsion is based upon a very short, oddly fuzzy report in Tuesday’s New York Times.
On the front page of Tuesday’s paper, Kate Zernike offered a full-length report about the way the Christie administration has used the assets of the Port Authority for political gain. She started with a very short chunk concerning the World Trade Center.
This wasn’t the focus of Zernike’s report. This was a quick appetizer:
ZERNIKE (3/11/14): For a state that lost hundreds of lives on Sept. 11, the gifts were emotionally resonant: pieces of steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center. They were presented by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to 20 carefully chosen New Jersey mayors who sat atop a list of 100 whose endorsements Gov. Chris Christie hoped to win.To the extent that can be called a report, the report is weirdly fuzzy. Zernike seems to say that she has seen a list of The Top 100 mayors. She seems to say that the Christie team gave pieces of the World Trade Center to The Top 20, no more.
At photo opportunities around the mangled pieces of steel, Bill Baroni, Mr. Christie’s top staff appointee at the Port Authority, told audiences how many people wanted a similar remnant of the destroyed buildings, and how special these mayors were.
Mayors lower on the list of 100—such as Mark Sokolich, of Fort Lee, at No. 45—received other Port Authority perquisites: an intimate tour of the National September 11 Memorial, or the new World Trade Center construction site, or Port Authority money for jobs programs or new firefighting equipment, even in towns far from the port.
She doesn’t try to explain why pieces of the World Trade Center were being distributed at all. She paraphrases Baroni’s remarks, but doesn’t offers quotes.
She doesn’t explain where she got the list of The Top 100 mayors, or how she knows it was a real list, or how she knows that pieces of steel went to The Top 20.
She doesn’t explain why the Times hasn’t published the list, which certainly would be newsworthy.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Zernike’s statements are wrong. What interesting is the liberties a certain cable star has taken with these fuzzy statements over the last two nights.
Last night, Maddow shared her second day of supersized rage about the gift of those “relics” from “one of the most sacred events in American history.” Her story started like this, with gifts to three Jersey towns:
MADDOW (3/12/14): Tenafly, New Jersey. It sits right across the Hudson River from the top of New York City, across from the Bronx. Just under 15,000 people live in lovely Tenafly, New Jersey. Politics wise, there’s a lot more registered Democrats in Tenafly than there are registered Republicans. But as you could tell from the pie chart here, independents outnumber them both.In that heartfelt rendition, Maddow tells us that Baroni delivered “these essentially sacred objects” to Tenafly, Secaucus and Sea Girt, which seem to be “top endorsement priorities for the governor.”
Still, though, President Obama beat Mitt Romney there by a lot. The mayor of Tenafly is not a Democrat. He is an independent. And maybe it was that independent minded yet Democratic-leaning political dynamic that made Tenafly a priority for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s re-election campaign.
Endorsements from officials in towns like Tenafly could help prove that the Republican Governor Chris Christie had bipartisan appeal.
Well, now, thanks to new reporting for the New York Times, we know how the Christie administration internally planned to get those endorsements, in order to get those very nice headlines heading into Election Day. The New York Times reporting yesterday that one of the ways the Christie campaign courted their top priority endorsements from local officials was to hand out pieces of steel salvaged from the ruins of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. To hand those pieces of steel out as political gifts.
...This is footage of Bill Baroni in Tenafly in July 2012. The object he’s touching is a piece of a beam from the World Trade Center. He is giving this relic to the town.
And Tenafly was not alone. There were towns all over the state of New Jersey that got this treatment from the Christie re-election campaign, and not incidentally from Bill Baroni, from Governor Christie’s top appointee at the Port Authority.
Here’s Mr. Baroni again presenting a piece of steel from the Trade Center to the mayor of Secaucus, New Jersey. Another top endorsement priority for the governor. Here are Mr. Baroni and Chris Christie’s lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, presenting again another piece of the World Trade Center to the town of Sea Girt, New Jersey.
We have no reason to believe that the government officials who were being courted at these events knew that they were being given these essentially sacred objects. These physical relics of mass murder as part of election year politics. There’s no reason to believe that they knew that’s what was going on.
She implies that her information is coming from Zernike’s report. But Zernike identified none of the Top 20 target cities—and Sea Girt, New Jersey is a community of 1,828 souls!
Was Sea Girt really one of The Top 20, one of the cities where Team Christie most hoped to get an endorsement? For that matter, how about Tenafly? It’s only half the size of Fort Lee, the famous little town by the world’s busiest bridge.
Were those communities actually in the (alleged) Top 20? We have no idea. But none of the towns Maddow cited were mentioned in Zernike’s weirdly truncated report, which Maddow pretended to be using as her source.
Zernike didn’t name any of the Top 20 targets. In her report last night, Maddow was maybe faking things just a bit.
That’s nothing new for Maddow! Last night, she took a very short, rather fuzzy report and ran it all over the lot. As she did, she took the previous night’s moral revulsion and supersized it even further, this time building overt expressions of religiosity into her moral disgust.
It’s hard to distinguish this kind of conduct from The Standard Fox Model. We don’t think this is a healthy development for the liberal world.
Let’s note a second source from which Maddow drew last night. In yesterday morning’s New York Times, Jim Dwyer based his “About New York” column around the matter of the World Trade Center “relics.”
Dwyer wrote a strongly opinionated column, not a news report. That said, it filled in a great deal of information about the process by which pieces of the World Trade Center have been donated to communities in all fifty states and in at least seven foreign countries.
Dwyer’s account is a bit fuzzy too, in part because he wasn’t writing a news report. For ourselves, the New Jersey events seemed much less strange after reading his account of the way tons of steel had been delivered around the world long before Baroni began delivering steel to some towns in New Jersey.
For the last two nights, Maddow has worked to stoke viewers fury about these outrageous events. To our ear, she could be thought to be copying Fox, in her supersized, religion-soaked moral revulsion and in the way she toys with some fuzzy facts.
We’ve told you for years that Maddow just isn’t obsessively honest. Now, we have to add to that portrait:
Increasingly, she seems a bit unbalanced.
For ourselves, we didn’t feel the need to shower as we watched Tuesday night’s report. Last night, we didn’t feel inclined to “collectively wretch in response” to her tale, in concert with “the world.”
We felt even less revulsion after reading the background information. We continued to think that Maddow’s behavior is strange, unattractive, unhealthy.
Hannity has always amped viewers this way, working hard to teach them to hate. Is this why Hannity’s boss said he likes the cut of Maddow’s jib?