A columnist for The Washington Post blasted Rachel Maddow for her coverage of the infamous Steele dossier on Thursday, saying that the MSNBC host engaged in “a pattern of misleading and dishonest asymmetry” in her reporting on the salacious document in the nearly three years since its publication.
“As part of her Russianist phase, Maddow became a clearinghouse for news increments regarding the dossier,” writes Post media columnist Eric Wemple in his fifth installment in a series reviewing the media’s coverage of Steele’s dossier.
Wemple took on the project in the wake of the Justice Department inspector general’s (IG) report which undercut key aspects of the dossier, authored by former British spy Christopher Steele.
According to the IG report, the FBI was unable to corroborate any of Steele’s allegations of collusion involving the Trump campaign. Steele’s primary source for the dossier also disputed key allegations in the document. Steele told FBI agents in October 2016 that one of the main sub-sources for the dossier was a “boaster” and “embellisher,” the report further stated. (RELATED: Rachel Maddow Gushes Over Disgraced FBI Lawyer Lisa Page)
Wemple laid out a timeline of Maddow’s coverage of the dossier, noting that she tended to hype developments that cut in favor of Steele’s reporting, while ignoring information that undermined the ex-spy.
“When small bits of news arose in favor of the dossier, the franchise MSNBC host pumped air into them,” wrote Wemple. “At least some of her many fans surely came away from her broadcasts thinking the dossier was a serious piece of investigative research, not the flimflam, quick-twitch game of telephone outlined in the Horowitz report.”
“She seemed to be rooting for the document,” he noted.
According to Wemple, Maddow touted reports from other news outlets that claimed parts of the dossier were corroborated. On May 3, 2017, she said on her show that “more and more” aspects of the dossier had been “independently corroborated.”
On Oct. 5, 2017, she said that “a lot” of the claims in the dossier were “dead to rights.” On April 16, 2018, she hyped a story published by McClatchy that the special counsel’s team had received evidence backing up the dossier’s allegation that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to meet Kremlin operatives. The IG report said that the allegation was “not true.”
Maddow appeared so convinced of the dossier’s accuracy that she aired an hour-long special report on Dec. 8, 2017 hyping Steele’s reporting.
On Nov. 25, Maddow conducted a sympathetic interview with Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the co-founders of Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele. She touted a book by Simpson and Fritsch released last month about the development of the dossier as “the one you should read.”
Maddow did not ask the Fusion GPS founders about the numerous flaws in the dossier.
Maddow’s enthusiasm for the dossier waned as developments in the Russia investigation cut against Steele’s allegations, Wemple noted.
Maddow has only mentioned the Steele dossier once on her show since the release of the IG report. But instead of discussing the report’s critique of Steele, Maddow asserted that the IG debunked a GOP theory that the dossier was the spark for the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign.
“She was there for the bunkings, absent for the debunkings — a pattern of misleading and dishonest asymmetry,” says Wemple.
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