In a typical fake news blunder, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow hyped up a story that was not ever exsistent. It all started with a tweet to tease audiences and drive up ratings. Maddow would tweet to 6.69 million followers that she did, in fact, have copies of President Trump’s tax returns.
This scoop was huge, or so MSNBC wanted their viewers to believe. Social media exploded with thousands of followers forwarding this tweet. Millions of viewers were poised in front of their television sets to see these tax forms. The world was ready Rachel Maddow, time to show those tax returns.
As the first announcement mentioned, there were multiple tax returns. We expected a whole lot of juicy information, years of returns. This was the smoking gun MSM knew existed. Even Maddow, through all the hype, began to back off the story as her next tweet would share she didn’t several returns. She wasn’t even in possession of one full return.
Instead of being honest about what they had, MSNBC turned a small news item into a bait and switch attempt to get viewers. The tax returns dwindled from several to part of one. Maddow held onto every bit of influence with the viewers though. She promisied during the broadcast that details would follow a commercial break.
Maddow had an alleged scoop that had already been shared. The small story had been broken, that should have been the end of it. The circus that followed was nothing more than a hyped news report that would later disappoint the audience.
In the end, this was not even Maddow’s “scoop” to share. She was not chosen by the anonymous source to make the 2005 tax pages public. She did not investigate or dig to find these items. They would come to her from another journalist after he wrote the original scoop. David Cay Johnston would be the first to expose the find. Whoever sent the copies wanted them to land in the hands of a small news outlet, not a biased tabloid-like source.
As the smoke screen cleared, the audience was left with some pretty lackluster information. This was not a tax form that showed any misconduct. It wouldn’t even show President Trump wheeling and dealing out of paying taxes. The speculation about President Trump tax payers. They paid about 25% of their income for 2005 in taxes. When compared to the tax returns of Kerry, Obama, Sanders and Bush, this 25% was much higher.
The “smoking gun” MSNBC attempted to sell to the American public did expose some interesting facts. President Trump, in 2005, was a wealthy business man. He and his wife paid taxes like many other business owners.
The only thing exposed by this newscast was an embarrassing flub by the MSNBC team. This news broadcast was sold as an expose, but it quickly fell apart. Speculation about the reasons for this story included a failed attempt at publicity, a simple error on Maddow’s part to handle a real news item, or a failed game of “telephone.” Was this story and the tweets that came before it part of a bigger misunderstanding between Johnston and Maddow? Did Maddow think she was being given the golden ticket but then was short changed?
Viewers across America tuned in to watch Maddow flounder. We may never know why this occurred, but we do know it appears the fake news story backfired. Because this leak painted President Trump in a favorable way, there is even speculation he was the source.
Before the broadcast even ended, Maddow’s failure was compared to that of Geraldo. This over-sold scoop was on the same level of that empty vault from years ago. While this may have been Maddow’s career ending move, some positives came out of the mess.
Maddow delivered evidence of both fake news and media manipulation. She also sparked a conversation across social media about other politicians and media companies that may have their issues with taxes.
President Trump was given the opportunity from the White House to reply to the fake news gracefully.
Trump was thrust into the spotlight this time as an example. MSNBC wanted to show the American public his wrongdoing, but it was not there. Instead, they showed a tax paying businessman and his family. President Trump paid his taxes in 2005, like millions of other Americans. His wife also paid her taxes.
Instead of embarrassing the first family, this story became the news. Fake sensationalism would quickly become debunked by an American public tired of the lies.