Rachel Maddow’s Interview with Lev Parnas Was Amazing — But It Likely Won’t Matter Much


On Earth 2, after Rachel Maddow’s bombshell interview with Rudy Giuliani’s Ukrainian “fixer” Lev Parnas last night, the following developments are happening:

  • Dozens of GOP Senators have come out in favor of multiple witnesses at the upcoming impeachment trial, demanding that Parnas and John Bolton both be on that list without even a concession from Democrats.
  • Rudy Giuliani has been fired as President Donald Trump’s personal attorney.
  • Impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Bill Barr are beginning immediately.
  • Devin Nunes has been stripped of his position as the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, and the GOP has announced they will not support his 2020 reelection bid.
  • Reporter John Solomon has been suspended from Fox News pending investigation, and is expected to be eventually fired.
  • Public support for Trump’s (and possibly Vice-President Mike Pence’s) removal from office is now over the 60% mark.
  • The prospects for Trump surviving his impeachment trial are at best uncertain, and possibly somewhat dim.

Here in the real world, however, none of those things are going to happen. In reality, there is a pretty decent chance that nothing very significant will come of what should be an earth-shaking event.

There are a lot of reasons why this is the most likely outcome, but one of them was that this interview was conducted by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Unfortunately, in this hyper-partisan, truth-means-almost-nothing, hyper-fragmented media environment, this is significant.

Before we get into exactly why that is the case, a few observations on the interview itself are in order.

  • While we must remember he is under federal indictment, Parnas came off as personally credible. I believed virtually everything he said was the truth as he knows it. It is absolutely extraordinary that someone at the epicenter of this scheme has turned so dramatically on Trump, but there does not seem to be a nefarious motive behind his decision to spill the beans on the eve of the president’s impeachment trial.
  • Maddow did an excellent job with the interview. I doubt anyone in cable news could have been better prepared, and gotten as much out of Parnas, as she did.
  • The audio and some of the editing, however, were remarkably poor given the magnitude of the segment.
  • It is now abundantly clear that Rudy Giuliani, with the help of Parnas, was running a “shadow diplomacy” effort, directly on behalf of mafia boss Trump, with threats to pull United States military aid and public backing of their new government used to strong-arm Ukraine into announcing a clearly bogus investigation into Joe Biden.
  • While Giuliani is implicated the most clearly in this mob-like extortion scheme, Bill Barr, Devin Nunes, and John Solomon all come out looking horrendously, and as people who obviously should not hold their current positions.

As unfair and nonsensical as it is, however, the political impact of this incredible television is obviously going to be mitigated, if not muted, by who did and aired the interview. If Parnas had asked Trump (to be clear, I am not suggesting this happened) with whom he should do such an interview, there is little doubt the president’s answer would have been Rachel Maddow and MSNBC.

This is because there are literally no Trump fans, or even many soft Trump supporters, who watch MSNBC in general, especially Maddow. At most, Trump supporters will only vaguely hear about what happened in a way that is completely harmless, mostly because, in the mind of the average Republican, anything about Trump that comes from MSNBC is easily disregarded as “Fake News!”

Fox News, for instance, in an deed so blatantly consistent with being a state-run outlet that I at first thought it might be a parody, actually had the audacity to only highlight how the Parnas interview “Undermines House Dems claims that Trump team surveilled Ukraine ambassador.” Apparently, a “Parnas Agrees that Trump is All-Knowing” headline was seen by the Fox News editors as lacking enough pro-Trump spin for their sycophantic standards.

If the goal here was to have real political impact, this interview should have been offered first to Chris Wallace of Fox News (it would have needed to be aired live to prevent Fox from having control over its editing). He would have likely jumped at the opportunity, and would have been tough but fair, with Fox then being at least somewhat invested in publicizing the story, thus eliminating a huge excuse Trump supporters will have for pretending as if Parnas never existed.

Sure, there is a chance Fox News would have fearfully passed on the offer all together. But at least then Fox News being afraid to interview him would be a significant part of the narrative, and it wouldn’t appear as if Parnas rushed to the safety of the most liberal host on the most liberal network because his story is too fragile to withstand any pro-Trump scrutiny (clearly, Maddow still would have been thrilled to interview him second, while now Fox can easily claim that there is nothing new to discover by giving him airtime after the exclusive has already been squandered).

As I have tried to warn many times in the past, at least until further notice, nothing in this desensitized era really matters. While the Parnas interview could have qualified, unless he testifies in tremendous fashion at the impeachment trial, that notice is still pending.

John Ziegler is a senior columnist for Mediaite. He hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud  or email him at johnz@mediaite.com

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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