Morning Joe Contradicts MSNBC’s Own Reporting To Push Russian Collusion Conspiracy

On Thursday’s Morning Joe, the panel demonstrated that they are so consumed by their Russia-Trump collusion conspiracy theory that they will go to absolutely absurd lengths, even going against their own reporting and information displayed right in front of their faces, in order to support their preconceptions.

 

 

Katty Kay, BBC World News anchor, began the segment on the Russian Facebook ads story by reading a prepared script about the latest reporting on the case:

KAY: Meanwhile, we're also learning more about Russia's use of Facebook to interfere in the election. It turns out about a quarter of the 3,400 ads linked to Russia targeted specific states,-

[shows graphic depicting California, Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida as targets of Russian Facebook ads]

KAY: -including traditionally Democratic strongholds like Wisconsin and Michigan that ended up of course flipping for Donald Trump as well as the battleground states of Florida and Ohio. The Russians also targeted states with high profile incidents of violence between police and African Americans, states like Missouri, Maryland, New York, and Ohio. Ads were also planted in solidly red states like Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi. Last month Facebook revealed that groups linked to Russia spent $100,000 on election ads. Both Facebook and Twitter have agreed to testify now before the Senate Intelligence committee investigating Moscow's election interference.

This was quite a meaningful revelation. As Kay said in reading her script, the ads were mostly placed in states that not only aren’t swing states, but actually tend to predictably vote for either Republicans or Democrats in presidential elections. So what was the panel’s take-away from this new information? Not quite what you might think:

KAY: You know, just looking at the states that they chose, either somebody in the Russian side or they had links with somebody here, was giving them a pretty good take on how to use their money.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: A pretty good take on how to use their money. And also, if you look at the content of advertisements, at least some of ‘em that you’ve seen out there already, it's also somebody that's pretty darn aware of how to target, what bells to ring. It certainly looks like they had the help of Americans who might know how to campaign and how to win elections.

Instead of coming to some kind of a reasonable conclusion, like realizing that the Russians probably weren’t trying to flip California, New York, or Maryland to Trump or protect some tenuous Republican hold on Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, Scarborough and Kay just ploughed ahead with the narrative that these newest findings were more evidence that some electoral and political expert must have been colluding with the Russians (to help Trump, presumably).

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Later on in the show, they again came back to the same story and got guest panelist Natasha Bertrand, political correspondent for Business Insider, to join in on the Russian conspiracy line:

KAY: Okay, Natasha, let's talk about these Facebook ads. Of course, we haven’t actually seen them yet. But the states that they were targeting, maybe they should have told Hillary Clinton that they needed to target Michigan and Wisconsin a bit more closely, that they clearly thought these were swing states. What does, you look at that map and the issues that were raised in some of those ads, the divisive political issues, what does it tell you about the sophistication of the people behind the ads?

BERTRAND: So, my experts that I've spoken to have told me that it would be inaccurate to say that it would require a really high degree of sophistication by the Russians to figure out which states were swing states and which states to target. This is information that's readily available on the internet. They understand moreover, what kinds of topics and issues in the United States are incredibly divisive, issues like race and immigration. That being said, it is notable that they knew to target swing states and voters for that matter, that would have been particularly vulnerable to falling for this fake news, propaganda, etcetera. [...]

KAY: Hey, so Joe, it sounds like the country is so divided that we’re pretty much an open book making ourselves even more of a target for people that want to come in and spread these fake ads, right?

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah.

Although Bertrand did correctly note that it’s not hard for anyone with internet access to figure out the issues that make America tick, that was the full extent of her pushback. She fell right in line with the conclusion that Russia clearly was targeting swing states for electoral purposes, even though Morning Joe’s own graphic clearly showed that most of the states that Russia targeted were not swing states.

It’s worth noting here as well that at the time of the election, according to The Washington Post, Wisconsin and Michigan were both “states that have long eluded the GOP's grasp and didn't seem likely to be winnable for Trump.” In other words, they were not known swing states. Thus, it’s not clear that the Russians or Trump would have even realized that targeting Wisconsin and Michigan was a viable electoral strategy at the time.

More concerning than Morning Joe’s extreme confirmation bias, however, was that their analysis directly contradicted previous comments by their own journalists Carol Lee and Kasie Hunt, who broke the very Facebook ads story that the panel were discussing Thursday morning. To make matters worse, Lee, who explicitly laid out on MSNBC on Wednesday how her and Hunt’s reporting casts doubt on the Russia-Trump collusion charge, was present on Morning Joe for the above segments, but somehow did not feel it necessary to reiterate any of her salient points:

 

 

CAROL LEE [NBC NEWS, REPORTER]: What we know from two people familiar with these Facebook ads, they tell NBC News that the list of states that these Russian-tied ads targeted during the campaign includes not just Michigan and Wisconsin, which has been reported, but also Maryland, New York, California, Texas, Ohio and Missouri. And specifically on Ohio and Missouri, we're told that they were targeted to those states because they had seen police violence. And we know that these ads have been, in part, were aimed at sowing racial divisions, and that is what these particular ads in Ohio and Missouri were believed to be designed to do. Now, the interesting thing about this, and by the way, I should mention, this is not, we are told, a definitive list of states, but what it gives is a broader picture of how Russia was using these ads to target and what it suggests is that there was not necessarily what you would consider a traditional elec-, presidential politics targeting because, as you know, states like New York and California are not states that are in play and decisive in a presidential election.

