When a 'Potentially Historic' Scoop Is Exposed as Fake News: Trump Tax Story An Epic Fail for Rachel Maddow and MSNBC
Tuesday night’s release by MSNBC Anchor Rachel Maddow of President Donald Trump’s tax returns felt like a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out … in mockery.
Maddow’s “historically unprecedented” and “potentially historic” release of the top two pages of the 2005 Trump taxes revealed that Trump paid $38 million in taxes that year. The event was a disaster not seen on TV since the last “Star Wars” rerun showing the Death Star blowing up Alderaan.
Maddow unwittingly disproved Hillary Clinton’s 2016 claim that Trump might have paid no taxes. Trump’s $38 million tax hit was more tax than 672 households earned in the entire 2016. Drudge summed up the math: “TRUMP PAID HIGHER TAX RATE [25%] THAN MSNBC COMCAST [24%]... MUCH HIGHER THAN OBAMA [19%]... AND BERNIE [13%]!”
Maddow was skewered by conservatives and liberals for the needless hype and by journalists who claimed she had damaged the profession. The Washington Post’s liberal blog The Fix called the reveal “a total nothingburger” and conservative National Review Online Editor Charles C. W. Cooke commented that he never again wants “to see a televised suicide.” Mediaite bashed Maddow for having, “Just Trolled Us All For Ratings.”
It was nearly as big of a disaster for journalists who had been singing Maddow’s praises based on her recent ratings boom. Maddow was celebrated across the news media -- The New York Times, Washington Post, and Huffington Post all featured articles on her ratings rise. Hollywood Reporter called her, “MSNBC's star player” and HuffPo noted how dropping coverage of Trump’s Twitter comments, “has only helped grow her sphere of influence.”
That all went into the trash can in an Oscar fail/Steve Harvey and Miss Universe mistake kind of way that will be remembered for years. Even Maddow’s biggest supporters lamented how the broadcast was either over-promised or it ended up being a tool of Trump’s P.R. machine.
The rest of Tuesday night was divided between ways to mock Maddow and her MSNBC bosses and trying to find someone -- anyone other than her -- to blame for the disaster.