'Book Better Than the Movie': Journalists, Pundits Critique 'Performance' of Mueller Testimony

Dozens of legal analysts and journalists invoked a classic line of snobby high-brow criticism, comparing former special counsel Robert Mueller's "unexciting" Wednesday testimony to a book that's better than the movie.

Cable news television pundits and journalists on Twitter kicked off the "shallow" analysis early Wednesday morning as Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt said Mueller is entering his "TV stage" of bringing the 400-plus page written report to Congress under heavy live coverage. On Sunday, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said he hoped Mueller would bring the Russia investigation "to life" for both Washington lawmakers and average Americans who never read the lengthy report.

MSNBC legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg laid out the analogy Wednesday: "We talked about folks preferring movies to books. Occasionally the books are better than the movies. In this case, the book was much better than the movie."

"There's a difference between exciting and important. There are things that are exciting that are not important and there things that are important that are not particularly exciting. This was not exciting but it's no less important than what we already knew," Rosenberg added, noting that "nothing of substance" alleged in the report changed in any way. "Please don't forget that."

Earlier in the morning, Fox News' Earhardt opened the show saying, "They're calling it the TV stage, Robert Mueller takes the TV stage today it will be the TV version of the book."


On Twitter, journalists from dozens of national publications piled on the comparison.

"It's usually always the case: the book is better than the movie," tweeted Washington bureau reporter for The New York Times Jeremy W. Peters. "Sometimes the book actually is better than the movie," concurred The New Yorker columnist Susan Glasser.

Fox News' Bret Baier also chimed in with the overused line, "Democrats wanted these hearings so the American people could 'see the movie.' After this hearing, they may be saying 'the book is much better than the movie."

President Donald Trump, speaking with reporters outside the White House Wednesday also took on the show business angle: "One of the worst performances in the history of our country," he said of Mueller's testimony, which he painted as a Democratic Party-run charade. "Nobody could have had a good performance, though, he had no material."

MSNBC legal analyst Nicolle Wallace took a moment to be self-aware, criticizing her own guilt at focusing on such a "shallow" aspect of the testimony.

"It's shallow analysis I'm guilty of it to hone in on the performance aspects, but there were facts underscored," Robert Mueller did talk about all the lies. Why did so many people tell so many lies about the exact same thing? Robert Mueller did acknowledge today that the lies may have hindered his investigation. We haven't talked about the president refusal to do an interview for a very long time."

Conservatives continued questioning whether Mueller had even read or written any part of his namesake report, but it was clear from many lawmakers' questions that many participants in the congressional "movie" had not read the "book" either.

mueller testimony performance movie
Dozens of legal analysts and journalists invoked a classic snobby line of attempted high-brow critics, comparing former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's "unexciting" Wednesday testimony to a book that's better than the movie. Chip Somodevilla/Staff/Getty Images
'Book Better Than the Movie': Journalists, Pundits Critique 'Performance' of Mueller Testimony | Politics