Part 3—Scandal culture hits critical mass: Last evening, a guest on Hardball made a sensible statement.
The guest was Robert Del Tufo. From 1990 through 1993, Del Tufo was attorney general of New Jersey, serving under Governor Florio, a Democrat.
An excited cable host threw to his guest. The guest made a sensible statement:
MATTHEWS (2/5/14): Let me go to Mr. Del Tufo. Thank you for joining us about this, legally. And I’m looking at this question, which any reasonable person asks:Say what? “We ought to be patient and prudent about” acquiring “all the facts?”
All these people running around speaking for the governor. A young woman in her early 40s saying, “OK, it`s time for some traffic problems.” A guy over at the Port Authority says, “Yep!” Everybody operating on the governor, it seems, governor’s authority at least, his authority.
You’ve got the lieutenant governor saying, “If you don`t play ball, you`re not going to get the money,” operating on the governor’s authority. The same with the attorney general, appointed by the governor. Everybody’s moving around saying, “I’m here from the governor’s office” implicitly.
Now, where does the law come in? Where does RICO come in? Where’s racketeering coming in here? Where does the law say, wait a minute, there comes a point when all these moving parts have to be pointed back to somebody who started this machine?
DEL TUFO: Well, let me say that we have to analyze all of the facts, and we don’t have all of the facts now. And I think we ought to be patient and prudent about that.
In fairness, Del Tufo had made a sensible statement. But when scandal culture takes hold, that isn’t how cable “news” works.
With regard to several scandals, this has been a week that was on cable news. Major pundits behaved very badly, on several cable shows, with regard to claims against Woody Allen. As of last night, Piers Morgan was embroiled in a somewhat peculiar fight regarding transgender issues.
But this was really a week that was regarding the scandals Del Tufo had been asked to discuss—the scandals involving Chris Christie.
As Del Tufo correctly noted, “we don’t have all of the facts now.” Concerning the extremely peculiar Fort Lee lane closings, we probably won’t all the facts for quite a while.
That said, cable news tends to want its facts now. If we don’t have all the facts, cable stars tend to invent them.
In our view, that process has reached critical mass on MSNBC this week. We have been especially struck by Rachel Maddow’s work.
Forget the themes we planned to pursue this week—the themes you see headlined above. For today, let’s try to cover a few of the ways Maddow has performed during this week that was.
Last night, Maddow was at it again, driving a highly tabloidized, scandal-ripe pseudo-news culture. As always, her performance was histrionic—and her facts were perhaps a bit less than clear and complete.
In her first segment, Maddow primarily expressed shock and amazement at the idea that David Wildstein was paid $150,000 per year for his job at the Port Authority. A job no one can even explain!
Oops! In the next hour, someone did explain the job to Lawrence on The Last Word. In a later post, we’ll look at parts of Maddow’s journalistically embarrassing segment. We’ll also give you the latest dope on how much Maddow is paid.
In her second segment, Maddow rocked and rolled with the journalistically tortured claim that Christie had suddenly changed his story during his radio interview this Monday night. In our fourth post today, we’ll look at chunks from that embarrassing segment.
By the time that second segment was done, it was 26 minutes past the hour. In terms of broadcast minutes absent commercials, about half the program had aired (22 minutes).
Judged by journalistic standards, the program had been an embarrassing mess. That said, Maddow has been making selective, tabloid-fueled presentations all week.
Go ahead—watch the tapes! Whatever those snark- and shoutfests represent, you are not watching news presentations by a broadcast journalist.
Last night, Maddow’s first two segments were trivial, time-wasting stage shows. She built thrilling new scandal claims on beds of selective baloney.
Whatever Christie will turn out to have done—and it might turn out to be a great deal—Maddow wasn’t plowing new ground in these segments. That said, cable news tends to need a new scandal each night, or the appearance of same.
In the posts which follow today, we’ll examine the segments we have cited. We’ll start with the Monday night segment in which Maddow made a very familiar but very fuzzy claim.
Next: In search of the “false cover story”