Rachel Maddow gets my nod as the Worst Media Person for 2016-2019. She deserves that title not because she’s anti-Trump deranged — so are most of the hosts and guests on MSNBC and CNN, and large numbers of reporters and opinion-makers at major newspapers.

And Maddow’s not the worst at MSNBC — Lawrence O’Donnell is hate-filled and angry, but no one takes his intellect seriously. Maddow, by contrast, managed to defraud her own viewers with pungent conspiracy fear-mongering that has led them down a dark dead-ended alleyway, while maintaining the patina of intellectualism.

We focused on Maddow’s conspiratorial antics in April 2019, shortly after the summary of the Mueller report conclusions was released by AG William Barr, Why Isn’t Rachel Maddow Treated Like Other Crazy Conspiracy Theorists?

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has spent over two years pushing a conspiracy theory, yet she is celebrated by many people on the left in politics and media. Why is she treated any differently than say, Alex Jones?

You don’t have to be a fan of Alex Jones (and I’m not) to be disturbed by the fact that he was virtually erased from social media, banned at every level, while Rachel Maddow is free to advance all the crazy ideas she can dream up….

Alex Jones is deplatformed and Maddow is celebrated as an intelligent commentator.

Other than that, what is the difference between them?

But don’t take our word for it. Analysis at lefty journals have been among Maddow’s most fierce critics, because her taint rubs off on them.

Willa Paskin wrote at the left leaning Slate how seamlessly Maddow transitioned from Russia-collusion conspiracy to Barr-coverup conspiracy theories:

Rachel Maddow’s Conspiracy Brain

On Monday night, the first night that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show aired after Attorney General William Barr released his four-page memo on the Mueller report, Rachel Maddow was skeptical. Like, extremely, extremely skeptical. In fact, she had 15 questions worth of skepticism about the “the Barr Report,” which she displayed in remarkably tiny font behind her head.

The questions started with the basics—Had Robert Mueller expected the attorney general to jump in and make a no prosecution, no collusion announcement? Was it appropriate for the attorney general to make that kind of determination at this point in the process?—before taking sudden swerves into the conspiratorial. Robert Mueller had chosen not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment in his report.

“Well,” Maddow wondered, “why did Mueller make that determination and was it, in fact, a choice?” Was it possible that the special prosecutor had not explicitly described the president’s behavior as a crime in his report because there were plans to indict him as soon as he left office?

Ross Barkan at lefist The Guardian noted that Maddow built her viewership on Russia-collusion conspiracy theories:

With Trump has come Russia: two years of conspiracy-mongering about whether the president, a failed real estate mogul and reality TV star consumed with dubious deal-making, conspired with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Robert Mueller’s determination that no evidence exists to prove Trump and Russian colluded to fix the election has exposed, once again, the venality of A-list political punditry. At the top of the heap is none other than MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow….

And Maddow, MSNBC’s ratings juggernaut of the Trump era, is the embodiment of this overzealousness. The Mueller investigation was covered more on MSBNC than any other television network, and was mentioned virtually every day in 2018. No twist was too minuscule or outlandish for Maddow; every night, seemingly, brought another nail in the coffin of the soon-to-be-dead Trump presidency.

There was the time Maddow theorized that Trump was “curiously well-versed” in “specific Russian talking points”, strongly implying press briefings were dictated from the Kremlin. An American missile attack on Syria, Maddow concurred, could have been orchestrated by Putin himself. During a cold snap, the Russian government could shut down our power supply. Putin could blackmail Trump into pulling troops from Russia’s border.

Maddow was not only certain that Russians had rigged the election. On air, she would talk about the “continuing operation” – the idea that the Kremlin was controlling the Trump presidency itself. In more sober times, this brand of analysis would barely cut it on a far-right podcast. In the Trump era, it was ratings gold.

Maddow is much smarter than this. But the siren song of ratings is too difficult for a TV personality ignore, especially when a television network is transformed from an also-ran into a top contender.

Maddow deserves a special place in the media hall of shame because she has clung to Russia-collusion, and used it to build her audience, long after other mainstream Trump-haters had moved on to other supposed Trump-defects. She just can’t give it up.

Erik Wemple at The Washington Post has a column about Maddow’s obsession, Rachel Maddow rooted for the Steele dossier to be true. Then it fell apart. After documenting how over years Maddow tried to bolster the allegations in the dossier, Wemple noted that Maddow mostly went silent when the dossier was debunked in the DOJ Inspector General (Horowitz) report:

The case against Maddow is far stronger. When small bits of news arose in favor of the dossier, the franchise MSNBC host pumped air into them. At least some of her many fans surely came away from her broadcasts thinking the dossier was a serious piece of investigative research, not the flimflam, quick-twitch game of telephone outlined in the Horowitz report. She seemed to be rooting for the document.

And when large bits of news arose against the dossier, Maddow found other topics more compelling.

She was there for the bunkings, absent for the debunkings — a pattern of misleading and dishonest asymmetry.

Alex Jones is deplatformed, while Maddow still remains atop the MSNBC heap.

Some conspiracy fear-mongers are more equal than others.


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