By Jon Dougherty
There is an axiom in the news business that says if you lie to your core audience, that core audience will abandon you once the truth is revealed — and the truth is always revealed.
It’s an axiom that MSNBC should have heeded.
For most of a year, the network’s ratings have been steadily improving with one of its hosts, Rachel Maddow, garnering double-digit increases to become MSNBC‘s prime-time behemoth, surpassing, on some nights, Fox News rival Sean Hannity.
And for that same period, Maddow and the rest of the network’s ‘talent’ line-up pushed the Russian collusion hoax to viewers. Night after night, they told their audiences that, any day now, that fine, upstanding, paragon of virtue, Robert Mueller, was going to deliver the goods on POTUS Donald Trump, which would lead invariably to impeachment and, for good measure, post-White House financial ruin and even jail time.
But then the bottom fell out of the narrative on Friday when the special counsel delivered his mandated report to the Justice Department declaring that, after months and months of searching, no evidence of “collusion” with Russia to “steal the election from Hillary Clinton” could be found.
It needs to be said, at this point, that collusion evidence was never going to be ‘found’ because it doesn’t exist: It was always a hoax cooked up by the Obama administration to trip up, undermine, and bring down POTUS Trump and his administration.
That said, MSNBC (and CNN, and others) latched onto the narrative like an Alabama tick digs into a heal hound. The network road that narrative hard, night after night, day after day, hyping Mueller and his investigation until audiences were whipped into a frenzy.
The bottom fell out on Friday, and so has MSNBC‘s ratings. The Daily Beast:
Maddow, who has consistently vied for the first or second top-rated cable news program, was sixth on Monday evening, down almost 500,000 total viewers from the previous Monday, as was MSNBC’s second top-rated program in primetime, The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell.
Within MSNBC, there’s an acknowledgment that the Trump-Russia narrative on which the cable network—and especially its primetime star Maddow—built monster ratings has fizzled for the moment.
Insiders also claim not to be surprised that the conclusion of the long-awaited Mueller report—or at least the Trump-appointed attorney general’s summary—was a whimper, not a bang for an outlet that has invested so much time and energy, in primetime and throughout its dayparts, in the notion that Trump is unworthy of the Oval Office and might at some point be forced to give it up.
Leftist journalist Glen Greenwald, who is a real journalist, by the way, and reports that way, not based on his political preferences, noted in a tweet:
Not just NBC as a corporation made huge amounts of profit off this scam, but so did their stars & personalities. They become unimaginably rich for life by peddling a fraudulent story for 3 years while purposely ensuring their audience never heard from those who questioned it.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 27, 2021
Of course, MSNBC insiders now say the network will “pivot to 2020” and hope for ‘strong storylines’ from the Trump presidency.
But it will go forward with far fewer viewers because when you live by the lie, you die by it.
Expect similar losses at CNN, and a few notable newspapers who have also lived by the same collusion lie.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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