If you watched cable news in prime time on Thursday night, you might have been more confused than usual, especially if you started with MSNBC.
Shortly after 8 p.m., the progressive network showed a lower-screen banner headline that said “NBC NEWS: Carter Page Testifies He Told Sessions About Russia Trip During Trump Campaign.”
Seems like an interesting story.
If true, it might be another example of another lie told by Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. Sessions often swears under oath he knew nothing about collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian agents. And Sessions, then a U.S. Senator from Alabama, was a top Trump aide.
But even as this intriguing headline appeared on All In with Chris Hayes and, later, on The Rachel Maddow Show, neither Hayes nor Maddow talked much about the story despite the “BREAKING NEWS” blared in the banner. At 9:59 p.m., Maddow read a brief statement from Page. The story stayed vague.
To better comprehend it, a viewer would have to roll the DVR back to 7:26 p.m. on CNN when Erin Burnett broke the story in talking with reporter Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. He explained that Page, a Trump foreign affairs advisor, talked to the House Intelligence Committee for six hours on Thursday in secret.
By the top of the 8 p.m. hour—even before MSNBC’s banner headline—Anderson Cooper 360 reported the story again and the CNN screen said “Exclusive.” Cooper spoke first with Raju and then with Carl Bernstein, a veteran journalist who put it in perspective of revelations from the many probes of Russian dealings with the Trump gang.
“Serial lying,” Bernstein called it. “Serial lying by Jeff Sessions, the attorney general of the United States; by the President of the United States; by the children of the President of the United States; by his campaign manager; by his associates in his business enterprises… Follow the money. Follow the lies. There is an intersection of the two… What we see now is very serious.”
Apparently it was not serious enough for Fox News Channel to get involved. This new angle was ignored by Tucker Carlson on Tucker Carlson Tonight at 8 p.m., by Sean Hannity on Hannity at 9 p.m. and on The Ingraham Angle with Laura Ingraham at 10 p.m.
It wasn’t until 11:10 p.m. on Fox News @ Night that anchor Shannon Bream raised the issue. And she did it in classic fair-and-balanced Fox style because, after all, this was a Fox “news” show as opposed one of “opinion.”
“The Left claims they’ve found yet another smoking gun,” Bream began.
More objective about it was reporter Kristin Fisher.
She mentioned the Page testimony in tandem with the guilty plea of lying to the FBI announced this week by George Papadopoulos, another Trump henchman who bragged to Sessions, Trump and others last year that he knew Russians who could set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If true,” Fisher said, “that could contradict what Sessions said back in June. Listen.”
Fox then played a sound clip of Sessions testifying under oath that “I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.” Fisher next read an emailed statement from Page saying his conversation with Sessions was not that big a deal.
Despite getting beaten by CNN on the Page story, MSNBC had the most focused coverage regarding the scandals rocking the Trump regime and, in particular, Sessions. Hayes showed a clip of a notably nervous Sessions answering a question under oath from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
“I have n-not, uh, seen anything that would indicate, um, a collusion, uh, with Russians, uh, to impact the campaign,” Sessions said.
On her show, Maddow told New York Senator Chuck Schumer that testimony of Sessions has been “false under oath” and asked the Democratic leader “What’s the remedy when an official like the attorney general lies—”
“You know, perjury is a very careful standard,” Schumer said. “But it’s something that would be looked at.”
Rest assured no such uncomfortable angle was explored in the 10 p.m. hour on Fox when Ingraham greeted the amateur president for an exclusive interview filled with White House talking points and platitudes.
Trump hyped his tax plan and denounced “chain migration” of immigrants and dodged a semi-tough question about his comments the previous day that the New York City terrorist should be sent to Gitmo and put to death because the U.S. legal system is a joke and a laughingstock and only he, Trump, knows what’s best.
Justice should be “quicker and stronger and fairer,” said the dangerously authoritarian, tired-looking, baggy-suited, large, loud, poorly-informed, 71-year-old, orange-faced, yellow-haired demagogue.
INGRAHAM (in “Church Lady” purple, wearing her gold cross): “Are you having fun in this job?”
TRUMP: “I love it. There’s been a lot of false reporting that I’m angry about things… The press is fake… A lot of the media is fake.”
Joe Lapointe spent 20 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times and worked as a segment producer for Countdown With Keith Olbermann. Recently, he has taught journalism at New York University, Rutgers and Long Island University-Brooklyn. follow him on twitter: @joelapointe