Howard Kurtz: Trump Tax Reveal 'Big-Time Blunder' by Rachel Maddow

March 15th, 2017 6:43 PM

During the Wednesday morning edition of the Fox News Channel's America's Newsroom, co-anchor Bill Hemmer discussed the release of part of Donald Trump's 2005 income tax return with Howard Kurtz, who called the incident “a big-time blunder” by Rachel Maddow, who devoted her entire eponymous MSNBC program on Tuesday night to the two pages of information provided by liberal reporter and author David Cay Johnston.

When Hemmer asked for his view of the incident that “caught fire last night,” Kurtz slammed Maddow's devotion to the “exclusive report” that indicated the current president earned $150 million a dozen years ago and paid $38 million in taxes “not because it's not a legitimate news story,” but because of “the way in which she dragged this thing out.”

Hemmer began the interview by stating that “this thing caught fire last night. It was on the Drudge Report. You can follow it on Twitter in real time, and the reaction was … it was something else.”

“Now, you watched it. You saw it. You're gauging the fallout now, and how do you see it?” he asked.

Kurtz, who has a special focus on the media as host of Fox News Channel's MediaBuzz on Sundays, replied: “Bill, this was a big-time blunder by Rachel Maddow, not because it's not a legitimate news story. It is.”

He continued:

The way in which she dragged this thing out, two things happened. One is she had a news story, but she … turned it into kind of a partisan spectacle with a long, rambling, 20-minute monologue before she finally produced the news, and she just seemed so gleeful about it. Obviously, she's a liberal critic of this president.

But by touting it on Twitter and hyping it, she gave the White House time to put out a statement of its own, not just criticizing the media but confirming the basic facts that President Trump did in fact pay $38 million in taxes that year, so she fumbled away the scoop.

The document begins: “You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages from over a decade ago.”

“Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns,” the statement continued.

“The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the president will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans,” the document concluded.

At that point in the Wednesday morning interview, Hemmer noted that Fox News anchor Sean Hannity “was reacting when she came off the air” on Tuesday evening, “and what Hannity's doing is lump her in with the corporate organization as well.”

Hemmer then played a clip from Hannity's program on the previous night, when he discussed what he called “the corporate jihad being waged by NBC News against President Trump.”

“Now, as I said earlier, they're the leaders of this alt-left-propaganda-destroy-Trump-at-all-costs media,” Hannity stated. Releasing the president's 2005 tax return “proves that they will do anything, spin any conspiracy to destroy the commander-in-chief, including working with people clearly that have broken the law.”

Hemmer then noted: “Now on Hannity's point, a lot of people will agree with him on that, and they've looked at the media coverage of this administration ever since it took office as you have as well. What does this story do if nothing changes based on what we have heard so far? What does this do to those arguments on the right and left?”

Kurtz responded:

Well, I'm troubled by the illegal leak and the invasion of privacy here, but this particular story, I think, doesn't indict NBC because I think most news organizations, were this tax return dropped in their lap, probably would have published it.

But what also bothered me about the way that Maddow presented it and hyped this up is that they started speculating about where it came from: “Oh, maybe Trump leaked it, or one of his people leaked it.”

“According to the reporter who brought this to MSNBC -- David Cay Johnston, a former New York Times reporter who just wrote an anti-Trump book (entitled The Making of Donald Trump) last year and has compared him to P. T. Barnum,” one of the founders of the Barnum & Bailey Circus -- “this just showed up in his mailbox.”

After noting that no one has claimed responsibility for leaking the tax return, Kurtz concluded: “If somebody on Donald Trump's behalf would have wanted to leak it to somebody, I doubt it would be this reporter who has been very much a critic of President Trump.”

Who knows what other “exclusives” Maddow will reveal on her weeknight program? Keep reading NewsBusters to find out.