May 23, 2019

Can Rachel Maddow Cope with the Mueller Report?

“On Monday night, the first night that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show aired after Attorney General William Barr released his four-page memo on the Mueller report, Rachel Maddow was skeptical. Like, extremely, extremely skeptical. In fact, she had 15 questions worth of skepticism about the “the Barr Report,” which she displayed in remarkably tiny font behind her head. The questions started with the basics—Had Robert Mueller expected the attorney general to jump in and make a no prosecution, no collusion announcement? Was it appropriate for the attorney general to make that kind of determination at this point in the process?—before taking sudden swerves into the conspiratorial. Robert Mueller had chosen not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment in his report. “Well,” Maddow wondered, “why did Mueller make that determination and was it, in fact, a choice?” Was it possible that the special prosecutor had not explicitly described the president’s behavior as a crime in his report because there were plans to indict him as soon as he left office?

Since Donald Trump’s election, Rachel Maddow has climbed to the top of the cable news ratings with a resistance bullhorn and a conspiratorial vision of the Trump presidency. She has traded the No. 1 slot with Fox’s leading conspiratorialist Sean Hannity, the flip side of her cabal-spotting coin. (In the days since the Mueller investigation concluded, Maddow’s ratings have dipped significantly while Hannity’s have risen.) Hannity, the president’s phone a friend, is widely understood to be a propagandist for the administration—perhaps even by his own audience, MAGA devotees who would never hold such a thing against him. Night after night he pushes deranged “factual” interpretations—Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is an actress, not a congresswoman; the Mueller investigation is an attempted deep state coup—that turn the world into a wall of crazy targeting the Trump regime.

But Maddow too, has turned the universe into an intricate web of intersecting plots that all lead to one conclusion: collusion. In the days since the Mueller report was sent to Barr, Maddow has held fast to her faith that Mueller is some kind of avenging hero, who will get Trump in the end. “As we await the Mueller report,” she said on Tuesday night, “we are left with this incredibly provocative set of unexplained behaviors.” Then she cued up “the mystery sound,” a not particularly eerie ding she used to introduce a long digression about a still-active “mystery case,” in which a “mystery company owned by mystery country” has resisted all attempts to testify about some mystery topic at the special prosecutor’s request, which she then tied to a number of other still active parts of the Mueller investigation, which she intimated could still result in something damning.”

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