March 15th, 2017

Rachel Maddow’s clickbait

Well, it wasn’t exactly clickbait, because it was on TV rather than online.

But Maddow’s promise to reveal Trump’s tax returns was the sort of thing you see on the internet all the time, an ad that promises some amazing game-changing revelation but turns out to be very much ado about nothing.

Maddow’s teaser that she’d obtained Trump’s tax returns did have some mild news value in that the particular return she featured (2005) showed that he’d paid more taxes in the year in question than many people would have thought.

Here’s Slate—not ordinarily a bastion of Trumplove and Maddowhate—on the subject:

TV is a ratings game, but an entire episode about highly damaging tax returns is just as likely to get you great ratings as milking the possibility that you have highly damaging tax returns and less likely to get you compared to Geraldo. Maddow even went so far as to hold the tax returns back until after the first commercial break, as if we were watching an episode of The Bachelor and not a matter of national importance—because we weren’t, in fact, watching a matter of national importance, just a cable news show trying to set a ratings record…

The form revealed that, rather than not paying taxes and making no money, Trump paid $38 million on $150 million in income. Maddow promised to pull a sordid revelation out of a hat and instead plucked out … Trump’s credibility?

The author of that Slate piece, Willa Paskin, seems very disappointed in Maddow. It’s easy to see why. Maddow is no TV neophyte, and must have known her revelation was more inclined to help Trump than hurt him. Paskin writes that rumor is that Trump himself leaked the returns, based on the fact that they are favorable to him. I’d rather that were the case than that they were obtained illegally, but I believe the latter is far more likely.

[NOTE: By the way, regarding Paskin’s dig at “The Bachelor”—say what you will about the show (and I’ve said my piece here)—the “Bachelor” directors certainly know how to entice an audience into eagerly anticipating something. In fact, a great many viewers make a sport out of deciphering what the promos really indicate about what happens versus what they purport to indicate.]

14 Responses to “Rachel Maddow’s clickbait”

  1. parker Says:

    I don’t watch TV except on line. I think this was a classic rope a dope maneuver. Maddow may not be a dummy, but she is nowhere as clever as she imagines.

  2. Cornhead Says:

    Trump’s tax returns are to the Left what Hillary’s deleted emails are to the Right, but I submit that there is a major difference. Trump’s tax returns are a legal and financial document which were prepared by professionals and at great expense. Everyone knew they would be subject to an adversarial audit. Therefore great care in preparation. The Left’s speculation about what they might contain was groundless. Trump never released his returns because he knew that the full return would be picked apart – by idiots – in something like the circus we saw last night.

    On the other hand Hillary’s deleted emails were intentionally destroyed and the whole private server was setup in order to avoid keeping official government records. I remain convinced that within those 33,000 emails is evidence of bribes or other criminal activity with the Foundation. The destruction of evidence is key. And some lawyer read every single email that was destroyed.

  3. Griffin Says:

    I’ve heard of over promise and under deliver but this is even worse than that it was an attempted hit piece which actually helped the target.

    It really is amazing how these hysterias explode and then fizzle over and over and over.

  4. neo-neocon Says:


    The weird thing, though, is that Maddow knew what was in the returns before she issued the publicity about it. So she knew it mostly exonerated Trump.

  5. Cornhead Says:

    Maddow is so unappealing I am mystified by her popularity. I will put aside the fact that she seems to wear a black pants suit every night and focus on her presentation.

    She has a very high and annoying voice. She speculates wildly. She hates Trump with a passion. She is unhinged but thinks she is so smart. Perfect idol for the Left. A female Keith Olberman but not as crazy.

  6. Griffin Says:


    Only thing I think of is that she knew others (The Daily Beast I guess at least) had these that if she didn’t report on them and it came out that she had them and passed it would look bad for her.

    Also if these really were so newsworthy shouldn’t a supposed objective (yeah I know) newsman like their own Lester Holt have reported them instead of an opinion show.

    Tells me they knew this was a big nothing so they were going for an attempted quick hit job.

    When one acts out of blind hatred sound decision making goes out the window.

  7. huxley Says:

    It’s an unpleasant thought, but I suspect these non-stop smears work. Trump’s numbers, never that good, are dropping.

  8. Yancey Ward Says:

    I would like to think Trump played by leaking those two pages, but like Neo, I think it almost certain that the leak came from some anti-Trump individual. It is also likely that this person works for Trump in capacity- a good guess would be at the firm that does Trump’s taxes. It is quite possible these two pages is all to which the individual had access, or maybe all they could leak without outing themselves.

    As for why Maddow and her panel played it the way they did last night isn’t all that mystifying to me- they all lack a great deal of self-awareness and probably don’t realize how stupid they looked last night.

  9. Richard Saunders Says:

    Stop the presses! Clear the front page! Here’s the headline: Real Estate Developer Pays Alternative Minimum Tax — Statute Works Exactly as Designed!

  10. Yancey Ward Says:

    Tonight on Maddow- Trump’s leaked grocery list from August 2007! Will there or will there not be caviar, vodka, and beets on it?

  11. parker Says:


    I am betting on Alaska salmon, brussel sprouts, and manchingo cheese, followed by broiled pears with dark chocolate.

  12. Surellin Says:

    So the theory du jour is that Trump leaked the 1040, and Maddow basically made him look good, so – Maddow is working for Putin?

  13. Big Maq Says:

    @Cornhead – the better analogy is like obama’s birth certificate to the right.

    hannity, for one, harped on it for some time well past its “due date”.

    I put hannity in the same boat as maddow, completely in the boat for their cause, willing to overlook anything on their own side, and willing to way over hype some mole hill into a mountain.

    Neither are respresentative examples of all those in media on their respective sides, but they are some of the worst cases.

    They also represent the power of sensationalism that has, and now seems to be driving ever more what and how much of the media are reporting – to the point that even Neo asks who in the media is to be believed.

    I don’t see some grand conspiracy, nor even great collaboration, in the media to drive these narratives, vs a combination of the audience they each are attracting, the bias (point of view) that entails, and their each own economic incentive.

    trump is knowingly, purposefully sensational.

    That the media covers him in a sensational manner should be no surprise, be it fair and accurate or not.

    trump makes little attempt to be accurate on his own account. Hard for him to then claim that they are being “unfair”, even if they objectively are.

    After all, in this case, didn’t trump publicly promise he’d release his returns after he is elected.

    Suppose it is par for the course for the lying sob.

    Too bad maddow’s sensationalism takes some steam out of that issue (transparency, honesty), as it is a very real issue vs the fake controversy about obama’s birth certificate (something we all know trump was pushing hard).

    To the extent that we are consumers of the worst of these in the media, are we in some way complicit in how this is playing out?

    With our emphasis on the “fight” over what gets achieved, are we complicit in turning DC into just another WWF ring?

  14. Richard Saunders Says:

    parker – no pate de foie gras?

    P.S. Are you ever going to pay your election bet with me? The charities are in need of the money.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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