MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan and journalist Matt Taibbi sparred about the Twitter Files on multiple platforms Thursday, with a contentious on-air interview spilling onto social media.
Taibbi informed his Substack subscribers of the budding drama Thursday with a midday newsletterthat mocked Hasan as a member of "Peacock’s farm team."
"I’m going to be interviewed on MSNBC today by Mehdi Hasan," Taibbi wrote. "I’m looking forward to it as one would a root canal or rectal. I accepted the invitation because it would have been wrong to refuse, on the off chance he was planning a good-faith discussion. If you’re reading this, things have gone another way."
Later Thursday, the interview aired on MSNBC’s streaming platform and Hasan, who has long praised his own debating skills, quickly made it clear he planned to attack Taibbi. Hasan set up the interview by praising Taibbi’s past work that defended the "little guy" before telling viewers that the Substack journalist is now "telling a different story" when it comes to his role in exposing Twitter’s once-secret internal communications. At one point, he called himself a "former fan" of Taibbi.
Hasan bashed the concept of the Twitter Files, insisting the GOP has weaponized Taibbi’s reporting; many other legacy outlets have also said the reporting has been much ado about nothing. Once Taibbi appeared remotely, the two bickered from the jump.
"So, you started off as I expected with the whole what-happened-to you-man routine. Well done," Taibbi said before explaining the significance of his work on the Twitter Files. Taibbi believes his work revealed "quasi-state censorship" related to an assortment of issues including censorship of conservatives.
Hasan immediately pushed back on the notion government censorship was proven, accusing Taibbi of "omitting crucial context." The duo did not agree and Hasan said Taibbi was either "incompetent" or purposely withheld information.
"Incompetent? Are you kidding me? You’re MSNBC," Taibbi shot back. "My God, you guys had six consecutive years of just screwups on the Russia story."
Taibbi was referring to Rachel Maddow and other MSNBC hosts who spent years pushing the Trump-Russia collusion narrative. Notably, Hasan did not deny the claim or defend his network.
"Well, that was predictable," Hasan said before moving on.
The two continued to bicker, specifically over nude images of Hunter Biden and whether they violated Twitter’s terms of service. Hasan then displayed receipts for a variety of things he considered to be "errors" in Taibbi’s reporting. Taibbi admitted some of the MSNBC host’s examples were typos and gaffes but largely stood by his work.
Hasan pushed Taibbi to "correct" various tweets he sent when reporting the Twitter Files, and accused him of being unwilling to say anything critical of Twitter owner Elon Musk over accusations of platform censorship of Indian government critics.
"I think he did a tremendous public service," Taibbi said of Musk’s efforts to reveal Twitter’s once-secret communications.
Hasan then played a 2021 clip of Taibbi saying journalists shouldn’t be "handed things," while implying he was a hypocrite because he was since handed the documents needed to report the Twitter Files. Taibbi once again used MSNBC’s past to point out that the network isn’t exactly perfect itself.
"The hilarity of this coming from MSNBC which did nothing but vomit up fake Russiagate stories that came straight from the FBI for six consecutive years that you guys still haven’t apologized for is unbelievable," Taibbi said.
Once again, Hasan failed to defend his employer, instead taking the it-wasn’t-me approach.
"I wasn’t there in that period, so I have nothing to apologize for," Hasan said.
Hasan and Taibbi continued to argue, with the nearly 30-minute interview mostly consisting of hostile moments and disagreements. Hasan tweeted out portions of the interview in segments that went viral, saying he had caught Taibbi in "glaring mistakes."
"Apparently I’ve gotten like one thing wrong, or a few things wrong, but mostly I think these stories are going to hold up over the test of time," Taibbi said. "Unlike your Russiagate story."
Hasan smirked at the Russiagate dig before telling Taibbi he was a "big fan" of his for many years and suggesting he was about to ask a question that isn’t in "bad faith." Hasan then criticized a tweet in which Taibbi told House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, it was an "honor" to speak in front of him at last month’s Twitter Files hearing.
"It is an honor to talk to Congress, it was an honor," Taibbi said. "I’m proud that I did that."
The heated interview ended with Taibbi calling Democrats a "threat" to free speech and the MSNBC host insisting Republicans are the "biggest" threat to the First Amendment.
"We have to disagree on that," Hasan said before ending the interview as Taibbi tried to make another point about Hunter Biden.
Taibbi then took his issues to Twitter, firing off a series of messages accusing Hasan of "gloating over minor errors," "dismissing both the substance and censorship story" exposed in the Twitter Files, covering the Hunter Biden laptop scandal when he said he never did on air and "justifying a deliberate intelligence deception." Taibbi also continued to point out MSNBC’s flawed Russiagate reporting.
On his Substack, Taibbi ripped into MSNBC, admitting it had gotten "personal" with an outlet that once held him in high esteem.
"Audiences have a right to demand reporters lie awake nights in panic, and every good one I’ve ever met does," he wrote. "But people who used to be my friends at MSNBC embraced a different model, leading to one of the biggest train wrecks in the history of our business. Now they have the stones to point at me with this 'What happened to you?' routine. It’s rare that the following words are justified on every level, but really, MSNBC: F--- you."
MSNBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Daily Beast insisted the MSNBC host made Taibbi "squirm," while conservatives have praised the reporter for standing up to Hasan. Others have criticized Hasan's attempt to scold Taibbi for minor mistakes as watchdogs on both sides of the political spectrum have claimed victory over the heated interview.