HALLIE JACKSON: [...] Your reporting is now coming after there was originally word that perhaps these ads had maybe just targeted Michconsi-, Michigan and Wisconsin, rather. What you're saying is, this was bigger than that, that maybe a quarter of these ads were geographically targeted, correct? And it wasn’t just states that were, sort of, favorable potentially to somebody like Donald Trump.

LEE: Right. And speaking to sources about this, you know, they were saying if there was a Republican operative guiding the hand of Russia and targeting these ads, that person should be fired because this is not how you would necessarily target ads if you were trying to get a Republican candidate or even a Democratic candidate to win. And so it gives a picture, a larger picture than we’ve had so far and you're right, it comes ahead of this press conference and also as the Senate committees and the special counsel's investigation begin to really drill down on this use of, Russia’s use of social media to interfere with the election.

JACKSON: Yeah, and interestingly Carol, and as I’m reading this breaking news that is just now getting up on our website, reported out by you and Kasie Hunt, who will be joining us momentarily, you talk about how some of these ads were targeted to states that saw police violence or a [sic] incidence of violence involving police. And specifically African-American victims, right?

LEE: That's exactly right. I mean, Missouri, in particular, everyone remembers Ferguson. And, you know, the ads were targeted there. They were targeted in Ohio because of a shooting in Cleveland that had similar overtones. And so it’s just part of what we already know that Russia did, which is try to take these very divisive issues among Americans and really exacerbate them. It wasn’t just race but it was other issues. And so, you know, more so than necessarily running what you think of as a traditional ad, you know, supporting certain candidate [sic] or something like that. These were, you know, ads that were designed to stoke divisiveness on these sorts of issues: social issues, race issues, and otherwise.    

(...)

KASIE HUNT [NBC NEWS, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT]: Well first Hallie, I just want to underscore one point that Carol was making in the conversation you just had, which is: the reason we're so focused on where these ads might have been targeted is because if you are looking for collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians, the idea that there might have been somebody who understood that they need to talk to people in Wisconsin and Michigan could suggest that that collusion happened. And this is something that we have been hearing quite a bit from, privately, from people that worked for Hillary Clinton. And so, this new reporting that we have suggests that this effort was potentially broader than that, and maybe not quite as suggestive at, you know, at a political connection, but rather one that points to sowing unrest broadly and stoking political divisions in America.

Apparently, as long as her reporting was being used to trash Trump and Republicans as traitors, Lee didn’t have any problems seeing her work misrepresented.

The full transcript for the Morning Joe segments can be found below:

6:31 AM EST

(...)

KATTY KAY [BBC WORLD NEWS, ANCHOR]: Now Reuters reports that special council Bob Mueller has taken over investigations of the [Steele] dossier according to three different sources with knowledge of that probe. Meanwhile, we're also learning more about Russia's use of Facebook to interfere in the election. It turns out about a quarter of the 3,400 ads linked to Russia targeted specific states,-

[shows graphic depicting California, Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida as targets of Russian Facebook ads]

KAY: -including traditionally Democratic strongholds like Wisconsin and Michigan that ended up of course flipping for Donald Trump as well as the battleground states of Florida and Ohio. The Russians also targeted states with high profile incidents of violence between police and African Americans, states like Missouri, Maryland, New York, and Ohio. Ads were also planted in solidly red states like Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi. Last month Facebook revealed that groups linked to Russia spent $100,000 on election ads. Both Facebook and Twitter have agreed to testify now before the Senate Intelligence committee investigating Moscow's election interference. [stops reading script] You know, just looking at the states that they chose, either somebody in the Russian side or they had links with somebody here, was giving them a pretty good take on how to use their money.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: A pretty good take on how to use their money. And also, if you look at the content of advertisements, at least some of ‘em that you’ve seen out there already, it's also somebody that's pretty darn aware of how to target, what bells to ring. It certainly looks like they had the help of Americans who might know how to campaign and how to win elections.

(...)

7:24 AM

KAY: Okay, Natasha, let's talk about these Facebook ads. Of course, we haven’t actually seen them yet. But the states that they were targeting, maybe they should have told Hillary Clinton that they needed to target Michigan and Wisconsin a bit more closely, that they clearly thought these were swing states. What does, you look at that map and the issues that were raised in some of those ads, the divisive political issues, what does it tell you about the sophistication of the people behind the ads?

NATASHA BERTRAND [BUSINESS INSIDER, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT]: So, my experts that I've spoken to have told me that it would be inaccurate to say that it would require a really high degree of sophistication by the Russians to figure out which states were swing states and which states to target. This is information that's readily available on the internet. They understand moreover, what kinds of topics and issues in the United States are incredibly divisive, issues like race and immigration. That being said, it is notable that they knew to target swing states and voters for that matter, that would have been particularly vulnerable to falling for this fake news, propaganda, etcetera. I think that now what we really need to see from Facebook is these ads. Facebook has said originally that they could not release them because of the Senate Intelligence committee investigation. Well, the chairman of the committee just said yesterday we welcome, you know, for Facebook to release the ads if they want to. Now Facebook is saying that they can't release the ads because of Bob Mueller's investigation. So I think it’s, I think people are really eager to see what the ads were, especially since, while millions of people already saw them during the election.

KAY: Hey, so Joe, it sounds like the country is so divided that we’re pretty much an open book making ourselves even more of a target for people that want to come in and spread these fake ads, right?

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah.

(...)


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