In a segment bashing various conservatives for their views about the growing Egypt crisis, Maddow went after Sarah Palin loaded with quotes from a well-known satirical website urging the former Alaska governor to call for an invasion of the beleaguered Middle East nation (video follows with transcript and lots of commentary):
RACHEL MADDOW: If you want to go even further into the deep, you are welcome to, but it may be dangerous to the health of your computer. Today, we made Kent Jones go out in a life (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to see what he could find way out there.
And what he found was spectacular. It involves Sarah Palin and a Web site called "ChristWire.org." They say, quote, "The escalating crisis in Egypt could become a defining moment for Sarah Palin."
"Gov. Palin needs to speak out publicly and forcibly for an American-led invasion of Egypt to protect our interest in North Africa."
"As the largest recipient of foreign aid next to Israel, the U.S. has a tremendous investment in keeping Egypt stable and relatively terrorist free. Upon her direction, other western nations are sure to join us."
An American-led invasion of North Africa. To be clear, this is what these folks are asking Sarah Palin to do. This is not Ms. Palin’s own idea.
This is actually a moment when there is a real center in American policy. The center is a bipartisan thing, but that doesn’t mean that everybody is in the center.
Problem is ChristWire.org is all a satire. Maybe someone on Maddow's crack staff could have looked at the site's hysterical mission statement for a clue:
Dear friends, we are living in cruel days. Evil hours. Yes, these are certainly dark times and it’s time for the moral majority to once again step forward to bring freedom and liberty to the world.
Our culture was built on the guiding principles of conservatism and Christianity, from which all morality is born. As such American heritage was meant to be passed on from generation to generation, ensuring that our principles…our values…were never compromised.
But alas, the Left Wing Conspiracy and Liberal Agenda is spreading like a plague not only through our fine society, but through lesser cultures as well. Their sinful antics and attempt to pass off their wanton carnal desires into mainstream culture is destroying society and mankind.
That’s where we come in. Together, in this community, you and your Moral Leaders will combat the evil liberals of this world and once again ensure that a bit of freedom and righteousness once again permeates every country, and let those who don’t abide by our teachings know the eternal pit of hellfire shall be awaiting!
Youth Pastor/Motivational Speaker
A little Googling might have come up with a New York Times article about the site from last September:
Oh, by the way: ChristWire is all one big joke.
Not the readership — which hit a high of 27 million page views in August — but the content, the opinions and the fake authors who write the stuff. (There is no “Stephenson Billings.”) Neither of the two founders is a conservative Christian. They are just like-minded 28-year-olds who met on the Internet, have never seen each other in person, and until this week had never given their real identities to a reporter. [...]
A close reader of ChristWire will soon figure out (one hopes) that the site is not serious. But many of the columns are deft enough, just plausible enough, to fool the casual reader.
Indeed, for Maddow is not the first liberal to fall for the satire. As the Atlantic reported last August:
One of the Internet's best kept secrets is the satirical website ChristWire.org. Every day, its contributing writers publish articles condemning homosexuality, atheism, Hollywood or some other perceived threat to American culture. The writers pretend to be hard-right Christian conservatives and, occasionally, they succeed in tricking serious news organizations into believing them. Last month, for instance, we caught NBC Los Angeles falling for a ChristWire article about the moral depravity of Bill Murray. The article called Murray a "murderer of lambs" and a "fatal disease" to society. Still, the satire was lost on NBC (they interpreted it as unchecked Christian fundamentalism and later had to issue a correction).
Today, ChristWire claimed more scalps with an article titled Is My Husband Gay? It ominously warns that "homosexuality can pop up at any time" and that "over 2 million couples" are secretly struggling with homosexuality in their marriages. Faux-pundit Stephenson Billings goes on to advise married women on how to tell if their husband is gay. [...]
Thus far, they've snookered the The Huffington Post and a number of smaller left-leaning websites. HuffPo's Katla McGlynn denounced it for relying on "unfounded and offensive stereotypes about gay men." Though the article is patently ridiculous, McGlynn goes line by line lambasting it.
On Tuesday, the Atlantic noticed Maddow's misstep as well as her program's acknowledgement of the error:
Now to Maddow's credit, her blog acknowledged the mistake quickly after the broadcast aired. Last night, the Maddow Blog tweeted:
Yes, someone from her organization admitted the blunder on Twitter, and we imagine Maddow will do that herself this evening.
But there's a larger issue here. As NewsBusters has demonstrated for years, the journalistic standards at MSNBC are severely lacking.
In this Internet Age, it is amazingly easy to identify the integrity of sources. With all the information available out there concerning ChristWire, it's deplorable that no one at MSNBC determined its satirical nature before this piece about Palin was cited.
Taking the joke even further, CW informed its readers Tuesday of the significance of Maddow's gaffe in a piece entitled "What the Liberal Media Can Learn From Rachel Maddow’s Christwire Scandal":
MSNBC talking head Rachel Maddow lit up the conservative blogosphere Monday night with an unprecedented attack on Christian journalism in America today. In the middle of a discussion about the Egyptian crisis, she shocked many with a surprisingly vicious assault on Sarah Palin and her grassroots supporters across the country. It was the height of unabashed media bigotry and this liberal icon’s career may very well suffer from the repercussions already stirring around the globe.
Yet Maddow, like so many of her liberal ilk, is so obsessed with the rise of the Tea Party that she fails to appreciate dangers beyond her elitist, navel-gazing circle of self-aggrandizing wantons. The idea that a national movement could be birthed on our factory floors, nurtured in our churches and catapulted to media prominence through town hall protests simply terrifies the subversive elements in the United States today. Most agree that in a time of war it is essential that this nation present a united front against our enemies. Sadly, Maddow conveniently sidelines this fact. Instead, she sees the tide of Egyptian violence as the perfect excuse to exact revenge on a beloved figure who enjoys tremendous support on the home front. [...]
It is easy to dismiss this newswoman as a second-rate disingenuous fringe zealot who would trade her cable news podium to fill in Mary Hart’s heels on Entertainment Tonight in a heartbeat. [...]
She is like a schmaltzy Catskills comedian, desperate for a few claps of pitying applause as we anxiously make our way to the bar. At the end of the night, we must acknowledge that she’s just as responsible for the flaccid tuna casserole of bad ideas as her bosses in the Obama administration who serve up the steaming plates of Biden talking points, bastardized health studies and blog posts from the perpetually unemployed. Liberals gorge themselves on this overpriced buffet meal with reckless abandon, blind to the fact that they’re genuinely putting the future of America at risk.
Although the "so-called" author was joshing with his attacks, Maddow and her adoring fans should heed the truth buried amidst the satire.