Rachel Maddow Pontificates to Bill O'Reilly About 'Facts' - During Her Week-Long Streak of Indifference Toward Them

July 31st, 2010 12:33 PM

If things don't work out for Rachel Maddow at MSNBC, she could always fall back on unintentional comedy.

In last week's back and forth between Fox's Bill O'Reilly and Maddow over the Sherrod controversy, Maddow criticized O'Reilly for mocking MSNBC's meager ratings while also accusing him of playing fast and loose with facts.

Here's the kicker in Maddow's remarks aimed at O'Reilly, stated on her show July 22 (first part of embedded video) --

MADDOW: You were trying to take the attention off me saying that your network, Fox News, continually crusades on flagrantly bogus stories designed to make white Americans fear black Americans, which Fox News most certainly does for a political purpose even if it upends the lives of individuals like Shirley Sherrod, even as it frays the fabric of the nation, and even as it makes the American dream more of a dream and less of a promise. You can insult us all you want about television ratings, Mr. O'Reilly, and you'll be right, that yours are bigger, for now and maybe forever. You are the undisputed champion.

But even if no one watches us at all except for my mom and my girlfriend and people who forgot to turn off the TV after Keith, you are still wrong on what really matters, and that would be the facts, your highness.

... while she and MSNBC, Maddow implies, get it right where it really matters. If only Maddow hadn't gotten it wrong every other day last week, a feat of Rick Sanchezesque proportion.

For example, Maddow began the week on Monday July 19 with this dubious claim about Ronald Reagan, national debt and deficits (second part of embedded video) --

MADDOW: When President Reagan entered office, the national debt was about $994 billion. When Ronald Reagan left office, the national debt had swelled to $2.8 trillion. Love Ronald Reagan or hate him, when Poppy Bush said that Reagan's economic policies would exacerbate the deficit, boy howdy, he wasn't kidding.

You caught the shellgame here too, didn't you? Hoary liberal artifice, conflating the national debt and deficit. I'm all too familiar with the scam, having tried pulling it off back when I too was a welfare state apologist.

The problem for Maddow is that while it is true that national debt rose as she described during the Reagan years, the deficit during Reagan's presidency peaked in 1983 as a percentage of gross domestic product -- and thereafter plunged more than half by the time Reagan left office in 1989. 

As described by Edwin J. Feulner in a September 1994 column at The Chief Executive site --

By fiscal 1986, the deficit reached its highest level under Reagan: $221.2 billion. And what happened after that is something you'll never read in The Washington Post: The Reagan economic program began wiping out the deficit.

When we look at the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product -- the best measure, since it shows the deficit's real size in relation to the size of the economy (which was expanding rapidly under Reagan) -- we see an amazing thing. Under Reagan, the deficit reached a peak of 6.3 percent of GDP not in 1986, but in 1983, when the "stagflation" of the Carter era finally broke. Six years later, in 1989, Reagan had cut the deficit by more than half, to 2.9 percent of GDP.

This was enough to show up even in the straight dollar figures: From 1986's $221.2 billion high, the deficit fell to $152.5 billion by Reagan's final year in office, even as the economy grew at a brisk average rate of 3.5 percent. Had Reagan's policies been left in place after he left office, my colleagues at The Heritage Foundation have calculated that the deficit would have been wiped out by the mid-1990s.

But it was not to be. In 1990, Reagan's successor made a "budget deal" with Congress that sent the deficit soaring to a record $290.4 billion. It is worthwhile to note that one of the prime features of George Bush's 1990 budget deal with Congress -- besides doing away with the effective Gramm-Rudman spending limits -- was a record tax hike, similar to Bill Clinton's. This didn't reduce the deficit. Rather, by shrinking the tax base, it raised the deficit. 

The following day, July 20, Maddow made the bizarre claim that Fox News Channel reporting on Shirley Sherrod's comments before an NAACP audience in March had prompted the Obama administration to fire Sherrod. But as pointed out by NewsBuster Brad Wilmouth, "Sherrod had already been forced to resign before the O’Reilly Factor became the first FNC show to report the story of her comments on Monday night (July 19), although host Bill O’Reilly at the time did not realize she had already been fired."

Maddow also suggested on July 20 that "FNC would never show her (Sherrod's) side of the story even though, by that time Tuesday night, several FNC shows had already informed viewers of some of the details in Sherrod’s favor," Wilmouth writes.

On July 21, Maddow trotted out one of her favorite memes, that of those unreconstructed KKKers at Fox News, saying this (third part of video) --

MADDOW: The other great Fox News' crusade of the past year was more black people coming for you. That was the New Black Panther Party, basically two whackjob guys at a polling station during the election. The Bush Justice Department investigated whether those two intimidated voters that day and found that they didn't.

.... except for the stubborn fact that the Bush Justice Department "found" no such thing. Deroy Murdock elaborated on this in a July 19 post at NRO's The Corner --

Olbermann, recently fired Washington Post analyst Dave Weigel, and The American Prospect's Adam Serwer have all crowed that Bush's Justice Department dropped a criminal case against the NBPP. In fact, there never was a criminal case to drop. The NBPP faced a civil (emphasis in original) lawsuit prepared by Justice's Voting Rights Unit. This is exactly what career prosecutors recommended in the first place.

With respect to all but one defendant, Justice abandoned its civil case under Obama, not Bush (emphasis added) -- no matter what Olbermann and his comrades would like to believe.

Maddow ended the week on July 23 with the factually inaccurate assertion that Republican congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee wants "civil war" (fourth part of video) --

MADDOW: Congressman Wamp has been driven so 'round the bend by health reform that in his campaign for Tennessee governor he is now calling for his home state of Tennessee to secede from the union. Where have I heard this before? (Maddow quotes from National Journal story) "I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government."

You've been warned, American people. It's either vote for Zach Wamp or secession. Or maybe it's vote for Zach Wamp because you'll get secession. You can't actually really tell in terms of what he's promising. It's either, vote Gov. Wamp if you want civil war or it's vote Gov. Wamp if you don't want civil war.

Arguably foolhardy words from Wamp -- but notice how in Maddow's retelling, they morph from "consider separation" to outright "secession," which she then suggests is tantamount to "civil war". This from a left-winger ever condemning conservatives as trigger happy.