Rachel's latest effort: Thursday night was a terrible night on our "cable news" channels.
We especially think of the horrible work done by Rachel, Lawrence and Brian on The One True Liberal Channel, the miserable MSNBC.
Aside from her skills at mugging and clowning and selling the car, does Rachel have any real skills at all? Consider one bit of ridiculousness from last evening's excitement-based hour.
Un-oh! During his live testimony, James B. Comey made unflattering remarks about the mainstream press corps. At one point, he even made the remarks shown below about a specific, high-profile report by the New York Times.
The report in question appeared in the Times on February 14. Comey's discussion started like this:
RISCH (6/8/17): You talked with us shortly after February 14th, when the New York Times wrote an article that suggested that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians. You remember reading that article when it first came out?Oof. Comey seemed to say that reports about classified information are often bogus, wrong. In particular, he said the report in the New York Times "was not true."
COMEY: I do. It was about allegedly extensive electronic surveillance communications. Yes, sir.
RISCH: And that upset you to the point where you actually went out and surveyed the intelligence community to see whether—whether you were missing something in that. Is that correct?
COMEY: That's correct. I want to be careful in open setting.
RISCH: In addition to that, after that, you sought out both Republican and Democrat senators to tell them that, "Hey, I don't know where this is coming from, but this is not the—this is not factual." Do you recall that?
RISCH: OK. So again, so the American people can understand this, that report by the New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?
COMEY: In the main, it was not true. And, again, all of you know this, maybe the American people don't. The challenge—and I'm not picking on reporters about writing stories about classified information—is that people talking about it often don't really know what's going on.
The god was dropping thunderbolts. A bit later, the topic was raised again:
COTTON (6/8/17): On February 14th, the New York Times published a story, the headline of which was, "Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence."Oof. Needless to say, the fact that Comey said these things doesn't mean they're true. But we were struck by what occurred when Rachel tried to fact-check Comey's statements.
You were asked earlier if that was an inaccurate story, and you said, "in the main." Would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?
Let's start with a bit of background. Over the past few months, Rachel has spent a lot of time on the Times report in question. She has frequently challenged the claim that the report was somehow mistaken.
We've been struck by her apparent lack of sophistication and skill when she attempts to do this. Last night, she again displayed this apparent C-minus/D-plus skill level.
In the past, Rachel has said that other news orgs confirmed that Times report. She took the same approach last night. This is the way she began:
MADDOW (6/8/17): Here's that story they were talking about at the Comey hearing today. It's from February 14th, New York Times reports, quote, "Phone records and intercepted calls show member that members of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election."So far, so good. But here's what happened when Rachel continued:
Quote: "The National Security Agency which monitors the communications of foreign intelligence services initially captured the calls between Trump's associates and the Russians as part of routine foreign surveillance."
Now this, of course, was a bombshell at the time. This is the first report about multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the campaign, right? Huge bombshell for obvious reasons. It came out the day after Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser because of his contacts with the Russians.
And when the Times published this on February 14th, it provoked a lot of push-back from the administration at the time.
In the excerpts which follow, Rachel tried to show that other news orgs had confirmed that Times report. Soon, the analysts were softy crying and staring into space.
This is the way she started. Believe it or not, the analysts' weeping had already begun. They'd been down this road before:
MADDOW (continuing directly): Here's the thing though: The Times was not alone in that reporting. They may have been first, but a whole bunch of different iterations of this story followed from different news outlets, you know, slightly different details, slightly different narratives, slightly different sourcing.Doggone it! The Times had reported that members of the Trump campaign had contacts with "senior Russian intelligence officials." That's not the same as saying that campaign associates had contacts with "Russians."
But all reporting that same basic story, that Trump campaign associates had multiple contacts with Russians during the campaign. The Times was first, but they were not the only outfit that reported that.
"Senior Russians intelligence officials" is not the same thing as "Russians!" Rachel had already blown past this elementary point. She continued, at some length, in similar fashion:
MADDOW (continuing directly): In fact, the first follow-on story came within 24 hours on February 14th, within the same day that the Times published their piece, CNN posted this, their own version of the story. Quote: "Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during the campaign."By now, Maddow had conflated these varying descriptions:
Then, thereafter, here was the Washington Post. Quote: "U.S. intelligence reports cite multiple contacts between members of Trump's team and Russians with links to the Kremlin during the campaign and afterward."
By March, the Times itself as a secondary story, quote: "American allies, including the British and the Dutch, provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials and others close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and associates of Donald Trump."
And then further confirmation, this one from CNN, again: "British intelligence passed Trump associates' communications with Russians on to U.S. counterparts."
And then further confirmation from a different outlet, from the Guardian, quote: "Through summer 2016, a number of Western spy agencies shared information with the U.S. government on contacts between Trump's inner circle and Russians."
