Matt Taibbi, the conservative reporter who has been helping Elon Musk push the “Twitter Files” conspiracy theory, wilted under intense questioning from MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan on Thursday after being confronted with inaccuracies in his reporting.
The scene was a pleasure to watch, given that the premise of the “Twitter Files” allegations — that the government has unethically pressured Twitter to silence conservative voices and meddle in elections on Democrats’ behalf — is wholly meritless.
The complete interview is worth your time, but one moment in particular had me hoping a lawmaker or two (or maybe 200) had tuned in.
After noting several errors Taibbi had made in the “Twitter Files” rollout, Hasan posed a fundamental question. He asked if Taibbi would like to criticize Twitter owner Elon Musk, who has publicly pondered fomenting coups; banned American journalists on Twitter after buying the platform; falsely labeled the NPR news organization as “state-affiliated media”; and whose platform is actively suppressing voices in India that are critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Taibbi had asked to appear on Hasan’s show to discuss the suppression of anti-establishment voices in India — but he had virtually nothing to say on the matter when it came time to put up or shut up.
This exchange speaks to a point I’ve been making about U.S. officials’ bizarre infatuation with TikTok. Many lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans alike — have pushed for a nationwide ban on the social media platform, saying that it’s unsafe from a digital privacy perspective and, they say, because the platform is used to suppress speech abroad. When TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House in March, multiple lawmakers claimed that suppression of accounts critical of the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs — an oppressed ethnic group — was reason enough to ban TikTok in the United States.
In fact, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., appeared on “The ReidOut” last week and made the same argument to Joy.
But as Taibbi’s highly public face-plant showed, there’s no excuse for ignoring Twitter’s suppression of free speech under Musk, be it in the U.S. or abroad. Lawmakers who do so run the risk of looking just as ridiculous as Taibbi.