Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

“Do they teach beauty queens how to apologize? Because you suck at it!”

        —Ed Masry (Albert Finney) chiding Erin Brockavich ( Julia Roberts) in the final scene of the film.

Now substitute “smug, arrogant, incorrigibly biased, anti-Trump MSNBC anchor” for “beauty queens,” and the line is a perfect response to the awaited “correction and apology” from Rachel Maddow for getting the story of the mistranscribed White House transcript of the Helsinki press conference.

I explained the mistake here, and made it myself here, yesterday morning.  The White House did not, as Maddow and others reported, intentionally misrepresent the exchange. The Washington Post clarified what happened. Nonetheless, Maddow and MSNBC dragged their feet in correcting the story, not doing so until 2:45 PM (I updated Ethics Alarms at about 1 pm, the second I read the Post story, and I’m not a full-time news network) and afterwards, here is Maddow’s pathetic attempt to keep spinning…

“This is one possible explanation for why the White House transcript & video from Helsinki doesn’t include Putin saying he wanted Trump to win. But Putin really did say that in Helsinki…..and the White House transcript & video still does leave it out. WaPo now says it has updated its own transcript. Will the White House? After more than a week of reporting on the bad transcript (see link below)…

(1): White House has let it stand uncorrected, and

(2): POTUS now asserts that Putin wants *Dems* to win, not him.

I love WaPo with the heat of 1000 suns, but nothing here from WaPo disproves our report.”

No, it is the explanation, and the Washington Post reporter, Philip Bump,  quickly pointed out Maddow’s dishonesty, writing,

“Your report asserts that the video was edited and implies that the incomplete transcript was posted intentionally. There’s no evidence for the first point and my piece provides context to suggest that the second was unintentional.”

Maddow nicely demonstrates how foolish and petty one looks when the simple task of apologizing to someone you oppose, in this case the White House, requires too much humility, honesty and professionalism to muster. Her petulant response is signature significance for a journalist so committed to an ideological agenda that nothing, not even objective facts, can veer her from a favored path, though it leads to misinforming her trusting viewers.

This is pretty much the rule rather than the exception  among broadcast journalists, and explains why the anti-Trump shills like Maddow no longer influence public opinion even when they have valid criticisms to offer. They just preach to their choir, which is interested in comforting venom, not facts. When someone tells you they watch MSMBC and admire Maddow, this is the kind of journalism ethics they are telling you they admire.

Good to know.

(As an aside, I must admit that it is comforting to write something clear and unequivocal like this and know that certain recent exiles here won’t be desperately trying to justify Maddow’s conduct, which is indefensibly unethical and unprofessional journalism.)


Facts: Twitchy



36 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

  1. Can’t the term “Ethics Dunce” be re-named a “Rachel Maddow” or something like that? Like a Jumbo. She’s the picture when you look up ethics dunce in the dictionary. She’s basically retired the award. Her accomplishment should be recognized.

    And how great was Albert Finney in “Erin Brockavich?” A Brit actor playing a harried American plaid jacket car wreck lawyer to perfection. You’d think he’d worked in a PI firm for years. And a perfect American accent. Those Brits really know how to act. Obvious but worth restating. He absolutely chewed up the scenery in that movie. Too bad he didn’t have a bigger part.

  2. Dunce implies a certain ignorance on a given matter. Ms. Maddow falls into the category of ethics corrupter. You are being kind.

    • I left out an important element. Ms Maddow knows exactly what she is doing and does so to mislead a willing audience.

        • Careful with “complicit” there, Jack. You may be entering Cory Booker territory, aka, The Valley of the Shadow of Death. Or is it The Valley of the Maddow of Death.

        • Jack, I would agree that all are not misled. They are predisposed to agree with a TV personality who is favored among the peer group. Ms Maddow is able to project authority because she is a TV pundit. Complicity suggests the audience knows she is wrong and allows it. I think there is a difference between a complicit adult and a person predisposed to her opinion who would wind up being an outcast from the peer group for questioning the groupthink.

  3. ”A Brit actor playing a harried American plaid jacket car wreck lawyer to perfection.”

    That he did, OB. One of my all-time favorite “best-suited-for-the-role” is Harvey Keitel as any kind of cop/detective.

    Keitel had an interesting change-up role in Shadrach. If you choose to watch it, keep an eye peeled for a tres fetching Andie MacDowell as a bare-footed, beer-swilling mother from the SAYouth and an ear open for (IMHO) one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.

    • A Bill Styron short story I haven’t read. Tremendous. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks. I think “Sophie’s Choice” is one of the all time great books, and a pretty darned good movie as well.

      My favorite college professor/friend attended Duke with Styron. They were in a writing class together. Well, sort of. According to my prof, Bill Styron, when he showed up, was drunk and would sleep through the class with his head down on the desk. His only contribution to the class was that he stunk. I’m pretty sure Styron struggled with depression his entire life.

        • Your comment reminded me of a smoker who quit, then realized his house stank.

          Related story: my grandparent had a painting over the couch of mountains with a valley and stream in the foreground. I would stare at that picture (out of boredom) growing up. Then, when I was 30, my grandfather got cataract surgery. He excitedly brought me over to the picture, and pointed out that the mountains had snow on them!

          He had had that poor eyesight for longer than I had been alive.

          All of this to make the point: people can cope and live with all manner of strangeness and not even notice until something changes their perspective.

          What will it take to change the perspective of today’s progressives?

          • “What will it take to change the perspective of today’s progressives?”

            Should add, for some off them; nothing!

            There’s currently a small vocal (IMHO fucking insane!) group that wants to have all 4 (yes ALL FOUR!) of the Educational Resource Officers (ERO’S) removed from Madison, WI public HS’s and want Communities Policing Themselves. School-to-Prison pipeline and somesuch.

