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April 10, 2023

Matt Taibbi to MSNBC: "F*ck You"

Matt Taibbi got a single request to appear on a Regime "news" outlet. Because, he says, he would be a hypocrite if he didn't agree to appear on a Regime show after he complained that the Regime refused to cover the Twitter files, he agreed to appear on former Al Jazeera "journalist" Medhi Hassan's show on MSNBC. He said he hoped for a "good-faith interview."

As these clips from Jimmy Dore demonstrate, Taibbi -- get this -- did not get a "good-faith interview.

Matt Taibbi unloads on the Fake News Network.

MSNBC Sucks A user's guide to the Peacock farm team Matt Taibbi


I last appeared on MSNBC six years ago, on January 13, 2017, to talk with Chris Hayes and of all people Malcolm Nance, about the then-burgeoning Trump-Russia scandal.

The Trump-Russia story was white-hot and still in its infancy. That same day, news leaked from Israel that Americans warned the Mossad not to share information with the incoming administration, because Russia had "leverages of pressure" on Trump. Asked by Chris about the scandal generally, I made what I thought was a boring-but-true observation, that we in the media didn't "have any hard evidence" of a conspiracy, just not a lot to go on. This was the TV equivalent of a shrug.

Nance jumped on this in a way I remember feeling was unexpected and oddly personal. "Matt's a journalist. I'm an intelligence officer," he snapped. "There is no such thing as coincidence in my world." Chris jumped in to note reporters have different standards, and I agreed, saying, "We haven't seen anything that allows us to say unequivocally that x and y happened last year."

"Unequivocally" seemed to trigger Nance. With regard to the DNC hack, he said, "That evidence is unequivocal. It's on the Internet." As for "these links possibly with the Trump team," he proclaimed, "You're probably never going to see the CIA's report." Nance went on to answer "no" to a question from Chris about whether leaks "were coming from the intelligence community," Chris wrapped up with a sensible suggestion that we all not rely on a parade of "leaks and counter-leaks," and the segment was done.

To this day I get hit probably a hundred times a day with the question, "What happened to you, man?" What happened? That segment happened, but to MSNBC, not me.

That exchange between Nance and me was symbolic of a choice the network faced. They could either keep doing what reporters had done since the beginning of time, confining themselves to saying things they could prove. Or, they could adopt a new approach, in which you can say anything is true or confirmed, so long as a politician or intelligence official told you it was.

We know how that worked out. I was never invited back, nor for a long time was any other traditionally skeptical reporter, while Nance -- one of the most careless spewers of provable errors ever to appear on a major American news network -- became one of the Peacock's most familiar faces.

I don't know Malcolm and don't mean to get nasty about this, but: even before that January 2017 broadcast, he had an extraordinary record, one that should have scared away any retraction-averse producer. On August 20th, he went on with Joy Reid and said the Green Party's Jill Stein "has a show on Russia Today." This wasn't true, as Stein quickly pointed out, but MSNBC refused to acknowledge the error. Media watchdog FAIR repeatedly asked for a correction, as did friend Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept, but they refused to budge.

This may not seem a big deal, but at the time it was still weird and something of a pioneering move for a major news organization to just refuse to fix a clear error.

Nance went on to make a lot more, some I would classify as important. A tweet of his in late 2016 was a major source for the pre-election misconception that the Wikileaks-leaked emails of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta were "riddled with forgeries" and "#blackpropaganda." He would regularly make all sorts of claims without evidence, like that the K.G.B. had "been surveilling Donald Trump since 1977," and that "little" comes from Trump's mouth that isn't "carefully planned to benefit the Russian Republic," and all sorts of other nonsense.

I was quiet until he said Glenn "shows his true colors as an agent of Trump and Moscow," "reports in to his masters in Russia," and is "deep in the Kremlin pocket." This was outrageous. I was shocked MSNBC didn't fire him on the spot. Still, I voiced objections in a measured way I hoped might get through, either to Nance or to someone at the network. "I've been on the air with Malcolm Nance and he seemed like a nice guy," I tweeted, "but this awful practice of calling people traitors and foreign agents based on no evidence has really gotten out of hand."

Nance's response was "Ok, you've convinced me. You need to be blocked. #Bye." He remained a regular guest on the network, which didn't cool on booking him until the Russia story fell apart with the release of the Mueller report the next year.

The Nance situation was symbolic of what happened at the network from the beginning of Trump's term, really beginning in early 2017. It went from being a place where you had to be at least in the ballpark of demonstrably true to being a place where the factual standard was, "Whatever dogshit drops out of the mouth of any hack or spook."

