Friday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow answered a letter from Dick Morris’ lawyer demanding a correction to an earlier segment. Maddow was more than happy to address the issue, and issued a few corrections of her own.
The segment began with a short history lesson with regards to Democratic presidents. In the last 100 years, there have been only 3 Democratic presidents who were elected to second terms, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Pres. Bill Clinton and Pres. Barack Obama. And while history has sort of rewritten the 1996 election as a shoo-in for Clinton, there were some fairly harrowing moments along the way.
On the day in 1996 that the president was to give his acceptance speech as the nominee to the Democratic convention, one of his top advisors, Dick Morris, was the subject of a tabloid scandal that alleged that Morris had an ongoing relationship with a prostitute, and that he had allowed her to listen in on conversations he had with the president. Morris, the campaign’s chief political strategist, was forced to resign.
“Now, we sort of think of Dick Morris as this guy on Fox News,” Maddow said, “He’s sort of part of the pundit-sphere. But at the time, when he was all but ruining the re-election campaign that he was supposedly helping to manage, he was a really big deal.”
“It was just a blockbuster, humiliating political fall in the middle of the president’s re-election campaign,” she said. “And that is how Dick Morris became a famous person.”
Morris has gone on the become a far-right conservative who “writes books about how sleazy the Clintons are,” Maddow said, “which is ironic.”
Which is how Fox News came to feature Morris as an expert who spent this year, in Maddow’s words, “tearing a wide path of mis-prognostication in the middle of campaign 2012.” Morris was wrong about everything this year and was one of the prime polluters in the miasma of misinformation that caused the Fox News Channel to get all of its predictions so badly wrong.
“There is no chance that Obama will get re-elected,” Morris said to Sean Hannity earlier this year. “Zilch. None. Zip. Nada.”
He hewed to that line right up through election night.
“Nice try,” said Maddow, “but of course, there is no President Romney now getting ready to serve his first term with his Republican super-majority in the Senate.”
The question, however, about men like Morris and Karl Rove, is how much they were acting in their supposed role as news analysts in the election and how much they were functioning as political operatives, trying to swing the vote to the Republicans nominee, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).
It was in the process of asking that question that the “The Rachel Maddow Show” did a segment in December about Morris’ fundraising activities and speaking engagements leading up to the election. It was in response to that segment that the show got a letter from Morris’ attorneys demanding a correction.
In the segment, Maddow highlighted an October 24, 2010 fundraising appeal from Morris that appeared on DickMorris.com and was bylined with his name. It said, in part, “My organization, SuperPacUSA.com is targeting 24 seats” in television ad buys and other media outlays. He included a special appeal for funds in the fight against Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), saying that “the Boston media market is very expensive,” so please “give as sizable a donation as you can as quickly as you can.”
“What’s weird is that the letter his lawyer sent us insists that even though Dick Morris himself called the super PAC ‘my organization,’ he now insists that this super PAC should not be described as Dick Morris’ super PAC,” she said. “The letter says he did not organize, control or make any financial decisions for SuperPAC for America” and was only hired by the organization to do a specific fundraising appeal to help elect Romney president.
But there he was in 2010, she pointed out, calling Super PAC for America “my organization,” which he was using to elect Republicans to Congress.
“So this is weird, right?” she asked.
She was happy to clarify that the president of Super PAC for America is a man named Michael Reagan, and that Dick Morris’ title at the organization is “chief strategist.” And if he wants to deny that he has an official role at the PAC, “he needs to take that up with whoever signs the name ‘Dick Morris’ to letters that get posted at DickMorris.com.”
One of the more interesting facts about Super PAC for America is that toward the end of the 2012 election cycle, it dumped more than a million dollars of its money raised from small donors on the right wing blog NewsMax for advertising in the name of fundraising. FEC filings show it, it’s a matter of public record, and yet Morris’ lawyers are outraged (outraged!) that Maddow would say so on the air.
But the fact is that when Morris’ strategy is to aim money at NewsMax, he is essentially paying himself, because NewsMax purportedly pays top dollar for access to DickMorris.com’s mailing list of donors. So a sizable chunk of what Dick Morris was raising, allegedly to defeat Barack Obama, was probably going right back into his own pockets.
Morris’ attorneys took issue with Maddow’s use of the word “substantial” to describe the amount of money paid over to DickMorris.com. In truth, she said, we don’t know exactly how much Morris was paying himself, perhaps it was only a fraction of the money raised for the organization that called him chief strategist.
But the lawyers do confirm that yes, NewsMax was the broker that paid for the mailing list, that they paid DickMorris.com for the mailing list using money that Dick Morris helped raise. Mainly they’re just quibbling about the amount.
Maddow issued a mea culpa, saying that no, she does not have evidence that the sleazy transaction was “substantial”-ly sleazy or just bush league, run-of-the-mill sleazy and for that, she apologized. But the rest of it?
“When we do not get stuff wrong, I will not take it back because you do not like the sound of it, even though it is true,” she said sternly. “And hey, why you don’t like the sound of something sometimes ends up being newsworthy itself.”
Watch the video, embedded via MSNBC, below: