On MSNBC, All the Trappings of Elections Coverage, With One Word to Be Avoided

By Mark Joyella 

“We’re just about to present our exclusive with Jeb Bush,” said Rachel Maddow at the close of her show last night. “Jeb Bush’s first public comments since Donald Trump became the presumptive presidential nominee.”

Our exclusive, Maddow said, but not our exclusive interview, and Bush’s first public comments, but not Bush’s first interview. All of those words were chosen quite deliberately to address the person leading the “conversation” which filled the 10 p.m. hour–not an NBC journalist, but an analyst with long personal ties to the Bush family.

CnGOFTPXgAAbs7mThe interview conversation was recorded earlier in the day in Kennebunkport, Maine, just a few doors away from the Bush family compound. The former candidate “sat down with” Nicolle Wallace, the MSNBC political analyst who previously served as Bush’s press secretary when he was governor of Florida, and later served a communications director for President George W. Bush.

The network opened its special with its election theme music, elections set and primary elections team, co-anchors Maddow and Brian Williams. But The Place for Politics took time to address both the journalistic value of Bush’s comments–but also the non-journalistic nature of the “conversation” that was about to air.

Introducing Wallace, Williams described her as “a veteran GOP insider who’s worked on the front lines with both Jeb and George W. Bush.” But while MSNBC went to great lengths to avoid using the word “interview,” Wallace did not. “This interview came about I guess the way many of your interviews come about, I sent him an email asking him if he had things on his mind that he wanted to talk about a week out from the Republican convention, and he said he did.”

Wallace, while often using the pronoun “we” when talking about the GOP, truly did get Bush to open up: He revealed he won’t be voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and may not vote at all. He said he won’t be asking how his parents will vote, and he said it didn’t help when Pope Francis intervened during the primary about the wall.

At the end of the hour with Maddow, Williams and the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson on set, Wallace admitted, “I’m not an¬†objective¬†analyst of him and the family.” And while it may not have been an “interview,” it still made news.