On Monday, it was reported that 147 FBI agents have been working on the review of Hillary Clinton‘s email server, a report which I immediately called BS on loudly and thoroughly. As the week progressed, the reporting caught up with what was already obvious, and it turns out there are only about 12 agents working on it, maybe. On Thursday night, All In with Chris Hayes host Chris Hayes did a segment debunking the reporting:
In addition to the new reporting, Hayes pointed out what I pointed out on Monday, that 147 agents is a self-evidently absurd total. There are only about 44 members on the average joint terrorism task force. Hayes and Eric Boehlert then spent the next segment discussing how self-evidently crummy the original report was, given that the reporter flat-out told readers its source was a Republican legislator. Good for them, but it makes you wonder why it took until Thursday for them to call this out.
It seemed as though this story was everywhere on Monday, but when I went back and checked, it turns out it was only in two places. See if you can figure out which two:
Of course Fox News ran with this, but viewers of “liberal” MSNBC were also told that there were 147 FBI agents, or 175 FBI agents, or, for some reason, 147 Asians working on Hillary Clinton’s email server. Those were all on Joe Scarborough‘s Morning Joe. While I’d like to give CNN some marginal credit for not reporting on this, at least according to a review of closed-caption transcripts, they also didn’t step up to debunk it. Neither did any of MSNBC’s liberal prime time hosts.
The reason I keep pointing out that I debunked this garbage on Monday isn’t because I’m a huge credit-whore. I am, but that’s not why. It’s also not to prove how smart I am (although I am), but because I know for sure that Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell are at least as smart as I am, maybe even more, and while CNN can be forgiven for not touching this because maybe they didn’t want to even indirectly promote bad reporting, this was all over MSNBC’s air. If anything, the network’s liberal stars had a duty to point out the obvious flaws in the reporting, and especially on the reporting of the reporting.
WaPo reporter Robert O’Harrington, Jr.‘s reporting was cannily worded so that it could easily be exaggerated, but was worded weakly enough to keep him from getting fired. It was Scarborough and company who pumped it up from “147 agents have been deployed” (which is like reporting that “147 people have died. The end.”) to 175 agents working around the clock on this thing. Why did none of the liberal shows call out this bad reporting, even if they had to lay it all off on Fox to avoid hammering their own guy?
That’s a very interesting question, and a lesser reporter might speculate that it’s an indication of the power shift at the rapidly Scarboroughfying network. It’s great that they debunked this at all (while steering clear of Morning Joe), but it would have been at least a little bit better if they had done so when it could have made a difference. You didn’t need anonymous sources or brilliant deductive skills to do it, you just needed to know how to read.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.