Journalist Rachel Maddow says if people feel let down by her story about President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax document it’s more because of the weight of expectation than anything she did.
The MSNBC host has found herself in the odd position of defending herself from criticism following one of the biggest-ever scoops for her show.
Maddow’s show revealed, through reporter David Cay Johnston, two pages of tax return information that showed Trump earned $US150 million ($A195 million) in 2005 and paid $US38 million in income taxes that year. Trump has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns.
Maddow’s tweet less than 90 minutes before her show that “we’ve got Trump’s tax returns” set off a social media frenzy. Although a subsequent tweet specified it was only two pages from one year’s returns, expectations were sky high.
Maddow said she never misrepresented what she had.
“Because I have information about the president doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a scandal,” she said. “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.”
Her story was derided as “a big nothingburger” and there were unflattering comparisons to Geraldo Rivera’s opening of Al Capone’s vault, television shorthand for an anticipated event that doesn’t meet expectations.
The White House’s pre-emptive step of issuing a statement with Trump’s income and estimated taxes for that year before Maddow’s show started also took air out of the story.
Maddow’s nearly 20-minute explanation of why seeing the president’s tax returns is important and all of the things they could reveal – before telling what the 2005 documents actually showed – may have felt familiar to her regular viewers but a long tease for those enticed by the advanced advertising.
Tweeted ESPN’s Bob Ley during the show: “If you have news, Rachel, please tell us. Soon. I’m not young.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has denied that Trump himself was behind the leak to Maddow.
Trump told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that he has “no idea” how his tax returns were leaked to Johnston.
“I have no idea where they got it, but it’s illegal and they’re not supposed to have it and it’s not supposed to be leaked and it’s certainly not an embarrassing tax return at all,” Trump told Carlson in an interview for Tucker Carlson Tonight on Wednesday.
“But it’s an illegal thing they’ve been doing it, they’ve done it before and I think it’s a disgrace.”
Johnston, a veteran investigative journalist who has authored a book on Trump, said that he received the tax returns in the mail.
On The Rachel Maddow Show, he raised the possibility that Trump or one of his associates leaked them. Despite all of the hype and anticipation over their release, the information from the forms was hardly damaging to Trump.
On Wednesday morning, another MSNBC host, Joe Scarborough, also suggested that Trump’s team may have leaked the returns.
Originally published as Journo defends Trump tax scoop