            What could possibly go wrong, right?

            Please note that all four of the ERO’s are minorities, whom I’m led to believe can’t be racist and whom one wouldn’t expect to accept training specifically…um…aimed at, and I quote, “killing black kids.”

            Oh, and release all inmates of color because they’re, like, you know, only incarcerated because of the White Supremacist dominated EVIL Male Patriarchy.

            I reckon the White inmates that are there and should remain there because, well, just because; White Privilege, perhaps?

            An arguably irreverent pal of mine & Zoltar’s has a post in a local Lefty forum that you may find interesting.


        • My wife and I have furnished our vacation home with cast offs from a retirement community. Nicotine is a big deal, or at least it was in the generation that’s pretty much gone now. I bought a great fifties lamp with a ceramic base. I really thought it had some sort of velvet coating on the base. Turns out it was, you guessed it, nicotine. Wiped it off and there was a shiny glaze finish. The greatest generation was hooked on cigs during the war when they gave cigs to GIs to calm then down before they were sent into combat. Ugh So they, or some of them, survived the war, but not lung cancer and congestive heart failure.

  4. My favorite Rachel Maddow moment was watching that ubiquitous (to borrow a phrase) “smug, arrogant, incorrigibly biased” smirk completely missing from her face, after colliding with a fact-based reality, during her 11/09/2016 broadcast.


  5. Don’t worry…certain recent exiles from here are eagerly defending the honesty of Vladimir Putin on twitter…since ole Vlad said at Helsinki that he definitely wanted Trump to win.

    Because Vlad is NOT a known liar spinning on behalf of Russia and sowing discord in competitor nations WHEN he’s saying things that can publicly harm Trump.

    Yep. He’s defended the honesty of the very man he’s spent ample time denigrating as a lying enemy…when and only when…that man says something negative about Trump.

  6. Has the ‘inadvertently’ incomplete transcript been corrected on the Kremlin site? Or the White House site for that matter?

    If so, then delete the scare quotes round ‘inadvertently’. If not, then retain them. What very probably was originally an innocent error has been quite deliberately allowed to stand, because it was convenient.

    • Or because this White House, like others I can name, is often late updating its website. What earthly point would there be in deliberately leaving an erroneous transcript up when the corrected version is ubiquitous?

      • So how long should we wait for the correction to be made to the White House’s transcript so we can all see it? And what conclusions, if any, should we draw if no change is made within a reasonable period?

        And for Rachel Maddow’s (2), is she accurately reporting POTUS assering that Putin wants the “Dems” to win, not him? And is there any backing for that assertion?

        It is of course entirely up to you Jack to write your blog as you wish, but I’d appreciate you more if you spent less energy attacking messengers, and more time on the underlying issues.

        I hear Putin acknowledging that he wanted Trump to win and that he directed his officials to help achieve this. My interest is now (1) to find out what such officials did; (2) to hear rational assessments of what the impact may have been; and (3) to establish what will be done to guard against such interference in future.

        I have no interest in whether Rachel Maddow apologises or not.

        • You should, unless you don’t intend to pay any attention to her from now on. The apology acknowledges that she intends to be trustworthy and honest. The absence of one shows that she doesn’t. And she doesn’t.

    • For the record, the White House’s correction was reported on the morning of the 26th, or almost 12 hours before Sue’s post. Nobody noticed, because they were only interested in the “gotcha!”.: the White House is not a news organization. It has no obligation to post the transcript at all.

      Why were commenters asking ME about what was on the WH website? They can check it as easily as I can.

      • Because when Obama did it… wait, I said that already. Hmmm, it fits here as well: Trump would never correct a mistake, or something. therefore they did not even look for the correction.

        Obama let ‘mistakes’ stand for his entire term in office. Notice Sue making anything of that?

  7. Apparently I’m one of the few lefties who comment here even occasionally these days. I trust I will not become an “exile.”
    This story becomes an intriguing example of the partisan fragmentation of the country that has been happening for about a generation. Some people will believe everything Rachel Maddow (or Sean Hannity, or…) says; some will believe nothing. Too few will parse the content.
    Maddow’s allegation that someone intentionally edited the tape/transcript is unsupported by facts, and her smug reassertion of a discredited argument is, to say the least, problematic.
    But I’ve written on my blog about two variations on what I call the Christine Vole effect, named for the character in the Agatha Christie short story/play and subsequently Billy Wilder movie who intentionally allows her absolutely truthful testimony describing her husband’s guilt to seem instead to be the vengeance of a jealous wife. The jury was influenced by the implosion of her testimony, which was, by the way, unnecessary to the prosecution’s case; they acquit.
    The variation, as we saw often in the likes of James O’Keefe, and here with Maddow, is the unintentional corollary: by making an extreme statement, the speaker undermines the rest of an otherwise persuasive argument.
    Maddow is absolutely correct that everyone knew about the missing question and answer for several days. Fixing the problem was easy, even before the reason for the anomaly came to light. It takes a few minutes to correct the website; after a while, inaction is itself an action, and a volitional one, at that.
    The fact that such a failure to correct the record would be “stupid” does literally nothing to convince me that someone in this administration wouldn’t think it’s a great idea. And Pres. Trump did indeed tweet that Russia wants to interfere in future elections to oppose him, despite the fact that Putin said he wanted Trump to win. Sure, we can tease this out: Putin isn’t going to say anything to the contrary in those circumstances; he’s an accomplished liar; whatever. Still, does this look bad for the administration? Of course it does.
    But Maddow really doesn’t trust her audience to draw its own conclusions, and by failing to retract an apparently inaccurate statement, she allowed the entire argument to blow up in her face, and not merely to those already disposed to disbelieve her commentary.
    She tried to stretch a single to a double and was thrown out by about 30 feet.

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