Senior Russian intelligence officialsThose descriptions are not equivalent. The Times had reported contact with "senior Russian intelligence officials"—with the highest level of Russian intelligence. Based on what Maddow has said, it isn't clear that anyone "confirmed" that exciting report.
Senior Russian officials
Russians with links to the Kremlin
Others close to Russian President Vladimir Putin
Is that what Comey was talking about? Is that part of whatever he meant? We'll consider that point below.
First, though, this was the rest of Maddow's attempt to show that the Times report had been widely confirmed. In this passage, she cites recent high-profile congressional testimony by Sally Yates and James Clapper:
MADDOW (continuing directly): The basic nut of this story was even confirmed on the record, under oath, by the former director of national intelligence.Sad. In that passage, Clapper doesn't confirm what the Times reported. He wasn't asked about the Times' assertion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: Over the spring of multiple European allies passed on additional information to the United States about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. Is this accurate?
YATES: I can't answer that.
FEINSTEIN: General Clapper, is that accurate?
CLAPPER: Yes, it is, and it's also quite sensitive.
FEINSTEIN: OK, let me ask you this.
CLAPPER: The specifics are quite sensitive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. So the U.S. got multiple reports from multiple European allies about them observing contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the campaign. Yes, that's accurate. It's quite sensitive. But yes, that's accurate, confirmed.
Maddow has been discussing this topic for months. She has constantly puzzled about the claim that the Times report was inaccurate. During these ruminations, it has never seemed to enter her head that objections to the Times report may turn on this element.
We've long assumed that this may be the point on which this report has been challenged. We've gnashed our teeth as Our Own Rhodes Scholar kept blowing past this possibility.
In this morning's New York Times, the original author of the report, Michel Schmidt, suggests that this may well be the point of concern for Comey. (He said the same thing in a later segment of last night's Maddow Show.) Having said that, let us also say this:
Schmidt presents a full report about this basic question. But sad! Even as Schmidt suggest that this may be the point of concern, he never quotes what he actually said in his original report!
Schmidt never repeats what he actually said! At the Times, this sort of slippery work is a bit of a family tradition. (For Schmidt's text, see below.)
An unkind person would say that Schmist is fudging today, and that Maddow has been lazy and dumb. It's also possible, of course, that the perpetually stiff-necked Comey the God has over-reacted to whatever it is he's actually talking about.
Still, Maddow has been dealing with this topic for months. How dumb does a Rhodes Scholar have to be to spend so much time on this topic without a light bulb going off as to this possible point?
No, Petunia! Speaking to "Russians" isn't the same as speaking to "senor Russian intelligence officials." Carter Page spoke to the former, but he didn't speak to the latter. This may be the factual problem Comey has had in mind.
Comey is stiff-necked and annoying, and deeply self-involved. Maddow is deeply self-involved and very relaxed in her analyses. That said, she isn't actually being paid to offer you careful analysis. She's being paid to tell us the stories that entertain us and serve our tribal line.
Last night, Rachel swallowed everything else Comey the God had said. In this one segment, she challenged him on this topic while barely speaking his name.
That said, Maddow is a multimillionaire tribal entertainer. Her minions chuckle at her jokes. Last summer, she ran off and hid in the woods when Comey, a powerful insider, went after Candidate Clinton.
She did the same thing in 2012 when the MSM and the RNC went after Susan Rice and invented the Benghazi bullroar. She completely ducked the email question all through Campaign 2016.
Benghazi and Comey and the emails defeated Candidate Clinton. Our darling Rachel had run off and hid from each of these pivotal topics.
Maddow is largely a corporate clown. Her brilliance is a corporate myth. Mugging and clowning to the side, she serves you very poorly.
Regarding that family tradition: Sad. This is Schmidt's account, in today's Times, concerning what he said in his disputed report on February 14:
SCHMIDT (6/9/17): The article was the first to reveal direct contacts between Trump advisers and Russian officials before the election—contacts that are now at the heart of F.B.I. and congressional investigations. Multiple news outlets have since published accounts that support the main elements of The Times’s article, including information about phone calls and in-person meetings between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russians, some believed to be connected to Russian intelligence.In paragraph 1 of his original report, Schmidt had spoken of repeated contacts with "senior Russian intelligence officials."
Mr. Comey did not say exactly what he believed was incorrect about the article...
One possible area of dispute is the description of the Russians involved. Some law enforcement officials took issue with the Times account in the days after it was published, saying that the intelligence was still murky, and that the Russians who were in contact with Mr. Trump’s advisers did not meet the F.B.I.’s black-and-white standard of who can be considered an “intelligence officer."
Today, he fails to repeat this formulation, even as he directly states that this may be the area in dispute. As you-know-who so commonly says, behavior like this is just sad.
Sad, but completely familiar.