Speculation has been growing concerning MSNBC's editorial muzzle since Olbermann and Maddow were reportedly prohibited from commenting on the Jon Stewart/Jim Cramer controversy, presumably not to embarrass the xNBC family.
But I've been much more perplexed at Maddow in particular in failing to report the Mike Connell story. Following Rachel since her Air America radio debut with Chuck D, this seems exactly the type of juicy GOP mystery Rachel boldly made her name with - when no one else would.
After succeeding in her mainstream media debut, Rachel signed a six figure deal with MSNBC. But what kind of non-disclosure agreements were included in this, or Olbermann's seven figure deal. Were there any editorial constraints written in? I would imagine this is standard practice in an industry that has for years routinely ignored "depressing" war news, disregarded shocking corruption scandals and grossly blew off election integrity issues.
When Mike Connell died alone in a plane crash last December, the blogosphere immediately began speculating whether he was bumped off because he was forced to testify about his role in the Ohio 2004 election where Bush astonishingly upended John Kerry's lead in the dark of the night.
But even more troubling than his murder conspiracy theory, was the revelation that Connell oversaw the official Ohio Secretary of State vote reporting website at the same time he was running the sites for the Bush campaign, the SwiftBoat campaign and dozens of other highly partisan GOP/RNC websites.
Much to America's chagrin, Maddow and Olbermann neglected any mention of this appalling conflict, or even Connell's demise, after it appeared on AP's newswire, the CBS News website and Huffington Post, also blanketing Ohio TV and print media for weeks. As a devoted fan of Rachel's many "soft white underbelly" reports, t his made me question Maddow's free hand.
But what was it about the story that made it so toxic? Few progressives would deny that the mainstream media has squelched some of the most crucial issues of our time. When Congress filed articles of impeachment against Bush, it didn't even make the 6 o'clock news. A relative of mine who used to work for CNN confirmed there was absolutely an executive hand censoring the news throughout the Bush years, with a trash can right next to the ticker - as if we couldn't see this for ourselves on the air.
We know MSNBC has been seeking to expand it's "liberal" line-up after an 8-year lockout of critical reporting on Bush and Cheney's exploits. But is MSNBC hiring progressives because the country is shifting its attitude, or because their bosses want to contain the liberal message by getting these influential voices under contractual control?
In the end, it's a probably a more complex web of money, market share and message. Ad revenue, demographics and political pull are all ingredients in the secret meetings held by the big TV execs.
But any potential evidence that vote flipping took place should be thoroughly examined, if only to be debunked. The national media whitewash of Connell's IT work bodes poorly on the chances of the two 2004 Ohio vote fraud cases alleging Kenneth Blackwell, Karl Rove and other officials knew of network vulnerabilities during Bush's miracle 2 AM comeback.
Lou Dobbs' bosses at CNN also got cold feet after taping a segment with Cliff Arnebeck, the lead attorney in the case - it never aired. So there must be a great story-behind-the-story being held secret concerning Maddow's non-reporting of the Connell story as well.
Network news is sadly still news with an asterisk, and as Cyndi Lauper says, money changes everything. Rachel Maddow is still the first thing I watch on TV, with stellar guests, insightful questions, an incisive wit and an uplifting through-it-all positivity. But MSNBC's new progressive phalanx badly needs to upgrade their transparency.