On Friday's Hardball, MSNBC's Chris Matthews tried to explain away his “criminality” allegation against the Bush administration, hailed as his “hero” a CBS News correspondent who touted Jesse Jackson as “a sort of conscience of the country” and, in showing pictures from the Thursday night party celebrating Hardball's 10th anniversary, illustrated how he was surrounded by liberals.
Comments from Matthews on his show suggested that his charge against the Bush administration -- “they've finally been caught in their criminality” -- which the Washington Examiner quoted him as saying at the party, was merely a reference to Scooter Libby. But he failed to specifically clarify, correct or deny the quote. He argued “that in one case,” Bush administration “efforts to silence critics, and to cover up those efforts, got a senior Cheney aide caught up in criminality, indeed, in a conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice.” Matthews, playing the martyr to obviously unsuccessful supposed attempts to silence him, then trumpeted “my hero Eric Sevareid,” who “once noted we cannot always be right on the facts, though we must try to be; we cannot always be fair, but we must try to be. But we must always be independent.” If only Matthews really lived up to that “independent” promise.
Back in July of 1988, during CBS News coverage of the Democratic National Convention, Sevareid, sitting in the booth with Dan Rather, praised Jesse Jackson: "He has become here, a kind of new, he's acquired a new status. He's almost like Hubert Humphrey was, a sort of conscience of the country." (Screen shot is from the MRC's video archive from July 20, 1988.)
Throughout Friday's Hardball, as the show went into commercial breaks, viewers were treated to pictures of Matthews at the anniversary party with various guests. Of ten people in the photos credited to Marty Katz, not counting his wife Kathleen Matthews who until recently was an anchor for DC's ABC affiliate, only one, Pat Buchanan, could be readily identified as a conservative. Those seen smiling and laughing with Matthews included five Democratic Senators or Congressman, but not one from the Republican side of the aisle:
-- Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, Democrat of Texas
-- Senator John Kerry
-- NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell and her husband Alan Greenspan
-- Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman Patrick Kennedy
-- NBC's Tim Russert
-- Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News and formerly with Time magazine
-- Pat Buchanan
-- Congressman Ed Markey, Andrea Mitchell and Alan Greenspan
In the Washington Examiner's “Yeas & Nays” column item posted Thursday night, Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin reported:
....In front of an audience that included such notables as Alan Greenspan, Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy, Matthews began his remarks by declaring that he wanted to "make some news" and he certainly didn't disappoint. After praising the drafters of the First Amendment for allowing him to make a living, he outlined what he said was the fundamental difference between the Bush and Clinton administrations.
The Clinton camp, he said, never put pressure on his bosses to silence him.
“Not so this crowd,” he added, explaining that Bush White House officials -- especially those from Vice President Cheney's office -- called MSNBC brass to complain about the content of his show and attempted to influence its editorial content. "They will not silence me!" Matthews declared.
"They've finally been caught in their criminality," Matthews continued, although he did not specify the exact criminal behavior to which he referred. He then drew an obvious Bush-Nixon parallel by saying, “Spiro Agnew was not an American hero."
Matthews left the throng of Washington A-listers with a parting shot at Cheney: “God help us if we had Cheney during the Cuban missile crisis. We’d all be under a parking lot.”...
Seemingly addressing these quotes, on the October 5 Hardball Matthews delivered this brief commentary:
Last night we had a great celebration here in Washington of ten years of Hardball. We celebrate the wonders of the First Amendment and our freedom of the press which Americans of all political stripes treasure. Anyway, I told the crowd that it hasn't always been easy these past ten years, that politicians don't like to be criticized, that in one case their efforts to silence critics, and to cover up those efforts, got a senior Cheney aide caught up in criminality, indeed, in a conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice.
As my hero Eric Sevareid once noted, we cannot always be right on the facts, though we must try to be; we cannot always be fair, but we must try to be. But we must always be independent.