~ Conservative Zone
Trump’s Tax Return Wasn’t the Scoop Rachel Maddow Hoped It Would Be
For nearly two years now, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been itching to tar and feather Donald Trump with damaging information or expository gossip that would embarrass our country’s new president or at least make him unpalatable to the nation’s voters. On Tuesday, March 14, Maddow appeared to have just such a scoop, as she teased on Twitter to draw in ratings.
The only problem? The story was less of a scoop and more simply a piece of virtual non-news because the big piece of information she had — two leaked pages of Trump’s 2005 tax return — contained no “smoking gun” bombshells.
In fact, for all practical purposes, it made Trump look like a law-abiding citizen compared to other high-profile personalities such as ex-President Obama, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and wealthy investor Warren Buffett, who all paid less in taxes percentage-wise than he did.
Even MSNBC owner Comcast paid less percentage-wise that year.
Still, it’s true that the prospect of Trump’s tax returns being revealed seems like it would be one of the bigger revelations in modern journalism. Currently, Hillary Clinton political consultant David Brock has a standing offer of a $5 million reward for anyone who can produce Trump’s complete returns — via legal means, of course.
However, MSNBC blew it big time by hyping the anticipated reveal all over social media via clickbait postings and even using a “countdown clock” to lure viewers into tuning into Maddow’s broadcast. Eventually, the expected audience for her show grew to many millions.
But even before the broadcast aired, the White House pre-empted the report with its own statement, decimating Maddow’s “scoop” (although admittedly, the news took time to spread).
When Maddow finally came on, her announcement wasn’t immediate; she kept viewers in the dark, waiting for details later in the program, forcing millions of people to watch with anticipation until the anticlimactic moment when she eventually spilled the beans.
In announcing the non-news “news” of the tax return on the air, Maddow incorporated broadcast time for David Cay Johnston, an anti-Trump author who allegedly “discovered” Trump’s tax return in his U.S. mailbox.
Johnston is known outside of the Maddow show for alleging everything from Trump’s collusion with Russian oligarchs to accusations that Trump is indebted to Chinese banks. Together, the pair pored over the two pages, reading in vain for something incriminating they could seize on.
Johnston attempted to suggest that Melania Trump could have received a million dollars for doing “sleazy porn,” but Maddow tut-tut-ed him, clearly showing his comment was speculation, as opposed to a real accusation (which could have been grounds for a libel suit by Trump against the network).
The show wrapped up without any major finding of consequence, severely disappointing millions of viewers, who had been expecting some kind of major discovery.
A day later, after it was clear that Maddow’s “bombshell” report had failed to produce any significant defamation of Trump and had in fact backfired on her, Maddow was the subject of ridicule from many quarters, including the Late Show with Steven Colbert — a notoriously Left-leaning program.
Dressed as Maddow, Colbert spent three minutes teasing a punchline to the old joke about the chicken crossing the road. “Why did the chicken…” Colbert began before switching gears and interjecting, “But first a word about chickens.” An infomercial about chickens then followed before Colbert produced a live chicken on the air. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Colbert rhetorically asked. “OK, what are roads?” he continued to cued laughter.
(Is this Maddow crossing the road with the chicken? Did Maddow find out why the chicken crossed the road? If so, she needs to have a segment telling us why.)
On her own show, Maddow tried to claim the reason why Trump’s tax return failed to list anything salacious was because 2005 was the year Melania Trump was applying for citizenship, and Trump didn’t want anything untoward on a joint tax return with his wife.
“[Melania] was the holder of a green card; she could work here legally, but she wasn’t a citizen. She didn’t get her citizenship until the following year, in 2006,” Maddow weakly offered by way of explanation. “So, that’s one thing that’s unusual about 2005,” she added, trying to cover for the fact that in reality, nothing was unusual about the tax return she’d revealed.
Maddow later admitted that the 2005 return implicated Trump in no wrongdoing whatsoever and that people had “expected too much” if they thought it would have. “Because I have information about the president doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a scandal,” she stated.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s damning information. If other people leapt to that conclusion without me indicating that it was, that hype is external to what we did.”
For his part, David Johnston said that it was possible that Trump could have leaked his own return since Johnston claimed Trump had a history of leaking documents and that the author had won a Pulitzer Prize for stories on the nation’s tax code in The New York Times in the early 2000s.
Nevertheless, MSNBC parent company NBC reportedly was upset by its subsidiary’s announcement of a huge story without informing its parent that its supposed exposé was relatively weak. “[MSNBC] announced it on Twitter, and [NBC] found out when [the public] did,” said one media source.
“[MSNBC president] Phil Griffin was trying to undermine [NBC News president] Noah Oppenheim. There was never a conversation. They overplayed their hand in a huge way.”
Perhaps the lesson here is one of not crying “Wolf!” when one spots a lamb, but whether MSNBC or Ms. Maddow have really learned it is an excellent question. And of course, the possibility that Trump “Punk’d” them both by anonymously sending out his own documents is yet another question that we may never get the answer to.