Moreover the network didn't just re-report this stuff, it became the favored launching pad for all the most blatant blue-Anon disinformation, like California congressman Adam Schiff saying he had "more than circumstantial" evidence of collusion, or former Obama defense official Evelyn Farkas suggesting the Trump administration would try to destroy evidence if they "found out how we knew what we knew about the Trump staff's dealing with Russians." Farkas later testified under oath that she "didn't know anything" about collusion.

He writes about Rachel Maddow's breathless conspiracy peddling -- and then interrupting her "trout-fishing trip" to come back on the air and literally cry about the Mueller Report dashing all her fever dreams.

Importantly for the next section: He points out Rachel Maddow's method of "confirming" a rumor. If one of her FBI leakers didn't actively knock a rumor down, she took that as confirmation.

Taibbi wonders why you would possibly take this as confirmatory: The people leaking you anti-Trump bullshit are obviously anti-Trump, so why would they repudiate any of the bullshit rumors they were feeding you?

After this the network doubled down, seemingly hiring as contributors every unemployed prosecutor or natsec official they could find, especially from failed Russiagate probes. They'd already spent on names like ex-CIA head John O'Brennan, former assistant FBI counterintelligence chief Frank Figliuzzi, House Intel Director of Investigations and future congressman Dan Goldman (who met Adam Schiff in an MSNBC green room), and federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner. Now, they added cadaverous Mueller sidekick Andrew Weissmann and, astonishingly, Weissmann's deputy, the fired FBI lawyer Lisa Page. They also began bringing in Page's lover, fellow FBI firee Peter Strzok, as a commentator.

America became familiar with Page and Strzok after their texts -- referring to the Trump-Russia investigation as an "insurance policy," and ripping "sandernistas," among other things -- became public. These were living monuments to press excesses of the Trump era. As Gerth wrote, Strzok quietly reported to bosses after the Times's "repeated contacts" story came out, saying, "We are unaware of ANY Trump advisers engaging in conversations with Russian intelligence officials." Strzok in other words was exactly the kind of person to whom Rachel might have been referring when she rhapsodized about FBI "not saying anything" to dissuade us from believing errors.

Page on April 10, 2017 got a text from Strzok, saying he wanted to talk to her "about [a] media leak strategy with DOJ." This was a day before a Washington Post story that cited "law enforcement and other U.S. officials" in saying the secret FISA court found probable cause to believe former Trump aide Carter Page (no relation) was an "agent of a foreign power." Whoever leaked this was sabotaging not just the Post, but every downstream media org picking up the story, because the story at its roots was wrong: Carter Page was not an "agent of a foreign power," as the FISA court had been misled, by Steele and the FBI. MSNBC was one of the first outlets to regurgitate this thing.

When sources lie to you, you should be mad. At minimum, you should be ripping their names out of your Rolodex (or modern equivalent). MSNBC did the opposite, hiring seemingly everyone who'd helped them down this reputation-tarnishing path.

Taibbi gives it back to them:


After all this, after throwing away all their standards, clowning themselves with years of wrong stories, doling out rice bowls to the procession of spooks who now clog their airwaves, and watching as their ratings predictably collapsed, now they want to give me a hard time. Not because I got anything wrong, but because they don't like my opinions, or where things like the Twitter Files reports came from.


If it sounds like my beef with MSNBC is personal, by now it is. Take the Twitter Files. When first presented with the opportunity to do that story, my first reaction was to be extremely excited, as any reporter would be, including anyone at MSNBC. In the next second however I was terrified, because I care about my job, and knew there would be a million eyes on this thing and a long way down if I got anything wrong. If you've ever wondered why I look 100 years old at 53 it's because I embrace this part of the process. Audiences have a right to demand reporters lie awake nights in panic, and every good one I've ever met does.

But people who used to be my friends at MSNBC embraced a different model, leading to one of the biggest train wrecks in the history of our business. Now they have the stones to point at me with this "What happened to you?" routine. It's rare that the following words are justified on every level, but really, MSNBC: Fuck you.

More clips from the "interview" below. Mehdi Hassan attacks Taibbi for not responding to a story he did two weeks ago. Taibbi says he didn't respond because "I don't watch the Mehdi Hassan show."

Hasan then drops the Big Gotcha that Taibbi said to him "invite me on your show and I'll tell you my views," which Hasan claims proves that Taibbi watches his show as opposed to, you know, seeing someone noting Hasan's attacks on Taibbi on Twitter.

The "errors" the Al Jazeera propagandist claimed to be errors weren't even errors.

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posted by Ace at 03:40 PM

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