Rachel Maddow's credibility and ratings at a low ebb following Mueller findings, critics say
MSNBC 's "The Rachel Maddow Show" has been hit with a serious one-two punch.
One day after finishing May with its worst ratings since Donald Trump took office, the lefty pundit's eponymous program faced a Vanity Fair bombshell report that the New York Times didn’t want its reporters appearing on Maddow's show, not because her ratings were down, but because she was too far left, even for them.
“I do think Maddow, and others on MSNBC, have very strong opinions that affect their ability to tell stories in an accurate way sometimes,” the source said. “You don’t get tainted just by appearing [on the show], but it’s better to err on the side of trying to maintain objectivity and caution.”
The insider said colleagues at the paper are divided as to whether or not appearing on Maddow’s show would actually damage their reputations. Many of the Times’ top reporters are aware and “rightly sensitive” about the paper’s reputation of leaning left, the source said, and appearing on “Maddow” makes it hard to convince people otherwise.
A handful of journalists work for the both the Times and MSNBC, including Peter Baker, Nick Confessore and Jeremy Peters. All three of those reporters declined to comment when individually asked about Maddow. The Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment, either.
The paper did tell Vanity Fair that it was simply reinforcing an existing policy to be consistent with the paper’s standards. But Peters appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday, the morning after the news of a Times reporter being kept off Maddow broke. “Morning Joe” hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough have a public feud with Trump, but haven’t pushed the Russia collusion theory as aggressively as Maddow.
Maddow has dedicated much of her programming since Trump took office to hyperventilating over whether or not Trump colluded with Russia. Since Attorney General Bill Barr's letter summarizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released on March 24 indicating that a Trump campaign-Russia conspiracy didn’t exist, contradicting Maddow’s nightly narrative, her ratings have suffered.
Maddow lost nearly 500,000 viewers for her first episode following the release of Barr’s letter. Then she plummeted 13 percent in April compared to the same month in 2018, according to TVNewser , falling behind “Tucker Carlson Tonight” in the process. In May she averaged 2.6 million – her worst month since Trump took office – and a far cry from the 3.1 million viewers she averaged during the first quarter of 2019.
A New York Times insider thinks it’s wise to err on the side of trying to maintain objectivity and caution and avoid Rachel Maddow. (Getty Images)
Accuracy in Media national editor Carrie Sheffield feels that Maddow has long “ignored basic journalistic, fact-checking practices and the presumption of innocence in our legal system by relentlessly pushing unproven conspiracy theories about supposed Russian collusion” and her “lapse in journalistic balance” is part of why Americans have declining trust in the national media and why some reporters appear to be distancing themselves from her show.
“This was a long time coming, and we hope MSNBC will allow for greater balance moving forward. We hope that Maddow's programming will include substantive fact-checking, balanced debate and dialogue, rather than an echo-chamber monologue that further divides Left and Right," Sheffield told Fox News. "Americans deserve better.”
Cornell Law School professor and conservative blogger William A. Jacobson told Fox News that “Maddow built her viewership on Russia collusion conspiracy theories dressed up as analysis,” and said the Mueller Report “destroyed” her credibility.
“MSNBC is standing by her because she still has a large viewership emotionally invested bringing down Trump,” Jacobson said. “That some reporters refuse to go on her show is important, but is unlikely to change her behavior. Maddow long ago carved out her faux-intellectual paranoid niche, and she's stuck in it."
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall agreed that Maddow is still enormously popular with her anti-Trump base.
“Her opinionated approach, however, should make hard news reporters and their editors take pause before being associated with her agenda-driven show,” McCall said. “Such regular journalists risk being associated with the political leanings of Maddow, which could be harmful to their credibility.”
"The Rachel Maddow Show” is currently the No. 3 program in cable news, and MSNBC is standing by its cash cow.
“For over a decade, ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ has welcomed the best journalists from across the country and celebrated the hard work they do, day-in and day-out. This includes countless New York Times reporters and editors. That commitment to journalism is part of the DNA of the show,” an MSNBC spokesperson told Fox News when asked about the Vanity Fair report.
Maddow has emerged as a leader of the , but her missteps on Mueller aren't the only time she has raised eyebrows. Maddow failed to ask Hillary Clinton whether or not she thought the Obama administration could have done a better job handling Russian interference, was called out by a media watchdog group for deceiving viewers when she ignored reports seemingly clearing Donald Trump Jr. of suspicions related to the much-hyped Trump Tower meeting, and famously disappointed viewers when a heavily promoted “scoop” about Trump’s taxes ended up being much ado about nothing.
Back in 2017, Maddow promoted a theory tying Trump to a tragic ambush attack that killed four American soldiers in Niger that was so outlandish that even the dependably liberal HuffPost criticized it as "so flimsy that it could be debunked by a quick glance at a map."
“Let’s be honest, Maddie’s brand has never been tethered to the truth or reality. She has been the National Enquirer of political coverage for years now,” conservative strategist Chris Barron said.
By Brian Flood