Things have been a bit of a mess at MSNBC lately. The network’s fortunes are tied to the fate of liberalism, and with Obama’s undeniable incompetence the preeminent political topic for the last few months, this has sent the network off on an increasingly desperate search for right-wing villainy to discuss. The results have not been pretty.
Host Martin Bashir resigned after a disturbingly detailed rant about how Sarah Palin should be defecated on. On January 4, host Melissa Harris-Perry issued a tearful apology for a segment in which she and her panelists made fun of the fact that one of Mitt Romney’s sons had adopted a black child. In a ludicrously chivalric attempt to quell the controversy, Atlantic senior editor Ta-Nehisi Coates then leapt to Perry’s defense, dubbing her “America’s most foremost public intellectual” (sic). Well-deserved mockery of Coates’s over-the-top encomium ensued, which he chalked up to “the machinery of racism.”
National Review Online’s Eliana Johnson made a game attempt to figure out which MSNBC patient is running the asylum. According to Johnson, the network’s prime-time anchor Rachel Maddow is running roughshod over the network executives in a bid to push MSNBC’s programming—and ultimately the opinions of the show’s younger generation of viewers—to the left, ratings be damned. The Oxford-educated Maddow has long appeared to be more substantive than the network’s other personalities, though when compared with the likes of Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz, the competition is not stiff. But now there are signs that even Maddow has descended into the fever swamps.
On January 2, a producer for Maddow’s show fired off an email to the general counsel for Koch Industries‚ the left’s particular bête noire, asking about their financial support for the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability (FFGA), a group that had helped pass a law requiring mandatory drug tests for welfare recipients in the state. The email was sent at 7:14 p.m., well after business hours and less than two hours before Maddow went on air to run a report accusing the Koch brothers of being in part responsible for the law.
The accusation was flimsy, to say the least. The Kochs had never directly given money to the FFGA; they had given $40,000 over the course of eight years to the State Policy Network, of which the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability was one of many dues-paying members. The accusation was even more preposterous because the Koch brothers are staunch libertarians. The idea that they would push mandatory drug testing by the state is risible to anyone who knows the first thing about their politics.
But we’re just scratching the surface of Maddow’s shoddy reporting. The blog Power Line reports that another well-known donor to the State Policy Network happens to be Comcast, which owns MSNBC and signs Maddow’s paychecks. “Maddow could equally well have said that MSNBC ‘ha[s] been promoting forced drug tests for people on welfare,’ and that FFGA is an ‘MSNBC-affiliated group,’ ” observes Power Line blogger John Hinderaker. Watchdog.org further notes that the Florida drug testing law was overturned by a lawsuit from the ACLU—an organization to which the Kochs have directly given some $20 million.
Asked about correcting her report after questions started emerging, Maddow responded with the sneer that’s become her trademark. “I do not play requests,” she said. At this point, expecting a modicum of integrity from anyone at MSNBC is probably expecting too much.