Companion site:


Google search...


Daily Howler: Maddow was emoting hard--and handing us rubes half a story
Daily Howler logo
TRY TELLING THE TRUTH! Maddow was emoting hard—and handing us rubes half a story: // link // print // previous // next //

They’ve already killed one person: Did Sunday school teacher Melissa Huckaby kill Sandra Cantu, an adorable California child who was just eight years old? We don’t know. Neither does Larry King, of course, or his gang of cable ghouls. But that gang has spent the last two nights convicting Huckaby of the crime. After all, she’s been accused! And by the established rules of the game, that’s close enough for cable.

For the record, the ghouls especially love this story because this adorable eight-year-old child seems to have been sexually abused in the course of her murder. Last night, former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro seemed to be nearing a state of special ecstacy as she discussed this part of the story. Over on Headline News, Nancy Grace was of course more clownish still.

King’s performance was inexcusable. On Monday night, guest host Joy Behar was actually several times worse.

It’s hard to forget one part of this story. These ghouls have already killed one person in an earlier ramble. That innocent person was Richard Ricci, who actually hadn’t played a role in the disappearance of Elizabeth Smart. (Smart was the lovely Utah child on whose photographs cable fed in the summer of 2002.) Grace was still part of the King gang then; she, and others, convicted Ricci. As it turned out, Ricci was uninvolved in this crime. But in part because of the cable turmoil, he got dragged into prison on an unrelated charge. Due to a pre-existing health problem, he died there in August 2002. Uninvolved.

Miraculously, Smart was returned to her family in March 2003. When that happened, King lamented the way Ricci had been convicted on his program. “Nancy, do you feel a little funny about all the racks [sic] we took at Mr. Ricci on this show?” he asked the loathsome lunatic Grace on March 12 of that year. “No. I don’t,” she dumbly replied. The evening’s disgrace spiraled downward from there. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/2/03, with links to previous work.

Must we cite an earlier episode? In the summer of 2001, many of these same cable ghouls convicted Gary Condit of the murder of Chandra Levy. Incredibly, they even invented two key pieces of evidence to make it seem Condit was guilty. (See links at the bottom of the 5/2/03 HOWLER.) It’s hard to find words for the moral squalor afflicting a gang of ghouls like these. But they’ve gone right back to their ghoulish ways in the past two nights.

Recent history has made one point clear: People will do and say almost anything in the search for cable wealth and fame. If you doubt that basic fact, just watch Larry King Live tonight. To stare into a deeper abyss, we dare you: Sample Grace.

Special report: New morning?

PART 2—TRY TELLING THE TRUTH: People have asked in recent weeks: Why have we been criticizing emerging “progressive” media? (Olbermann and Maddow, to cite two examples.) Easy! We’ve criticized emerging progressive media because progressive media matters! On balance, the mainstream press corps has been a disaster for years; the conservative press is a loud, screaming joke. If the public will ever get the chance to benefit from trustworthy media, that opportunity will most likely have to come from emerging “progressive” entities.

As Americans—as progressives, as liberals, as centrists, as Democrats, as responsible conservatives—we can’t afford to let these new entities adopt the broken cultural practices which have driven so much of our existing press corps over the past twenty years.

And yet, everywhere we look, we see emerging progressive entities which seem to be aping Sean Hannity. In the ened, they come down “on your side.” But they treat you like fools in the process.

In our view, this is unacceptable as a basic moral matter. You simply can’t build a progressive politics by letting a bunch of upper-class kids disinform average people. Beyond that, we suspect this approach is extremely foolish as a matter of basic politics. Conservative bull-roar worked well for years for a basic reason: Because the mainstream press was frequently willing to pimp it. (Al Gore said he invented the Internet!) But unless our society fully collapses, the mainstream press will likely be an upper-class institution for decades to come. It’s unlikely this group will ever want to recite gong-show tales from the left. Silly tales have worked well—for the other side. Unless society collapses, they won’t likely work well for us.

Neither will dick jokes. Neither will superior skill at denigrating other folks’ motives.

And yet, we get the feeling that many “progressives” want to ape the conduct of talk-show conservatives. As we watch and read our “progressive” media, we find ourselves getting the same half-truths we’ve gotten from the mainstream and the right. We find we have to fact-check everything; when we do, the facts routinely aren’t there. This is a deeply annoying experience. And so, to emerging progressive journalists, we offer this bit of advice: Try telling the truth.

