The New York Times v. Rachel Maddow IN RE Carter Page: Exciting! On Monday afternoon, a young reporter for BuzzFeed gave the world an exciting way to pigpile on Carter Page.
In this morning's New York Times, Adam Goldman reports on this excitement. Headline included, this is the way he began his report. We'd call this a model of fairness:
GOLDMAN (4/5/17): Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised TrumpAccording to the New York Times, Page didn't know that he was interacting with a Russian spy. The Times said the Russian spy tried to recruit Page. It didn't say the spy succeeded, or even that Page ever knew that the man was a spy.
Russian intelligence operatives tried in 2013 to recruit an American businessman and eventual foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who is now part of the F.B.I. investigation into Russia’s interference into the American election, according to federal court documents and a statement issued by the businessman.
The businessman, Carter Page, met with one of three Russians who were eventually charged with being undeclared officers with Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the S.V.R. The F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Page in 2013 as part of an investigation into the spy ring, but decided that he had not known the man was a spy, and the bureau never accused Mr. Page of wrongdoing.
The court documents say that Mr. Page, who founded an investment company in New York called Global Energy Capital, provided documents about the energy business to one of the Russians, Victor Podobnyy, thinking he was a businessman who could help with brokering deals in Russia.
According to the New York Times, the FBI "never accused Page of wrongdoing." According to the New York Times, Page thought he was dealing with "a businessman who could help with brokering deals in Russia."
Goldman included all those disclaimers in just his first three paragraphs. We'd call that a model of fairness, even perhaps a bit more so. In our view, Goldman may have slightly overstated what those "court documents" actually "say." That said, if Goldman errs at all in this passage, he is erring on the side of fundamental fairness.
To see the way the other half lives, consider Rachel Maddow. Maddow tends to tilt the facts against those she opposes while trying to send them to prison.
On Monday night, Maddow went all in on Carter Page. Her fairness quotient was low.
Maddow devoted well over half her show to the thrilling story at BuzzFeed. She started with a typical rambling, entertaining segment about the exciting spy story, which involved Jared Kushner as well as Carter Page.
In her second segment, she intervewed Ali Watkins, the young reporter who wrote the underwhelming piece at BuzzFeed. This second segment finished at 9:31 P.M. on the clock. Given the way Maddow's program is structured, this means that Maddow devoted about two-thirds of the evening's broadcast minutes to the exciting spy tale.
(Watkins is in her third year out of college—Temple 2014. BuzzFeed often seems to be designed for the nation's second graders.)
This morning, in its first three grafs, the New York Times engaged in basic fairness. It reported that Page didn't know that he was interacting with a spy. The Times explicitly noted that Page was never charged with wrongdoing. He thought he was interacting with a Russian businessman, the newspaper said.
Maddow went extremely light on any such disclaimers. Instead, she staged one of her lurid story-telling sessions, with lots of entertainment value and endless insinuations.
She never attempted to nail down the points the New York Times carefully featured. At one point, she explicitly said that Page had been "successfully recruited."
Let's start at the beginning. Maddow started her show with an exciting claim about BuzzFeed's jaw-dropping report:
MADDOW (4/3/17): And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.As always, Maddow was selling the car. She told us rubes that Ali Watkins had presented a "jaw-dropping" report. It had dropped in the past few hours!
BuzzFeed News reporter Ali Watkins has a sort of jaw-dropping scoop tonight about the Trump campaign. That story dropped tonight just in the last couple of hours.
We've got Ali Watkins here tonight to talk about that story. We've got her exclusively. You are going to want to hear that.
Maddow then set off on her entertaining tale. The story involved "this spy ring that got busted by the FBI, three Russian guys."
"Troubling enough," she said, "but now, BuzzFeed News adds their new scoop tonight."
She told the tale of the three Russians guys at work in New York City. They tried to "target college girls," but that didn't work out, she chucklingly said. "Where they did have some success was with 'Male number 1,'" she said.
She quoted from the official court document which was created when one of the spies was arrested in 2015. (BuzzFeed had posted the document.) She pretended that she knows all about the way Russkie spies work.
She read exciting passages from the court document which refer to "Male 1," one of the people the Russkies had tried to recruit (along with the college girls). After reading the entertaining material, she actually broadcast this:
MADDOW: I mean, this is—this is how they do it, right? And maybe it turns into something, maybe it doesn't, but you cultivate assets. This is what they do. This is why they're here instead of working at home in Moscow.Carter Page "was successfully recruited," our team's vile multimillionaire said. Page "handed documents and information [to the Russkie spies] to help them out and was enthusiastic about their relationship!"
