MSNBC’s Melber Struggles To Defend Network’s Mueller, COVID Reporting

Political News

HBO Real Time host Bill Maher was discussing Fox News and its lawsuit with Dominion on Friday with MSNBC’s The Beat host Ari Melber when he asked if MSNBC also simply tells its viewers what it wants to hear, “Can you honestly say MSNBC doesn’t do some of that?”

Joining Melber on the panel was The Dispatch’s Sarah Isgur who offered up an example, “I worked at the Department of Justice when the Mueller investigation was going on, that was a chief part of my job and there were news organizations, let’s just say, that kept telling their viewers that Trump was about to get thrown in the gulag and was going to jail for the rest of his life when that’s clearly not what was going on.”

Melber tried to defend his network’s coverage, “I covered that story, I love MSNBC, I love working there, I would defend our journalism although, yes, you can find we should be open to constructive criticism about any reporting.”

Ultimately, Melber ignored his colleagues’ repeated claims that the walls were closing in and was content to just defend himself:

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I never said that Trump was about to be indicted, quite the opposite and we did a piece, for example, flagging that Mueller is very careful and we showed all of his past congressional testimony which is super boring as a preview to, like, how the report and testimony was going to go. I do think the media has this responsibility and it definitely sometimes falls down, so we all have to be open to that.”

Thinking that was not the best example, Maher offered up another one:

I remember reading that they did a study of Republicans versus Democrats, the question was what percentage, this was, like, a year and a half ago, what percentage of people who get COVID require hospitalization? The answer is less than one percent, almost half of Democrats thought it was over 50 percent. They listen to your network, where did they get that kind of information?

Once again, Melber could only offer a feeble defense of MSNBC, “I’m still going to double down on defending, I think we do really good journalism.”

Melber also doubled down on defending himself, “we have people on my program, on The Beat, since we’re talking about the media, we brought on skeptics of all of these issues, we brought on someone from California, actually, who was in the height of COVID protesting the quarantined rules because they said it was creating more harm than good.”

That’s all well and good, but it didn’t answer Maher’s question about MSNBC spreading bad and hysterical information about COVID’s lethality or all the other MSNBC shows.

Here is a transcript for the February 17 show:

HBO Real Time with Bill Maher

2/17/2023

10:21 PM ET

BILL MAHER: People want to hear what they already believe. I can give you examples. Can you honestly say MSNBC doesn’t do some of that? 

SARAH ISGUR: And for instance with the Mueller Report—

MAHER: Wait!

ISGUR: I’m just—I’m going to help them out! 

MAHER: You’re going to help them out? Wow!

ISGUR: I’m going to help him out a little. No, I’m going to hurt him. 

I worked at the Department of Justice when the Mueller investigation was going on, that was a chief part of my job and there were news organizations, let’s just say, that kept telling their viewers that Trump was about to get thrown in the gulag and was going to jail for the rest of his life when that’s clearly not what was going on. 

MAHER: Well.

ARI MELBER: I like to have her go first, I never know what’s going to happen. I covered that story, I love MSNBC, I love working there, I would defend our journalism although, yes, you can find we should be open to constructive criticism about any reporting, but if you want to speak about my reporting, we know each other, like I never said that Trump was about to be indicted, quite the opposite and we did a piece, for example, flagging that Mueller is very careful and we showed all of his past congressional testimony which is super boring as a preview to, like, how the report and testimony was going to go. I do think the media has this responsibility and it definitely sometimes falls down, so we all have to be open to that.

MAHER: I’m not sure that was the best example. Let me try another one because I saw in the paper today, kind of a big story, I think, I wonder how much it’s going to get covered in the liberal media because it’s about how natural immunity — they did a giant study, 65 countries, maybe something like 65 countries, many, many different studies, they looked at them all. 

Natural immunity, as good or better than the vaccine, something I’ve been saying since the beginning and I get called an anti-vaxxer, that’s not an anti-vaxxer. 

This is the kind of thing, my problem with the media from both sides is not that you guys lie, it’s you tell me your side of the story that you want me to know, you don’t tell me the whole story. 

I’d be curious as to how much play this story gets because I remember reading that they did a study of Republicans versus Democrats, the question was what percentage, this was, like, a year and a half ago, what percentage of people who get COVID require hospitalization? 

The answer is less than 1 percent, almost half of Democrats thought it was over 50 percent. They listen to your network, where did they get that kind of information?

ISGUR That was to you. That was clearly–.

MAHER: That’s bad information they have in their head and it’s from one side to.

MELBER: I’ll tell you this, I think you make a fair point that if the press is hunting a narrative instead of facts—

MAHER: Right.

MELBER: — then as you say you can pull even true things into that narrative. I’m still going to double down on defending, I think we do really good journalism and we have people on my program, on The Beat, since we’re talking about the media, we brought on skeptics of all of these issues, we brought on someone from California, actually, who was in the height of COVID protesting the quarantined rules because they said it was creating more harm than good. 

That’s a policy debate and I think when anyone including whatever media you’re picking on or out I mean is—you be the judge—but whenever media is doing that in a way that is treating legitimate debate, facts, policy as somehow this narrative hunting, of saying the other side’s evil, or I heard sometimes some liberals say, “oh the other side’s clearly pro-COVID,” I don’t think most sane people were quote pro a virus and so the policy debate on how to deal with it is legit. 

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