We’re getting half-truths from “progressive” journalists? We know, we know—it sounds like heresy! But we’ll offer examples for the next several days. To consider a fairly trivial case, consider the half-story Rachel Maddow kept telling about Tammy Duckworth—and the vile Richard Burr.

Duckworth is Obama’s nominee to head the Veterans Administration. On April 3, Maddow made her first presentation about the nominee—and she let the whole world know how heartfelt her views really were. Does Maddow ever tell it straight? A “progressive” star was steaming mad—and handing us rubes a half-story:

MADDOW (4/3/09): A Republican senator who has never received much national notice before, who has flown mostly under the radar in his four years in the Senate, he decides that the issue on which he would like the country to become acquainted with him, the way he’s going to make a name for himself, the way he’s going to have his name known coast to coast, is by personally blocking this person, Tammy Duckworth, double-amputee, Iraq war vet and nationally-respected veterans advocate from taking a job at the V.A. The senator’s name is Richard Burr, and now, I will never, ever forget that. We will have more on that coming up.

Spare us. But Maddow was very upset with Burr, about whose motives she was mind-reading nicely. Later in the program, we got her fuller, heart-felt half-report. To watch the full segment, click this:

MADDOW (4/3/09): As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, the latest project of one Republican senator is blocking Tammy Duckworth from a top job in the Veterans Affairs Department.

Duckworth is a major in the National Guard who lost both her legs when the helicopter she was piloting was attacked in Iraq in 2004. She is renowned nation-wide as a wicked-smart, effective, passionate veterans advocate.

But now, Republican Richard Burr from North Carolina has decided to personally delay her nomination. And he won’t say why. His spokesman says, “He is doing his due diligence to ensure that veterans have the best representation possible.”

Due diligence? On the decorated Iraq war veteran who helped make the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs a leader in state benefits for vets and who is renowned nationwide for that purpose?

Senator Burr, how about diligently doing the right thing right now and picking a different high horse to ride in on, OK? You picked the wrong fight here.

Is Tammy Duckworth “renowned nationwide” for “help[ing] make the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs a leader in state benefits for vets?” We have no idea. (For what it’s worth, a fairly detailed Wikipedia entry records no such judgments. Click this. Duckworth has served in her post for a bit more than two years.) At any rate, Duckworth was “wicked-smart” this evening—and Maddow was wicked sincere. And of course, Maddow was utterly baffled by Burr’s baffling conduct. According to Maddow, Burr wouldn’t say why he was delaying the Duckworth nomination.

Unfortunately, Richard Burr had announced why he was delaying judgment. Maddow didn’t know this elementary fact—or she’d decided to misinform you. At any rate: Four nights later, Maddow announced that Burr had relented—and she even pretended to be going off prompter! “Stop the computer thingy,” she cried, sincerity oozing from every pore. Her heartfelt feelings could be seen on her sleeve—though Burr’s vile conduct was still “inexplicable.” If you’re the kind of progressive rube who believes the things Maddow tells you (to view the dramatics, click here):

MADDOW (4/7/09): Stop the presses! Stop the presses! Or at least stop the computer thingy that makes the teleprompter go. There was good news today for an Obama administration nominee, and I haven’t been able to say that in a long time. Specifically, it was for one celebrated Iraq War vet, an experienced veterans advocate and administrator named Tammy Duckworth. Her nomination to the Department of Veterans Affairs, I’m happy to say, is no longer being inexplicably held up by North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr. Senator Burr consistently said only that he was delaying a vote on Duckworth`s nomination to do his, quote, "due diligence.”

[Grimaces, throws up her hands in confusion]

But today the senator’s office relented. Still not clear on what the due diligence was on a helicopter pilot, double amputee, experienced veterans’ advocate supported by all the veterans service organizations and nationally known for her work. But it is done. At last.

The whole thing was still “inexplicable,” Maddow said; apparently, Senator Burr still wouldn’t say what his puzzling “due diligence” might concern. (Question about our Rhodes Scholar’s logic: Are senators supposed to approve nominees just because they were helicopter pilots?) And on April 9, Maddow was at it again, show-boating with veterans advocate Paul Reickhoff this time. (We’re always sorry to see quality people like Rieckhoff being stoop to the level of cable “news” hustles.) In this case, Maddow suggested that her own heartfelt efforts may have helped speed Duckworth’s nomination. But uh-oh! Reickhoff let something slip. He basically understood the story which Maddow had never told. To watch, click this:

MADDOW (4/9/09): I’ve got to ask you about Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth, who got a major shout-out from the president today at the podium.


