MediaBuzz’s Kurtz, Panel Slam Chris Matthews’s Softball Interview with Hillary Clinton

Sunday’s MediaBuzz on the Fox News Channel (FNC) had a slew of media storylines to discuss from the past week and in one segment, host Howard Kurtz teamed with GOP strategist Mercedes Schalpp and the Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff to lambaste MSNBC’s Hardball host Chris Matthews for his fawning interview with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday that featured droves of softballs. 

Following a soundbite from the interview, Kurtz opined that the entire interview came across as Matthews repeatedly “going out of his way” to “praise her guts.” 

Woodruff quickly agreed, observing that she found it ironic and “fascinating” that the interview “barely made any news because all she did was pretty much regurgitate her talking points” and “things we all already heard before.”

The former Slate and National Review writer added that, even on a substantive question about the difference between a Democrat and a socialist, Clinton gave a poor answer that was only saved by Matthews giving her a pass:

The only real standout moment was when he said her a question she was coming, what’s the difference between a Democrat and a socialist and her answer was a I'm a progressive Democrat who wants to see things change. That's not an answer to the question, not even remotely and he let her get away with it. I thought it was perplexing. 

Kurtz brought Schlapp into the fray by alluding to a portion in which Matthews referred to her as a “hero to women” following the Lewinsky scandal, which then allowed Schalpp to quip that it “felt like it was the president of NOW giving the interview to Hillary Clinton as opposed to Chris Matthews.”

“I guess he's trying to softer her image as well and for the viewers, great, but I thought it was an incredibly boring interview,” she explained. 

Before frequent Hardball guest Michael Tomasky rode to Matthews’s rescue and threw jabs at FNC for how they interview Republican candidates, Kurtz brought up a 2008 quote from Matthews and wondered if his Tuesday sit-down signaled a mea culpa of sorts: 

One of the reasons that really struck was back in 2008, Chris Matthews said the following about Hillary Clinton: “The reason she's a U.S. Senator, the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason why she may be a front-runner is that her husband messed around.” There was an uproar over this and ten days later, Matthews apologized for what he called a 'nasty remark,' so that set this whole interview as a kind of a wake-up call to use a sports term?

Following some brief back-and-forth between Tomasky and Schlapp, Woodruff concluded before Kurtz went to break by firing off one last hit on Matthews: “Asking how great is it being a champion for women is a little bit much.”

Tell the Truth 2016

Earlier in the program, Schlapp blasted the liberal media for their new obsession in the political world by giving exhaustive coverage to Donald Trump’s raising issues over whether Ted Cruz is eligible to be president: 

I think it's a little twisted. I believe it’s another sort classic trump act, which is let me bring this up. Yes, I was asked by The Washington Post, but he has been able to carry on and feed this to the media and then, the media in response has decided they're going to spend about five or six days talking about the fact of whether Ted Cruz, he was born in Canada, yes, and whether he's a natural born citizen and qualified....The conservative media, for example, are all in agree this is ridiculous. That this is just a joke, why are we even covering this. Mainstream media? Like Trump, they like the fact let's bring up the doubt in the minds of the voters. 

The relevant portions of the transcript from FNC’s MediaBuzz on January 10 can be found below.

FNC’s MediaBuzz
January 10, 2016
11:04  a.m. Eastern

HOWARD KURTZ: Alright, so Trump says he's not pushing the Cruz-Canadian birth issue. He's just responding to questions posed from The Washington Post. Is that right? 

MERCEDES SCHLAPP: Well, I think it's a little twisted. I believe it’s another sort classic Trump act, which is let me bring this up. Yes, I was asked by The Washington Post, but he has been able to carry on and feed this to the media and then, the media in response has decided they're going to spend about five or six days talking about the fact of whether Ted Cruz, he was born in Canada, yes, and whether he's a natural born citizen and qualified. 

KURTZ: Why are the media doing that? 

SCHLAPP: Again, it partly it could — we know two facts here. The conservative media, for example, are all in agree this is ridiculous. That this is just a joke, why are we even covering this. Mainstream media? Like Trump, they like the fact let's bring up the doubt in the minds of the voters. 

KURTZ: Cruz is in a strange position of first trying to brush this off, and then producing a copy of hi mother's Delaware birth certificate. Nobody questioned whether she was an American and giving it to the conservative site Breitbart. 

BETSY WOODRUFF: Right, and I think actually this is where I slightly would take issue with your assessment of conservative media because Breitbart and the Drudge Report — very conservative sites that tons of conservative Republican primary voters read are really driving this narrative. Breitbart has taken all of this seriously.

(....)

11:19 a.m. Eastern

KURTZ: What did you make of that? Because it seemed to me that Chris Matthews kept going out of his way to praise her guts. 

WOODRUFF: What I thought it was fascinating about the interview was it barely made any news because all she did was pretty much regurgitate her talking points. She said things we all already heard before. The only real standout moment was when he said her a question she was coming, what’s the difference between a Democrat and a socialist and her answer was a I'm a progressive Democrat who wants to see things change. That's not an answer to the question, not even remotely and he let her get away with it. I thought it was perplexing. 

KURTZ: Right and it wasn’t a particularly tough question. What did you make of that whole section where Chris Matthews said I want to speak out now, and I'm responsible and went onto call her hero to women in the wake of the Lewinsky affair.

SCHLAPP: Well, I felt like it was the president of NOW giving the interview to Hillary Clinton as opposed to Chris Matthews. Yeah, I find it, again, he really honed in on the fact of the gender card, that narrative of the first woman president and again, you know, it's one thing it plays well with the Democratic base, the women who are supporting her. I guess he's trying to softer her image as well and for the viewers, great, but I thought it was an incredibly boring interview. 

KURTZ: One of the reasons that really struck was back in 2008, Chris Matthews said the following about Hillary Clinton: “The reason she's a U.S. Senator, the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason why she may be a front-runner is that her husband messed around.” There was an uproar over this and ten days later, Matthews apologized for what he called a “nasty remark,” so that set this whole interview as a kind of a wake-up call to use a sports term?

MICHAEL TOMASKY: Maybe, I don’t know. In fairness, I would say that I've seen in Fox segments where Cruz or Trump are on, and they're not exactly given the third degree some times on this network. You know, this network serves an audience. That network serves an audience.

SCHLAPP: Oh, Michael, come on. That was what I would consider to be the cheerleading interview for Hillary Clinton. I don’t think you would — Bret Baier and Chris Wallace

TOMASKY She's also — she's a tough — well, she's a tough interview. 

KURTZ: But to your point, I didn't expect an absolute inquisition from Chris Matthews. Obviously, he makes no secret of having liberal sympathies, but it just seemed like a softball conversation and it was a rare opportunity to kind of press her and make some news.

TOMASKY: She's a tough interview. I've interviewed her. You probably have. Yeah, she doesn’t make news very much and by design. She doesn't do this very much. She doesn't need to because it’s not like there’s someone out there who doesn’t know who she is.

SCHLAPP: But at least that's the tough questions, my goodness. 

WOODRUFF: Asking how great is it being a champion for women is a little bit much.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center