Elon Musk and Substack journalist Matt Taibbi’s “Twitter Files” lit up the social media website Friday evening, showcasing how the Big Tech company tried to quash the Hunter Biden laptop story just weeks before the 2020 election.
However, some of the same outlets who dismissed the laptop story as “Russian disinformation” in 2020 were also quick to discount the details behind its censorship as a “nothingburger.”
Rolling Stone writer Adam Rawnsley yawned at Taibbi’s Twitter thread findings, calling it “anticlimactic” and a “snoozefest.” He argued Musk had bored readers with old information.
“But contrary to the melodramatic billing, the files mostly show what’s already been documented: that Twitter removed links to the Post’s story and files from Hunter Biden’s laptop and struggled with how to react to the surprise revelation of the leak of files from a presidential candidate’s son,” he wrote.
Major newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times showed disinterest in the story with delayed coverage. The Post waited until Saturday evening to cover the Twitter Files, which an article knocked as a “dud” that was “billed as a bombshell.”
The New York Times waited to cover the story until Sunday, conservative radio host Clay Travis highlighted.
That was the prevailing attitude from liberal journalists on Twitter, who warned others to ignore the story. Liberal tech journalist and podcast host Kara Swisher mocked Musk for hyping the “nothing burger.”
Left-wing NBC reporter Ben Collins, who hasn’t had a byline on a digital piece since Nov. 10 according to his online profile, said Taibbi’s work was “unbelievable hack stuff” on Friday evening. On Sunday, he shared an opinion piece declaring it “the opposite” of a scandal.
Liberal academic and journalist Seth Abramson also argued there was nothing to see here.
“This is the only sentence you need to read about the Musk-Taibbi nothingburger,” he tweeted, before quoting Taibbi acknowledging there wasn’t any apparent “government involvement” in the laptop story censorship decision.
While the liberal networks showed little interest in the story over the weekend, MSNBC host Ali Velshi and political analyst Michael Steele weighed in to downplay the controversy.
Velshi reacted to Musk’s response to a series of tweets posted by Taibbi that revealed members of both political parties were flagging tweets in emails to Twitter employees they believed were problematic.
“If this isn’t a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment, what is?” Musk wrote in response to Taibbi’s tweet.
Velshi said Musk’s response was a “hot take.”
“This is what we in the cable business like to call a hot take. It reveals Elon Musk’s profound ignorance of the First Amendment. The First Amendment regulates government contact. It does not regulate public actors like Twitter. And in Musk’s example, not only was the Biden campaign not part of the government, the ultimate decision to actually agree to honor the request… was a private decision taken by private company. The Biden campaign wasn’t the government,” he said.
Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman who shifted sharply to the left in the Trump era, joined MSNBC’s Symone Sanders on Saturday to react to the Twitter Files as well. Sanders asked what Steele made of the “tomfoolery” and said Musk was trying to draw attention to Hunter Biden’s actions again with the release of the files.
Steele said Musk’s decision to release the “Twitter Files” was about the billionaire’s claim that he’s all about free speech, and actually served to undermine its “central tenets.”
“And so we are perpetuating lies and so forth. You’re really kind of laughing in the face of this idea of what the platform he claims is supposed to be. For the party, they love it. I mean they got one of the world’s richest men helping them foment the kind of distrust of the system and disinformation where their fingerprints don’t necessarily have to be on it,” Steele said.
CNN business correspondent Christine Romans trashed the narrative that the Twitter Files showed purposeful censorship of a story that could tarnish the Democratic candidate’s chances just before an election during an appearance on “CNN Newsroom.”
“Now what some want you to think is that this was censorship by Big Tech,” Romans said.
She defended the tech company’s “struggle” on what to do with the story, before dismissing the findings as lackluster. Romans also cited Poynter’s Tom Jones, who wrote the “Twitter files” should be filed under “m for meh.”
“What it sort of shows is a real struggle on an important platform for how to deal with something so outrageous, so explosive and what to actually do with it. What Poynter said, which is a media watchdog group, they said ‘file this one — file the Twitter Files under m for meh’ and the Washington Post said there is no smoking gun here, we’ve known a lot of this, that Twitter really struggled with how to handle this explosive story that was published in the New York Post,” Romans said.