Maddow and Lemon and Toobin: Last Tuesday evening, as Thanksgiving approached, Rachel Maddow was at it again.
Already, she'd floated several loaded claims in the course of her opening segment. In the course of the hour, she'd go on to offer an unfounded condemnation of a major figure from the Justice Department of the Nixon era.
Now, midway through her opening segment, she turned to a new topic. As she did, she returned to a favorite master narrative. This pleasing narrative involves former Trump aide Don McGahn:
MADDOW (11/20/18): The New York Times also made news tonight with a sort of odd story about President Trump attempting to order the Justice Department to prosecute former FBI Director James Comey and President Trump's 2016 presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.To watch Maddow's full presentation of this topic, you can just click here. Her performance style will let you enjoy a whole lot of good solid fun.
The headline and the whole lead section of this article tonight in the Times details an episode that reportedly happened this spring in which President Trump is said to have told his White House counsel Don McGahn that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute both James Comey and Hillary Clinton.
According to this new reporting in the New York Times, the White House counsel Don McGahn responded to that by creating a memo for the president that spelled out for him all the reasons why such an order would be a bad idea.
And so once again, this is another one of these stories, and there have been dozens of them, where Trump White House counsel Don McGahn has saved the day. Trump wanted to do a terrible thing. Don McGahn made sure terrible thing did not happen.
Sources close to Don McGahn say he doesn't want your accolades. He doesn't want your thanks. It`s enough for him. It`s reward in itself to be a loyal American who's always trying to do what's right. I mean, this is a whole genre of weird Trump White House reporting:
Sources close to Don McGahn say Don McGahn did heroic thing.
Let's be fair! So far, Maddow's account of this Times news report was, at least, factually accurate.
As Maddow spoke, the news report she was describing could only be seen online. But the Times report would appear on the front page of Wednesday morning's print editions—and it did report that Donald J. Trump, at some point in the spring of 2018, told Don McGahn that he wanted the Justice Department to prosecute Comey and Clinton.
That is what the news report said. It also said that McGahn told Trump that this was a bad idea—that it would even be a bad idea to order a mere investigation of Comey and Clinton.
For ourselves, we can't tell you if those events actually happened. But so far, Maddow was right about what the Times report said.
As you can see for yourself at this link, that's what the Times report said. So far, Maddow's account of the news report was, at least, factually accurate.
In the passage we've posted, you can see where Maddow took things from there. She let us enjoy some familiar snark about news reports (she calls them "stories") in which "sources close to Don McGahn say Don McGahn did a heroic thing."
This has been a favorite storyline for Maddow for at least the past year. Presumably, she was suggesting that those "sources close to McGahn" were embellishing their tale about the way McGahn performed his "heroic" service.
Maddow loves this pleasing tale, to which she often returns. But this is where her tribally pleasing performance last Tuesday did in fact start breaking down.
Go ahead! Read the actual news report, the report which appeared in the Times. See if you think that Maddow's mocking account of those unnamed sources comports with what they're quoted saying in the actual Times report.
Sadly, no! Maddow's mocking account (it continues below) can't be squared with the actual comments by those "sources close to McGahn." Already, Maddow was treating us viewers like fools. But as she continued, she advanced from mockery and embellishment to flat-out, groaning misstatement.
Let's be fair! The multimillionaire corporate star's account did remain tribally pleasing. But in the passage shown below, her account stops being factually accurate. Her account is now groaningly false:
MADDOW (continuing directly): What is amazing about this New York Times piece that is published tonight, though, is the whole first part of the story is about Trump saying he wants to order these prosecutions, right? He wants to order the prosecution of Comey and Clinton, and McGahn heroically explains to the president, and puts in writing, that that would be a terrible idea.Before she was done, this tribal lion went on to snark, one last time, about "the ersatz heroism of Don McGahn and the sources near him." For a corporate money-maker like Maddow, this is just good solid fun.
But then, eight paragraphs into this story, there is this sort of parenthetical reference—oh, by the way, also some time last year, quote, "Mr. Trump's lawyers did privately ask the Justice Department to investigate Mr. Comey. Law enforcement officials declined their requests."
OK. So here we have, you know, a Superman story, short of a cape, in which White House counsel Don McGahn is stopping Trump from doing this terrible thing, stopping Trump from injecting himself into law enforcement matters to try to start an investigation into Clinton and Comey. But also we should also mention, eight paragraphs in, that Don McGahn did go to the Justice Department and tell them to start investigating Comey.
That said, alas! In the last two paragraphs we've posted, Maddow has made one blatant factual error, and she has seemed to massively bungle her basic time line. Her account of the Times news report has now become flatly false—though, in fairness, her account and her performance did remain tribally pleasing.
"Cable news" is a big corporate business. Much of what you're handed there is bogus, misleading or false.
That is true on the Fox News Channel. But it's also true Over Here.
We humans! Because we're tribal animals, we're strongly inclined to put our faith in our own tribe's anointed leaders. We believe that The Others are peddling falsehoods. We're strongly disinclined to consider the possibility that we're getting hustled too.
We're wired to trust our own tribal gods. All week long, we'll show you the way those gods—Maddow and Lemon and Toobin and such—have kept finding ways to fail.
Tomorrow: What the Times report actually says
Same old same-old: If MSNBC ever gets around to posting last Tuesday's transcript, they will post it here.