On last night’s episode of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow suggested that that part of what was interesting about her scoop of publishing Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns was how... uninteresting it was. The story, which ran Tuesday night and revealed that Trump paid $38 million in taxes from $150 million in income that year, was largely seen as an overhyped nonevent on both sides of the political divide.
“Was there a huge, damning bombshell in these tax returns? No,” Maddow conceded. “The bombshell here is that some of his tax returns have been made public for the first time when he’s been trying so hard to keep them secret. So I do want to know who sent them. I have no idea. I want to know if there’s more where that came from. And I want to know why the president won’t release more of them. He’s been sort of bragging today about how, ‘Yeah, those weren’t embarrassing at all. Look how much money I make.’ His kid’s been bragging about how rich he is and how this showed he pays his taxes. Great, if you’re psyched about this, give us some more ‘cause we also want to know if you have big loans to Russian oligarchs or whatever.”
Maddow said she was “psyched” to have run the story, calling the release of the 2005 returns “the first piece in the jigsaw puzzle.” “But there needs to be more,” she added.
“I’m not gonna only put out information I find that’s terrible for the president,” said Maddow. “If I can advance the story, I’m gonna put it out whether it’s good or bad for the president..And we’re gonna keep plugging away. We’re gonna get this thing answered. We’re gonna figure out about his finances, ‘cause we have to for the country. And we’re gonna do it piece by piece by piece.”
It’s an intriguing idea that refutes the idea of the quick fix people are searching for, the one thing that will tear down Trump (which has so far remained elusive, even when it seemed like a sure thing).
Maddow briefly mentioned the “excitement” regarding the pre-show tweets hyping the reveal of the tax returns (with no help from Fallon, who softballed her hard, as he does every guest), but had more pointed things to say regarding expectation in an AP interview that ran Wednesday evening:
Because I have information about the president doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a scandal. It doesn’t mean that it’s damning information. If other people leapt to that conclusion without me indicating that it was, that hype is external to what we did.
Well sure, but her tweets were the trampolines from which the conclusions leapt. She didn’t lie in them, per se, but she knew how eager people were for this information precisely because of the suspicion surrounding Trump’s suppression of them. (To Fallon, she conceded as much: “When we found out that we had one it was like we were speaking to a group of people dying of thirst in the desert and we were like ‘Behold, we have found a drop!’”) Maddow’s a smart person; she knew the potential for frenzy contained those tweets and drawing out the introduction of the information at the start of her show felt more like showbiz than it did journalism. If people felt let down, she was at least complicit in the setup.
“[MSNBC] announced it on Twitter, and [NBC] found out when [the general public] did,” said a source.
“[MSNBC president] Phil Griffin was trying to undermine [NBC News president] Noah Oppenheim. There was never a conversation. They overplayed their hand in a huge way.”
...“It’s their cable network, but it’s still NBC News. [NBC] did not appreciate being kept in the dark . . . To hype such a big story and not really deliver is a bit embarrassing. Airing a story you’ve hyped 20 minutes into your broadcast makes it a lot less of a ‘breaking news’ story.”