Well, BuzzFeed News reports tonight that "Male 1" in that spy ring indictment is the Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page. He was recruited as an American asset by Russian spies in New York City in 2013.
He was successfully recruited. He handed them documents and information to help them out and was enthusiastic about their relationship.
That adviser, Carter Page, met with a Russian intelligence operative named Victor Podobnyy who was later charged by the U.S. government, alongside two others, for acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government.
Rachel made no attempt to explain who Page thought he was meeting with. She made no attempt to discuss what sorts of "documents" (scary term!) the successful recruit "handed over."
She made no attempt to explain what he believed he was enthusiastic about. She simply said that Page had been "successfully recruited" by a ring of Russian spies.
"BuzzFeed News has confirmed that 'Male 1' is Carter Page," Maddow later excitingly said. As she approached her first commercial break, she referred to "a Russian spy network in this country that among other things recruited a Trump foreign policy adviser as a Russian intelligence asset just a few years ago."
It was exciting stuff! At 9:21, she said the following as she finally broke for commercials:
MADDOW: BuzzFeed reporter Ali Watkins, who's the one who unmasked the Trump foreign policy adviser at the center of this Russian spy story, Ali Watkins joins us.Carter Page! He was the successfully recruited "Trump foreign policy adviser at the center of this Russian spy story"—the exciting spy story which had produced BuzzFeed's "jaw-dropping scoop!"
Maddow had spent her first twenty-one minutes telling this thrilling tale. In those twenty-one minutes, she made no attempt to mention any of the disclaimers which the New York Times cited today in its first three paragraphs.
Instead, she told a thrilling story, making a claim which would get a person sued if she didn't have the First Amendment to crouch behind while she counted her millions—while she counted her millions of liberal stooges, the gullible souls who are now flocking to Maddow's tribally pleasing show.
What happened when Watkins came on? Let's discuss what didn't happen:
Maddow didn't ask if Page suspected or knew, at any point, that he'd been approached by a spy.
She didn't ask if the FBI thought Page had engaged in wrongdoing.
She didn't ask who Carter Page thought he was talking to. She didn't ask what sorts of "documents and information" he "gave them to help them out."
Briefly, let's be fair. After Maddow returned from commercial break, she dropped one tiny disclaimer. If you blinked, you would have missed it. This is what she said:
MADDOW: Carter Page, who's he? That's what everybody said at the time when, unprompted, then-candidate Donald Trump volunteered him as the number-two name on his list of foreign policy advisors, the first time he had ever listed foreign policy advisors for his campaign.Did you catch that? Briefly, the word "unwitting" flew by, with "apparently" tagged on the front. It was now 9:26 P.M. This was the first fleeting hint of what, according to the New York Times, had actually occurred.
Well, now, BuzzFeed News reports that among the many other things that Carter Page turns out to be, he was also recruited in 2013 as apparently an unwitting American source for a Russian spy ring that was operating out of New York City.
Joining us now is Ali Watkins. She's a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News, broke this story tonight.
Thank you for being here. Congratulations on the scoop.
Our Own Rhodes Scholar didn't belabor the point. As noted, she never asked Watkins, in basic fairness, to state her view of Page's guilt or innocence in this nothingburger affair.
What had that word "unwitting" meant? We weren't encouraged to think about that. More time was killed with pointless asides and silly non sequiturs. At 9:30, Maddow said the word again:
MADDOW: And even if Page was himself an unwitting cultivated asset, we know that he knows it happened to him because the FBI went and told him that's what happened to him when they interview at the time?Rachel Maddow never asked her guest if Page was, or wasn't, "unwitting." She managed to drop the word two times, while suggesting, right in this passage, that Page had still done something wrong even if he was some sort of "unwitting asset."
WATKINS: Yes, yes.
MADDOW: So, had he been vetted, even just being directly asked, "Have you ever been in contact with a foreign intelligence service," he would have had to say yes.
WATKINS: Presumably, yes, if you want to answer truthfully.
MADDOW: So, a great way to get to be a top foreign policy adviser to a presidential campaign. Ahhhhh!
Did Page do anything wrong at all? Maddow never asked, and Watkins never volunteered any information. Watkins is two years out of college; Rachel Maddow, simply put, doesn't belong on the air.
Rachel's numbers have gone through the roof as she has played these pleasing games in the months since Trump won the election. We liberals can't see her for what she is. The same problem obtains Over There, where people who are much like Us have long been unable to see through Sean Hannity.
Page was "successfully recruited," our greatest TV star thrillingly said. In truth, Rachel has been playing these games a long time. Something's a little bit wrong in her head. She doesn't belong on the air.