If you were relying on MSNBC as your sole conduit for news yesterday afternoon, you learned about the economy in the U.K., you definitely understood that President Obama has “no patience” for reports that the Internal Revenue Service targets conservative groups, and you discovered, along with Chris Matthews, that the Hardball host has met his match when it comes to overpowering an opponent with nonstop loud words coming out of one’s face.
What you didn’t know was that yet another political scandal was breaking all over the internet and slowly unfolding to the audiences of the other two major cable news networks. The scandal, of course, was the news that the Department of Justice had undertaken an unprecedented gathering of Associated Press employee phone records. The news was immediately described by journalists as “chilling” and even as the “first legit” Obama scandal by liberal pundit Markos Moulitas. But it would take over three hours to reach MSNBC viewers after breaking on Twitter.
So what took so long? An MSNBC spokesperson told BuzzFeed, “In cases like this we are more interested in getting the story right rather than just getting on the record with it. As demonstrated tonight, we wait to do thoughtful, thorough reporting — which both Chris Hayes and Rachel [Maddow] did tonight.” This is true. Chris Hayes managed to bring up the report during a discussion about the IRS scandal, calling the news “deeply troubling,” and Rachel Maddow dedicated almost her entire first block to the story.
But what about the other opinion shows? If Chris Hayes could briefly inject the topic into a preplanned segment, why couldn’t Chris Matthews have done the same during the two blocks dedicated to discussing the IRS story? If there was ever a time for Martin Bashir, Chris Matthews, and Al Sharpton to stand up and claim objectivity, this was it, and all three failed miserably.
To get an idea of how excruciating it was to wait for MSNBC to deliberate on the importance of this massive political scandal, I’ve created the timeline below:
3. At 4:26 p.m., the Associated Press announces to Twitter that the government seized telephone records for lines assigned to their journalists.
4. Mentions of “AP” on Twitter immediately skyrocket past “IRS” and “Benghazi.”
5. At 4:58 p.m., CNN’s Jake Tapper becomes the first to break the story on cable news.
“A troubling story just in…”
6. Over on MSNBC at 4:58 p.m., Martin Bashir ends his show with a David Cameron/Paul Ryan comparison.
7. At 5:11 p.m., Wolf Blitzer leads his interview with Rep. Darrell Issa with the AP/DOJ story.
ISSA: “They’re looking at what is considered to be confidential. People wanted the Pentagon Papers too, but it didn’t mean you could look behind the doors broadly the way they’re doing.”
8. At 5:11 p.m., there is still no mention of the story on MSNBC as Hardball’s Chris Matthews remains focused on the IRS scandal.
MATTHEWS: “In the military, you’re responsible for everything that goes on during your watch. That means the director of the IRS at the very least is responsible for this, and I think the president really has to make a show of force at this point and just, you know, lop off the head of that agency and move on it, because I’m telling you, this is going to be big.”
9. At 5:34 p.m., Wolf Blitzer discusses the AP/DOJ story with former AP reporter John King: “This is very chilling.”
10. After Hardball concludes its second consecutive block dedicated the the IRS story, and after running an SNL clip, MSNBC goes to commercial at 5:34 p.m. without a peep about the AP/DOJ scandal.
11. At 5:57 p.m., Dana Perino briefly breaks the news to Fox News viewers.
PERINO: “We will see how this story unfolds. This could be a big one.”
12. At 6:04 p.m., CNN analyst Jeff Toubin begins to discuss the legalities surrounding the AP/DOJ story.
TOUBIN: “I think a lot of people, certainly a lot of reporters, don’t realize there is no federal privilege that reporters have. Reporters are just like anyone else.”
13. 6:12 p.m. and still no word about the AP/DOJ story on MSNBC as Al Sharpton’s Politics Nation teases a Barbara Walters segment.
14. Brett Bair leads the Fox News 6:00 p.m. hour with the AP/DOJ story, and Shep Smith does the same at 7:00 p.m.
BAIER: “This is Bret Baier in Washington. There are busy news days and days like today.”