Rachel Maddow says she’s not worried about the backlash following her primetime special about President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return.
As Maddow puts it, if people are disappointed, that’s on them.
“Because I have information about the president doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a scandal,” Maddow told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “It doesn’t mean that it’s damning information. If other people leapt to that conclusion without me indicating that it was, that hype is external to what we did.”
The MSNBC host found herself fielding broadside attacks from viewers and colleagues following what was supposed to be one of the biggest scoops of her career. Maddow served as a facilitator for the reporter who broke the story, David Cay Johnston, who obtained two pages from Trump’s 2005 tax return. The document showed Trump earned $150 million in 2005 and paid $38 million in income taxes that year.
Less than 90 minutes before her show was about to air, Maddow set off a media frenzy when she tweeted that “we’ve got Trump’s tax returns.” A later tweet clarified she only had a couple of pages from one year’s returns.
But Maddow’s big moment got off to a rocky start. The hour-long special was slammed by viewers and media observers for not delivering the goods. Some compared it to Geraldo Rivera’s 1986 televised event featuring the opening of Al Capone’s vault, which contained little more than trash and debris.
Maddow was criticized for her 20-minute introduction, which struck some people as exploitative.
“My priority is to get the story right and put it into proper context, and explain the weight of it and why it is important,” Maddow said.
The fact that her big scoop was leaked before the special even aired doesn’t seem to bother her either.
“This is a super interesting first window into his finances, and the question of his finances is a legitimate scandal,” she said.
Reviews so far have been less than stellar. The Chicago Tribune’s headline read: “Rachel Maddow takes conspiracy theorizing mainstream with Trump tax returns ‘scoop’,” while the Washington Post went with, “Rachel Maddow’s not-so-big reveal of Trump’s tax returns.” Even MSNBC’s sister network, CNBC, did not mince words, proclaiming that “Donald Trump just got a nice victory, thanks to, of all people, Rachel Maddow.”
“I don’t really care,” Maddow said. “It is funny to me that a president would spend this much energy and political capital to keep secret his finances and his taxes specifically and simultaneously would want to brag about how much money he made. If that’s really what he wants the story to be, he can release all of his taxes and we can all glory in his immense wealth.”