Maddow’s excessive hype is a win for Trump

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow likely learned a very important lesson about managing expectations on Tuesday night:

Under-promise and over-deliver. 
{mosads}Instead, as my former publication Mediaite put it in a headline last night, “Maddow trolled us all for ratings.”
And boy, did she ever. The world seemingly stopped after Maddow’s BREAKING: tweet about 90 minutes before her 9:00 p.m. ET program stating she had Trump tax returns. Seriously.

Said tweet immediately jumped to the top trender on Twitter. Many in political media and even former Hillary Clinton aides seemed downright giddy at the impending news coming.

But at the time, I was struck by the holding of such coveted information for a full hour.
If NBC News/MSNBC had this story, and they had to vet it first from the reporter who took it to them, why hold it? Maddow is an anchor and even described herself this way in the recent interview with the Associated Press. 
“People want to draft me as an activist all the time, ascribe that role to me,” Maddow said. “I’m not. The reason I know I’m not is that I stopped doing that in order to be the person who explained the news and delivered the news instead. It’s a very clear line to me.”
In other words, Maddow is saying she doesn’t inject opinion and editorial into her program. But in watching her program, it’s impossible for anyone to agree that it is some kind of non-partisan news program without an agenda.  
In the 8:00 p.m. hour on Tuesday, the host revealed in a subsequent tweet that the returns were actually from 2005. OK, that’s fine, but why not let that be known in Tweet #1 that all-but-implied that these were Trump’s returns over many years? 
Unless, of course, the goal was to bring in as many viewers as possible via hype. 
In the end, the big get (after a monologue to set it up that may still be going as you read this), showed that 11 years ago as a private-citizen, Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes on a reported income of $150 million, or an effective tax rate of 24 percent. The documents (two pages worth) were sent to journalist David Cay Johnston, the founder and editor of DCReport.
On the same program, Johnston, without any evidence, said it was very possible Trump sent him the information himself. 
The narrative has since been advanced by MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough.
How and why and by whom these documents were leaked is a big story, no doubt. Right now, we just don’t know. 
But in the media world, another aspect of this is the stunning level of mockery Maddow is enduring on social media from the right and the left.
But a CNBC headline is the most damning indicator of the reaction to how Maddow, an Oxford Rhodes Scholar, handled this.
“Donald Trump just got a nice victory, thanks, of all people, to Rachel Maddow,” it reads. 
CNBC is the sister network of MSNBC and as far as I can recall, doesn’t engage in criticizing its own in such a manner under the NBC umbrella. Shorter headline: “Thanks for making all of NBC look bad, Rachel.” 
On the bright side, Maddow’s report did show that Trump can release his taxes whenever he chooses to do so. The president had said during the campaign that he would only do so when an audit was complete, an excuse almost nobody buys. 
No matter. Trump benefits here from a boomerang effect on a political media establishment that is seemingly doing everything in its power to prove White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon correct about the Fourth Estate being the “opposition party.” 
We’ve seen it too many times when the press makes a big error or false accusation in plain sight: Hurl a boomerang at Trump in an attempt to take him down via an impossibly-hyped story.., only to see it come back and, in this case, hit the cable news anchor who threw it twice as hard. 
And in the process, give Trump all the ammunition he needs for weeks to point to “fake news” served up by “the opposition party.”  
Expectations are all about under-promising and over-performing. 
You just saw a good example of the exact opposite of that on MSNBC on Tuesday night. 
But hey, at least the ratings will be stellar, right?
Joe Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Concha Rachel Maddow

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