Rushing to Twitter, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow told the nation that she had Trump’s “tax returns” and would reveal them to the world on her nightly show.
Unfortunately, it was all a lie. Maddow only had the 1040 forms from 2005, which are not the same as tax returns. In fact, if she actually did reveal tax returns then it would have violated federal law, which states its is illegal for “any return or return information” to be “print[ed] or publish[ed] in any manner not provided by law.” In addition, a “felony punishable by a fine,” “or imprisonment” would be the punishment for these violations.
A preemptive response was put out to Maddow and the rest of America officially disclosing the 2005 taxes of President Trump. This happened before Maddow could reveal her groundbreaking information, and nearly ruined her breaking news story.
“You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago. Before being elected president, Mr. Trump was one of the most successful businessmen in the world with a responsibility to his company, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required. That being said, Mr. Trump paid $38 million even after taking into account large-scale depreciation for construction, on an income of more than $150 million, as well as paying tens of millions of dollars in other taxes, such as sales and excise taxes and unemployment taxes, and this illegally published return proves just that. Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns. 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.”
It seems as though the mainstream media is attempting to compete with WikiLeaks and other whistleblowers by releasing “secret” information to stay relevant. However, lying to millions of people is not competing. Over the past decades, WikiLeaks has never been wrong or lied. Primarily because the organization receives and reveals legitimate documents, emails, logs, etc.
Rachel Maddow, on the other hand, simply bluffed, and it backfired. After the mainstream media stated that Trump may have been not been paying taxes at all, The White House showed that Trump actually payed 25% taxes on his income in 2005.
A recent Gallup poll shows that 68% of Americans cannot say they have “a great deal” or ‘a fair amount’ of trust” in “mass media.” This is a 20% decline from 1997, and doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon.
All these mistakes by the media simply serve as confirmation bias for Trump’s claims of “fake news.” The only thing that the legacy media needs to do is to not make major mistakes. Staying out of the headlights may be the only way to gain back trust.
Nevertheless, the media continues to do the opposite, as seen with fiascos like Maddow’s. Perhaps the mainstream media realizes that they can do nothing to gain the trust of American’s back, so they are throwing out Hail Marys. So far, none have paid off in 2017.
With America’s trust in their government hitting historic lows, and trust in media hitting rock bottom, bluffing wasn’t MSNBC’s best option.