MADDOW: Her nomination for that position at the VA no longer being held up by Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. And I know we talked about it on this show. I know that wasn’t everything that was going on there. What do you think was happening there?

RIECKHOFF: You know, I don’t know. I think Burr had some questions about how she did her paperwork. I mean, at the end of the day, we need Tammy at work in the VA. We need her helping the Veterans Administration and Veterans Affairs get up to speed.

She’s a double amputee, a wounded combat vet, a female vet. And she understands our issues. And Senator Burr took a chance here, I think, a political calculation to try to oppose this nomination. He may have had his concerns but he didn’t tell us what they were. And politically, I think he’s going to pay a heavy price for this. I mean, we’ve learned—the president has learned this and then now, Senator Burr has learned this.

There’s an old saying in the Marine Corps that I think applies to veterans groups: "No better friend, no worse enemy." Tammy Duckworth has tremendous support from the American people, has tremendous support from veterans of all generations and had tremendous support in Congress. So standing in the way of her nomination wasn’t a smart move for Burr. And I think unfortunately for him, he’s going to pay a price.

The pair of progressives were swaggering hard, with Reickhoff allowed to do the mind-reading this time. But uh-oh! As he started, Reickhoff mentioned the apparent cause of the minor delay in Duckworth’s confirmation. This matter, of course, had always been clear—except on the Maddow show.

As far as we know, there’s no earthly reason why Tammy Duckworth shouldn’t serve as head of the VA. But it was always fairly clear why Burr was delaying confirmation. At any rate, there was more to the story than Maddow ever reported—and it was all on the public record. Duh. On April 2, Matthew Johnson had explained the nature of the delay for the Congressional Quarterly. The report is available on Nexis. If we can afford to pay for the service, we’ll guess GE can too:

JOHNSON (4/2/09): But the [Veterans Affairs] committee did not vote on Duckworth's nomination because Sen. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the panel's ranking Republican, has reservations about inconsistent answers she provided to pre-confirmation hearing questionnaires.

Duckworth provided several drafts of these answers, telling Burr in written responses after her April 1 confirmation hearing that she had made the multiple revisions in an effort to answer follow-up questions and disclose new information from year-end financial summaries. Each submission was correct to the best of her knowledge at the time, Duckworth said.

Duckworth also said she had initially completed the questionnaire without guidance or instruction. After getting help from the Department of Veterans Affairs and then the White House, she sent a final set of answers to the questionnaires to the committee, said Jesse Broder Van Dyke, a spokesman for committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii.

Burr did not attend the off-floor markup. Because he wasn't there, the committee withheld the vote as a matter of courtesy, Broder Van Dyke said.

Remember: That explanation came from Broder Van Dyke, speaking for the Democratic chairman of the senate committee.

Apparently, this turned out to be fairly trivial stuff. But Maddow’s clowning notwithstanding, the nature of this minor delay was always perfectly clear. It sounded like Duckworth had managed to minor-ly screw up her basic questionnaires. On April 3, the Chicago Daily Herald, a home newspaper for Duckworth, further explained the less than earth-shaking story. (Reporter: Deborah Donovan.) Maddow’s showboating notwithstanding, Burr’s press spokesman did explain the nature of the delay. And omigod! “We have no complaint against her,” the vile spokesman had even said:

DONOVAN (4/3/09): The delay in Duckworth’s appointment has to do with the fact that Burr had received three questionnaires with three different versions of the answers from her, [Burr press spokesman David] Ward said. He characterized the forms as FBI background information that every nominee must provide.

"We are waiting on one definitive answer from Major Duckworth," he said. "We have no complaint against her, we are waiting on the necessary paperwork."

He also said it was possible the matter could be resolved Thursday as senators worked late into the night before recess.

That report appeared on April 3. That evening, Maddow was emoting hard about Burr’s outrageous conduct—conduct whose motives she mind-read skillfully. But wouldn’t you know it? She didn’t mention the apparent problems with Duckworth’s paper-work—problems which seemed to have been acknowledged by Akaka and by Duckworth herself. Who knows? Maybe Maddow and her staff didn’t know this part of the story—but they plainly should have known. This rather trivial matter was public record, subject to a simple search.

