Rachel Maddow Just Made Walter Cronkite Roll Over in His Grave

I used to be a big Rachel Maddow Fan, but..

There are, in my opinion, four ways one can be dishonest:

  1. By Commission – in its simplest form, saying that black is white. We have a lot of that going on in the vicinity of the White House these days.
  2. By Omission – leaving out critical information that could have been perceived in a manner detrimental to the communicator. There’s been more than a few such whoppers uncovered in Big Tobacco trials, for example.
  3. By Exaggeration – I’m not talking the way we guys brag about anything with each other. But if it’s done to obfuscate the truth of a serious matter, it’s dishonest.
  4. By Understatement – “There was some collateral damage” vs. “50 civilians were killed.” As with #3, it’s just another way to lie if done to obfuscate the truth.

My kids and my clients all have heard this from me over the years, because it’s just as true in our personal lives as it is in professional circles.

So how did Rachel Maddow make the ghost of Walter Cronkite roll over in his grave?  By engaging in dishonesty via omission (e.g., just how little information she actually had) and exaggeration (in all the hype leading up to the March 15 release of two pages of a totally mundane Donald Trump tax release, one arguably favorable to #45). After all, it demonstrated that he did, indeed, pay a not-insignificant amount of taxes in 2005.  Yawn.

If Walter was still amongst our living journalists and had been given this “news leak” that got into Rachel’s hands, he would have taken one look at it and said, “So what?  This isn’t evening news!” And he would have asked hard questions about the source of the document, questions like, “Is there any reasonable possibility that the president leaked this himself?”

Or, he might have treated it humorously.

“Believe it or not, folks, there’s a light side to all the coverage about President Trump.  Someone today gave us what they described as a huge news leak – two pages of a totally mundane Donald Trump tax release, from 2005. He made money, he paid taxes. No great revelations. To our mysterious source – thanks for the exclusive, but this isn’t real news.”

One thing Walter would not have done — deliberately lie to his viewers. Like Rachel did.

Jonathan Bernstein
Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.


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