Worst Book Club Ever: MSNBC Touts Iowa Dems Reading Every Candidate Memoir

While filling in for Stephanie Ruhle during MSNBC’s 9:00 a.m. ET hour on Monday, anchor Chris Jansing promoted a book club created by Iowa Democrats in which members pledged to read campaign memoirs written by 16 of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates before the Iowa caucuses in February. Jansing touted how the “relaxed, cerebral idea” was “catching on big.”

“Every four years, Iowa is the epicenter of a particularly American frenzy....A convergence of candidates marching, stumping, posing, playing, and literally running for their political lives. Which makes Andrea Phillips’ relaxed, cerebral idea seem well, almost quaint,” Jansing declared. The journalist identified Phillips as an Iowa “Democratic Party official” before describing the “quaint” book club:

 

 

The idea? A 2020 book club that would read a daunting 16 books by the candidates before the Iowa caucus in February....Within a day, 150 people had joined the book club. Now it’s 830 members in 39 states. And Iowa being Iowa, with the prize of a caucus victory as glittering at Des Moines capitol dome, those guaranteed book club crowds have proven irresistible to candidates.

After noting “long-shot” candidate John Delaney and struggling contender Kirsten Gillibrand speaking to the Iowa book club, Jansing announced: “Five presidential hopefuls have talked to the club so far, with 11 more still to come. So add to candidates’s must-do list, signing and reading.”

“What do you hope members will take away from this experience?,” Jansing asked Phillips, who replied: “I hope they have gotten to know the candidates better. That’s really the point of the whole thing, is so that people can make a good decision on caucus night.” Jansing wrapped up the fluffy segment by making a case for its relevance: “It’s hard to see how you read 5,000 pages and you don’t show up for the caucuses, so that’s why this could be significant.”  

The softball story was aired two more times throughout the day, in the 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. ET hours. At the end of the 3:00 p.m. airing, Jansing proudly noted that her reporting had boosted the club’s membership: “By the way, we just got a note that – because this story also aired this morning – they’ve gotten 225-255 new members. They’re pushing 1,100 now, after this aired.” Anchor Ali Velshi was impressed: “Wow....I had never before today thought of book clubs as a form of civic engagement....What a remarkable story.”

MSNBC is so desperate to provide glowing coverage to 2020 Democrats that is what the liberal cable channel is now passing off as news.

Here is a full transcript of the July 1 story:

9:52 AM ET

CHRIS JANSING: The power of the Iowa caucuses is on full display this week. Check this out, if you’re an Iowan, this week alone, Democrats will be making more than 40, 4-0, appearances in the state. Because if candidates want to win the caucuses, they’ve got to show up early and often. And for 2020, there’s a surprising new factor in the mix and it’s, did you write a book and how good is it? Because there’s a book club whose members have pledged to read nearly 5,000 pages written by Democratic presidential candidates.

Every four years, Iowa is the epicenter of a particularly American frenzy.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN [D-MA]: I’m running for president!

JANSING: A convergence of candidates marching, stumping, posing, playing, and literally running for their political lives. Which makes Andrea Phillips’ relaxed, cerebral idea seem well, almost quaint.

ANDREA PHILLIPS: I was sitting on the couch reading Pete Buttigieg’s book and I wanted to tweet a picture of myself reading it, you know, with the fire and the dog.

JANSING: But you’re a Democratic Party official.

PHILLIPS: That’s right. And I didn’t want to – people to think I was showing favoritism, so I thought, well, I’m going to read all the books anyway, why don’t I just throw it on Facebook, see if I can get a couple people to join me.

JANSING: The idea? A 2020 book club that would read a daunting 16 books by the candidates  before the Iowa caucus in February.

As Andrea was audio-booking the hours away while commuting or doing dishes, her little idea was catching on big. Within a day, 150 people had joined the book club. Now it’s 830 members in 39 states. And Iowa being Iowa, with the prize of a caucus victory as glittering at Des Moines capitol dome, those guaranteed book club crowds have proven irresistible to candidates.

FMR. REP. JOHN DELANEY [D-MD]: I think it’s a great idea. I think primaries should be battles of ideas.

JANSING: And so on a Friday night, with avid readers packed into Andrea’s living room, beverages at the ready, John Delaney makes his long-shot case for president.

DELANEY: My program gives every American basic health care as a right of citizenship.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN A [IOWA VOTER]: I think I’ve learned a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B [IOWA VOTER]: It helps us be really, really educated voters.

JASING: The next morning, another crowd at the local Y for Kirsten Gillibrand.

Why should somebody read your book?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND [D-NY]: It’s going to tell a lot about who I am and what I care about and why I’m really ready for this job.

JANSING: The questions often different from the usual stump appearances.

PHILLIPS: But what about your potty mouth? You discuss it in your book that your grandmother had an epic potty mouth apparently.

GILLIBRAND: I definitely try to keep my mouth clean, especially when there’s children in the room. [Laughter]

JANSING: Five presidential hopefuls have talked to the club so far, with 11 more still to come. So add to candidates’s must-do list, signing and reading.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN C [IOWA VOTER]: It’s a lot more detailed than the, you know, 10 minutes we get with them here or there.

ZEB BEILKE-MCCALLUM [BOOK CLUB MEMBER]: This is an opportunity to engage with people on a more personal basis to see who they are and what kind of leader they’ll be, and I like that.  

JANSING: What do you hope members will take away from this experience?

PHILLIPS: I hope they have gotten to know the candidates better. That’s really the point of the whole thing, is so that people can make a good decision on caucus night.

JANSING: It’s hard to see how you read 5,000 pages and you don’t show up for the caucuses, so that’s why this could be significant.

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2020 Presidential Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Iowa Video Chris Jansing

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