Joe Scarborough is rapidly becoming this generation’s Keith Olberman. And that’s bad news for Joe Scarborough. Olbermann already played out this attack-dog role on MSNBC during the Bush years and Scarborough should recall that with caution. Look what it did for Olbermann. Fired by his network, he now peddles his unique blend of conspiracy theories and invective on a YouTube channel.
Remember how Olbermann would dub various Bush Administration officials as “the worst person in the world” on a near nightly basis? Scarborough changed the script a bit, but the plot is still the same: Republican presidents are bad. In the parlance of the modern left, they are “transgressive”―the ultimate epithet in the politically correct lexicon.
This week’s casus belli is, of course, the firing of FBI Director James Comey. On Thursday’s edition of
Countdown With Keith Olbermann Morning Joe, Scarborough began with an 8 minute rant trying to make the case that Comey was fired because he wanted to expand the FBI’s investigation into Russian espionage during last year’s election based on an anonymous allegation in a New York Times story.
He frames the allegation this way:
Rod Rosenstein, this sainted figure according to Trump hacks gets this information, passes it along to Jeff Sessions, who passes it along to Donald Trump―we are almost certain―and then what happens? Donald Trump suddenly decides that Comey must be fired at once…
He only fired him in rapid succession with these letters―the request, the letter, and the firing―because he knew that because he knew that Comey was about to kick this investigation into overdrive.
The only problem with Scarborough’s analysis is that it isn’t true.The Times story was debunked on the record by the Justice Department a day before his rant. DOJ Spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores stated flatly: “the idea that he asked for more funding” for the Russia inquiry was “totally false.”
How did Scarborough miss that? Did the DOJ statement come out much later than The Times story with the anonymous allegation? Was it an honest mistake? Hard to believe since the denial is in the very same story 5 paragraphs below the anonymous allegations.
But he continued, arguing that if the Senate doesn’t “grill McCabe” and give the FBI every penny that Comey allegedly requested “that this is a constitutional crisis.” By my reckoning that will be Scarborough’s third constitutional crisis this year. He declared the country in crisis at the beginning of March after the president tweeted that Obama was surveilling Trump Tower and then keenly spotted more “constitutional crises” in the making on March 21st after Trump criticized the mainstream media. If he’s right, then apparently constitutional crises have gotten an unjustifiably bad reputation. I never dreamed that they would be accompanied by a stock market boom and the lowest unemployment rate in a decade.
Intoxicated as he was with self-righteous indignation made more potent by the whiff of scandal, Scarborough may have forgotten that spending bills originate in the House of Representatives where he once served. So demanding that the Senate provide additional funds amounts to barking up the wrong tree. More significantly, grilling McCabe is unnecessary. He’s already on the record denying that Comey ever made the funding request that so exorcised Scarborough.
Will Scarborough recant? Will he admit his error? Unlikely. And why should he? What price is he likely to pay for reporting such fake news? Will advertisers refuse to sponsor his show as they have done with conservative outlets like Breitbart?
He tried to demonstrate a causal relationship between Comey’s request for funds to expand the scope of the Russian hacking investigation and his dismissal. The only problem is that everyone with any potential knowledge of such a request has denied it including acting Director Andrew McCabe―a Democrat with close ties to the Clinton machine―who added, “I believe we have the adequate resources to do it and I know that we have resourced that investigation adequately.”
Will Scarborough recant? Will he admit his error? Unlikely. And why should he? What price is he likely to pay for reporting such fake news? Will advertisers refuse to sponsor his show as they have done with conservative outlets like Breitbart? Will Google or Facebook suppress the Morning Joe website in search results as they have been accused of doing to conservatives?
No. Rather, he is incentivized to become more outrageous. Instead of getting pushback from other journalists for his agitprop he gets cheered. But at some point serious reporters, even those on the political Left, must become concerned about their own reputations and steer clear of Scarborough’s travelling circus.
His daily tantrums are catnip for the permanent political class still seething from Trump’s election and looking for payback. But they can’t last forever.
While he is lauded by others in the D.C. media echo chamber where his show is considered “must see TV”, Morning Joe’s ratings aren’t very good nationally when compared to other morning shows. His daily tantrums are catnip for the permanent political class still seething from Trump’s election and looking for payback. But they can’t last forever. They say a lie is half way around the world before the truth puts on its shoes. But it’s also true that while the truth may be a slow starter it’s a merciless closer.
The truth won’t be kind to Joe. He’s too overwrought, too sold on the anti-Trump fever swamp narrative, too quick to uncritically repeat the most outlandish accusations made against the president. And he gets caught. It can’t last.
The rise and fall of Keith Olbermann should serve as a cautionary tale for Scarborough and the people around him.
There is no denying the almost fraternal resemblance between the two, no denying that they both play the same part in MSNBC’s lineup. And if Joe continues down this path he’ll suffer the same fate. The world will move on and MSNBC will find someone else to fill the role.
Lawrence O’Donnell call your office.