MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan makes Matt Taibbi squirm over his ‘Twitter files’ bugs

Matt Taibbi, one of the journalists Elon Musk handpicked to peddle the so-called Twitter files, found himself floundering Thursday when confronted by MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan over key errors in his reporting.

At one point in the heated and drawn-out interview, which lasted more than 20 minutes, Hasan brought up some glaring flaws in Taibbi’s reporting of the alleged anti-conservative censorship and government interference that took place on Twitter prior to Musk’s purchase of the platform.

Noting that Taibbi repeatedly referenced the Election Integrity Project (EIP) in the Twitter files, Hasan noted how critics have pointed out that much of Taibbi’s coverage of the center is simply false.

“They said the EIP was formed in response to the government dropping its proposal for a disinformation governance board,” the MSNBC host explained while showing Taibbi’s tweet on the subject. “It wasn’t, it was founded two years earlier. You suggest it was government funded, although that was not the case during the 2020 election you are reporting on.”

Hasan continued, “They say they flagged 22 million tweets as misinformation in the run-up to the 2020 vote – they didn’t do that. You marked 3,000 election misinformation tweets for flagging, so you only had 21,997,000 fewer.”

The MSNBC moderator went on to point out that Taibbi claimed that “the EIP partnered with the government’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure Agency — CISA — to censor Twitter,” but the reporter mistook the government agency for the nonprofit Center for Internet Security .

While Taibbi initially admitted the CISA error, he attempted to defend the “22 million tweets” claim, leading Hasan to counter that it was the sum of all the tweets the agency had mapped. In the end, he explained, before the 2020 election, they reported only a few thousand as misinformation on Twitter.

“You said a lot of things, um, I stand by my story,” Taibbi stammered. He further claimed he “fixed” the bug at CISA, but the tweet was still online at the time the interview was conducted.

“Why not [fix the error]? Don’t have any editors [your site] The bat?” Hassan asked.

“I didn’t realize that until now,” Taibbi replied. (Although he said he stood by his story, he would ended up correcting three different tweets on Thursday afternoon after the interview was taped.)

While Taibbi suggested on Thursday that he was invited by Hasan out of the blue and he reluctantly appeared on the show, Hasan challenged his guest for the actual impetus for their conversation.

“No, I don’t really want that,” Taibbi replied when Hasan asked him if he wanted to criticize Musk now. Taibbi added that he’s never had a problem with Tesla’s CEO and believes Musk is now “good for Twitter,” prompting Hasan to report a recent Twitter exchange between the two.

“You say he’s good for Twitter and good for speeches,” Hasan proclaimed. “I’m saying he’s using Twitter to help one of the most right-wing governments censor speech. I will criticize that. Will you?”

When Taibbi insisted that he had to “look at the story first,” Hasan showed Taibbis own tweet from March 24th in which he wrote “Invite me on your show to talk about it” because “you’re so absolutely sure about what I’m going to say”. Taibbi’s tweet was in response to Hasan wonders if the Twitter Files reporter had a reaction to Musk’s own social site blocking access to accounts at the request of the Indian government.

A struggling Taibbi, confronted with his own tweet, said he had to “ask for the details” before attempting to steer the discussion back to his Twitter coverage.

“That came up the first time, I think it was Twitter files #6,” Taibbi explained, complaining that Hasan “claimed” that Taibbi “didn’t make that story that I worked hard on.” because Elon Musk tweeted something.” Hasan, meanwhile, responded that Musk had indeed “banned journalists,” before noting that Taibbi’s own Twitter Files cohort, Bari Weiss, even criticized Musk over the situation in India.

“So it’s odd that Bari Weiss has more integrity on this – some might argue your critics can say than you,” Hasan concluded.

Taibbi, who recently testified before Congress about “arming the government” on social media, tried to push the interview forward before it aired Thursday night on NBC’s streaming platform Peacock.

“Again, I just had a very controversial interview with @MehdiRHasan who alerted me to three mistakes in the #TwitterFiles which, as a responsible journalist – unlike MSNBC which has not corrected major mistakes for years – I now retract/correct , ” Taibbi tweeted.

The independent journalist also ran a lengthy tirade in his newsletter, complaining that “MSNBC sucks,” while informing his readers that despite his better judgment, he had accepted an invite to appear on Hasan’s show.

Much of the rest of the post was geared towards blasting the cable news agency over its Russiagate coverage and accusing it of failing to correct or retract its allegedly inaccurate reporting.

“I look forward to it like a root canal or rectal treatment,” Taibbi wrote. “I accepted the invitation because it would have been wrong to decline on the off chance that he was planning a good faith interview. If you are reading this, things have been different.”

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