For weeks, pockets of social media have been kicking around an allegation that’s been so plainly non-credible on its face, the mainstream media hasn’t wanted to touch it. A woman claims Joe Biden sexually assaulted her, but she keeps changing her story in fundamentally self-contradictory ways. She keeps claiming that she told various people about it at the time, but most of them say she’s lying. She’s regularly professed her love for Vladimir Putin.
If the MeToo movement has taught us anything, it’s that we should listen to women, even when they’re making accusations against men we like, and men we think we trust. The point of listening is to see if her story is credible, and to give her the full benefit of the doubt unless her story is clearly non-credible. This is the rare instance where a woman’s story is clearly non-credible. To give you an idea of how uniquely non-credible this accusation is, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand – who has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual misconduct and led the charge in taking down Al Franken – says she believes Joe Biden and doesn’t believe his accuser. That tells me all I need to know.
The New York Times spent weeks digging into the woman’s claims and couldn’t find anything credible about them. In fact when she recently filed a police complaint, she left Biden’s name out of it – and the Times made a point of emphasizing that if she was lying and she’d included Biden’s name, she’d have been committing a crime.
There’s a reason this story didn’t get picked up by cable news networks. Not even Fox News wanted to touch it. This is the kind of clearly non-credible (and rapidly unraveling) allegation that will end up blowing up in the face of any news outlet that tries to give it credibility. For that reason, I’ve urged everyone to simply not take the bait from the internet trolls who have spent weeks trying to goad people into elevating the story by debating it. After all, cable news wasn’t going to touch this phony scandal unless there was enough social media noise that it felt it had to cover it – and the trolls couldn’t create sufficient noise without unwitting help.
Yes, various cable news hosts have briefly touched on the story here and there over the past week. But they all painted it for what it was: the allegation itself is non-credible, and the only question was how Joe Biden should handle it. Then, tonight, Chris Hayes happened.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes has spent years using his show to give a platform to anti-Democrat liberals like Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore. Hayes played up the phony Hillary Clinton email scandal more than any other host on his network during the 2016 election. Hayes spent the 2020 Democratic primary doing everything he could to smear every candidate not named “Sanders.” Hayes has built his audience around anti-Democrat liberals, and based on the angles he takes, it’s fairly clear that his first priority is keeping this niche happy.
So it perhaps wasn’t surprising that on Wednesday night, Chris Hayes used the final few minutes of his show to not only play up the accusation against Joe Biden, but to falsely characterize it as credible and corroborated. It was the kind of dishonestly constructed segment you’d have expected to find on Fox News – and it set off a firestorm of backlash online.
The name “Chris Hayes” ended up trending on Twitter after the segment aired. Ninety percent or more of the mentions were not in Hayes’ favor. Lisa Glass said this of Chris Hayes: “We believe Joe Biden because the story is not credible. I am a smart woman, and I don’t need you to lecture me on my critical thinking skills.” Hundreds of tweets stated that they’ll never watch Hayes again. Numerous tweets urged the boycott of Hayes’ advertisers in an attempt to force him off the air.
If Hayes were pursuing an uncomfortable but important and credible story, one could applaud him for being willing to anger and alienate his audience in the name of truth. But this is the opposite of that. Hayes clearly put this non-credible story on the air, and incorrectly characterized it as credible, because he felt he needed to retain credibility with his core audience of anti-Democrat liberals. And because that’s a niche of people who often don’t want the truth, Hayes was lulled into thinking he could get away with misrepresenting the Biden story.
Remarkably, Hayes appears intent on finding some way to take down Joe Biden, so that Bernie Sanders can somehow become the 2020 nominee instead. Yet even Sanders clearly thinks this notion is ludicrous, considering he dropped out and endorsed Biden, and he’s since shown absolutely no interest in the allegations against Biden.
Notably, Hayes has tweeted footage of multiple segments from his show tonight on his @allinwithchris account. Yet two hours after his show finished airing, he still hasn’t posted the Joe Biden story. Is he afraid of the negative feedback he’ll receive? Does he know he screwed up? Can we potentially hope for a retraction tomorrow? He seemed to think he could set Biden on fire tonight for the amusement of his core audience of extremists. Instead Hayes ended up setting himself on fire, because he forgot that serious people watch his show too. Well, some of them won’t be watching anymore.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report