On Monday, MSNBC’s Morning Joe opened with a video montage that interspersed clips from conservative media talking about the release of the FISA memo with footage of Geraldo Rivera at the opening of Al Capone’s vault.
In 1986, millions of viewers watched reporter Geraldo Rivera’s coverage of law enforcement opening the vault of the late mob boss, Al Capone. Rivera pontificated about the contents of the vault for some time, speculating that it could contain anything from riches to murder weapons. Yet when all was said and done, nothing of note was found, and Rivera embarrassed himself on live television.
The message conveyed by the montage, of course, is that the FISA memo is a ‘nothingburger.’ Hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski gleefully read aloud an article from the New Republic which said as much:
“It would be easy to compare Congressman Devin Nunes’s release of a declassified memo on purported surveillance abuses to Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone’s vault. But this would be extremely unfair to Geraldo, who didn’t know ahead of time that it would be empty.”
The claim that the memo contains no relevant information whatsoever has become the media-wide talking point on the issue. In the days leading up to the memo’s release, however, the story was very different. Shows like Morning Joe and others were insistent that whatever the memo contained, its release would devastate American national security assets.
Interestingly, the media appear to have suffered amnesia with regards to their own narrative from before the memo was made public. The charge that the memo is a non-story discredits all of their own reporting leading up to its release. The day before the memo’s release, Scarborough accused congressional Republicans of playing “crude political games with highly secret intelligence.” He and his cohorts repeatedly cited the FBI’s claim that releasing the memo would be “extraordinarily reckless,” displaying the utmost concern for the handling of classified information.
But if the FBI believed the memo to have serious political implications, evidently the hosts of Morning Joe no longer agree with that assessment. It remains to be seen whether any coverage will be given to asking why the FBI might have characterized the memo’s release as dangerous to begin with – but don’t count on it.