My inexcusable failure to previously post this Comment of the Day by Curmie, originally offered nearly two months ago, is especially bad because of the rapidity with which the news media concocts, hypes, or otherwise featured new tangential assaults on President Trump every day. I had forgotten about this one: the White House posted an incorrect version of the Helsinki press conference transcript. Boy, that seems like a hundred scandals, real, manufactured, and imagined, ago!Allow me to refresh your memory and mine:
MSNBC hostess Rachel Maddow, along with many of her fellow journalist members of “the resistance,” pounced on the mistake, accusing the White House of intentionally editing the transcript. Then, after the Washington Post explained that the omission was not the fault of the White House, Maddow, who is often cited as a trustworthy left-wing journalist simply because she is so much less flagrant than her MSNBC colleagues, denied that her reporting was incorrect, saying,
“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.”
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.”
With that background, here is Curmie’s much delayed Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. He also gets extra points for the baseball reference at the end…
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 President 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.