Who knows? Maybe her staff had spent the day searching newspapers for dick jokes!

The next day, the Chicago Daily Herald reported on the story again. And uh-oh! This time, reporter Dan Carden mentioned a part of the story which seems especially awkward, given Maddow’s extended clowning about a related subject. Uh-oh! As head of the Illinois VA, Duckworth had served at the pleasure of Blago, Carden duly noted:

CARDEN (4/4/09): The delay in a U.S. Senate committee’s confirmation of Tammy Duckworth’s nomination to a top job in the federal Department of Veterans Affairs is not related to Duckworth’s connections to indicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a spokesman for the senator who asked for the delay said Friday.

"It’s nothing personal relating to Ms. Duckworth or any of her former employers," said David Ward, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Richard M. Burr, a North Carolina Republican. “Sen. Burr insists on doing his due diligence, just like he would with any nominee.”

In three heartfelt fulminations, Maddow never remembered to mention Duckworth’s tie to Rod Blagojevich—Blago, whose cosmic corruption Maddow has seemed to assume in a long series of entertaining “reports” (including one last night.) Meanwhile, Duckworth had apparently filed some confusing paper-work about her finances—and she was the former appointee of a governor whose clownish corruption Maddow mocks at every turn. (Maddow can apparently tell that Blago is guilty. After all, he’s been charged!) Given the endless pre—judgment of Blago, would you be surprised if Burr, or someone in his position, wanted to check Duckworth’s actual data? After all: If Blago is as big a crook as Maddow suggests, why shouldn’t a senator check fumbled data from a Blago insider?

As it turns out, none of this was ever especially significant. That didn’t stop Maddow from posturing about it—she even made them turn off her prompter! So she could speak to you right from the heart!—all while failing to let you know the basic facts of the case. On April 8, Rob Christensen reported Burr’s decision for the McClatchy/Knight Ridder papers (click here). "I don't think there is a financial question about Tammy Duckworth,” the solon had said. “I think she is extremely sloppy, but that is not a disqualification." One night later, Maddow was still pretending that no one had the slightest idea what this had been about:

CHRISTENSEN (4/8/09): Republican U.S. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina has agreed to allow the nomination of injured Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth to proceed for a top post in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I will support her," Burr told a group of editors and reporters Wednesday at The News & Observer, a McClatchy newspaper.

Burr, the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, held up Duckworth's nomination last week because he had questions about a confidential financial questionnaire that she had filled out.


Burr said he'd asked for a delay in the Senate confirmation vote because of "discrepancies" and "inconsistencies" in what he said were three different versions of her financial disclosure statement that she had submitted to the Senate committee.

He declined to discuss the details, other than saying, "The math didn't add up." Duckworth subsequently provided additional information.

"At the end of the day," Burr said, "I don't think there is a financial question about Tammy Duckworth. I think she is extremely sloppy, but that is not a disqualification."

Burr said the financial disclosure questionnaires of Obama administration nominees were being scrutinized because of the number of tax problems that had emerged.

He said the fact that disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich had appointed Duckworth to the Illinois job had given him pause, but that he decided not to pursue that angle.

Oof. Burr said the Blago connection had “given him pause.” But then, Maddow herself has endlessly suggested that Blago’s a comic-book crook. Why wouldn’t a person with ties to this man perhaps get a moment of scrutiny?

In truth, this was never much of a story. All the way back on April 2, Duckworth seemed to acknowledge that she had given inconsistent answers. Apparently, it wasn’t a major deal. But there is no apparent reason why a Republican senator shouldn’t ask a Dem nominee for clarity in such a circumstance. The minority may as well go home if they don’t fact-check something like this.

But wouldn’t you know it? Maddow never told us rubes about any of that. Duckworth was “wicked smart,” we were told. And Burr was a very bad fellow.

Such novels bring us liberal rubes back for more, serving GE’s bottom line.

Does Maddow ever tell it straight? How about Olbermann and Shuster? Or are these programs just comfort food—chances to hear that the other side’s bad, while your side is good and adorable?

Does Maddow ever tell it straight? More examples tomorrow.