Matthews Applauds ‘Anger from Progressives’ at Town Halls, Slammed Tea Party as Racist

Throughout Wednesday’s Hardball, MSNBC host Chris Matthews expressed no concerns or reservations about the “grassroots resistance” and “anger from progressives” on display at congressional and Senate Republican town halls. 

All the while, he sang a different tune seven and eight years ago when the Tea Party was born, denouncing them as racists and sexists who shouldn’t be given the light of day. 

“Well, eight years ago, we witnessed a Tea Party mobilize against a President, his agenda and his allies in Congress. Well now, Republicans, as the new governing party controlling the congress and the White House, they've become the target of anger from progressives,” hailed Matthews at the top of his show.

Matthews aired a mash-up of town halls before remarking at how there were “a lot of boos out there,” adding:

You're watching, by the way, grassroots resistance at the door steps of these events where protesters have mounted demonstrations outside as well as inside and while the issues in dispute are nothing new, mainly real kitchen table issues like health care, these groups are voicing their concern in a way that's hard to ignore for anyone.

Despite the insistence of the liberal media that town hall attendees both aren’t paid or organic, Matthews gave a shout-out to a group founded solely to organize liberals to pack Republican town halls.

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“How do know about the groups like Indivisible, that group, I've been reading their material. I thought it was fascinating. Just read this...’If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.’ Pretty clear voice there,” gushed Matthews.

Matthews continued undermining his side by blurting out that those berating members of Congress are indeed partisans: “This is an impressive group of grassroots people. You can say they're liberals and progressives — well, they are, but they're local. They have the local accent. They seem like they know they ought to be at these meetings.”

Readers, leave it to Chris to step in it. While panelist Heather McGhee stayed on message, attacking Republicans as the party that’s “afraid of democracy.”

Eventually, Matthews stopped tripping over himself and concocted this rosy picture:

It seems to me, the logic of people that are putting these demonstrations together, who are making a point of getting people to come out of their homes at nighttime, which is a hard thing. Most people would rather stay home, cook dinner, hang out with their family, watch a little tube, go to bed. But to get people to go out on a cold night and show up somewhere at a strange place...They can go to a regular Republican and say, buddy, be careful here. Your vote with Trump in getting rid of healthcare. That may be fun with your right-wing, but you’re going to pay a price[.]

Speaking of who attends town halls, that’s the perfect segue for taking a trip back in time to how Matthews depicted the Tea Party. During a promo in June 2010 for his Tea Party special The Rise of the New Right, our former colleague Mark Finkelstein wrote:

There's no other way to put it: in an MSNBC promo for an upcoming Chris Matthews special on "The Rise of The New Right," Matthews juxtaposes words and images to imply that the Tea Party seeks the violent overthrow of the government.

As images roll of camo-clad men shooting automatic weapons, Matthews proclaims in the voice-over: “the Tea Party is determined to take power.”

A year earlier in August 2009, Matthews complained that the Tea Party was at “its tipping point” when a Tea Party Express leader was discovered to have penned racially insensitive satire. Despite the individual’s departure, Matthews demanded without evidence that the Tea Party must “pull down one of those racist signs at the next Tea Party rally.”

Below are some others: 

- August 11, 2009: Matthews expressed befuddlement at the Tea Party, suggesting they “were created by this new President” Barack Obama with racial motives. “I think some of the people are upset because we have a black president,” he opined.
- December 16, 2009: Matthews hypothesized that the “crazy” Tea Party arose in large part because of the “power” the Fox News Channel has over them
- May 2010: When wondering “[w]hat are the Tea Partiers really angry about,” Matthews suggested that it could be the future of health care, but also “the fact that it was an African American President and a woman Speaker of the House who pushed through major change”

For one last example from the NewsBusters vault concerning the Matthews special, here’s then-NewsBusters analyst and newly-minted Daily Beast White House correspondent Lachlan Markay writing in May 2010: 

What do Tea Partiers, Truthers, birthers, Birchers, militias, Pat Buchanan, Jerry Falwell, Barry Goldwater, Joe McCarthy, Father Coughlin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Ronald Reagan, Strom Thurmond, Rand Paul, Alex Jones, Orly Taitz, and Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh all have in common? Approximately nothing, but don't tell Chris Matthews.

The MSNBC Hardball host spent the better part of an hour last night trying to associate all of these characters with one other. Of course he did not provide a shred of evidence beyond, ironically, a McCarthyite notion that all favor smaller government, and are therefore in league, whether they know it or not, to overthrow the government. Together, by Matthews's account, they comprise or have given rise to the “New Right.”

Here are the relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on February 22:

MSNBC’s Hardball
February 22, 2017
7:00 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, eight years ago, we witnessed a Tea Party mobilize against a President, his agenda and his allies in Congress. Well now, Republicans, as the new governing party controlling the congress and the White House, they've become the target of anger from progressives. Right now, at least 2,000 people are backed into a high school theater down in Arkansas where Republican Senator Tom Cotton is holding a town meeting. It's pretty lively.

(....)

MATTHEWS: A lot of boos out there. You're watching, by the way, grassroots resistance at the door steps of these events where protesters have mounted demonstrations outside as well as inside and while the issues in dispute are nothing new, mainly real kitchen table issues like health care, these groups are voicing their concern in a way that's hard to ignore for anyone. The New York Times reports that for some, it's become so heated that, “many Republicans have chosen not even to hold events at all, wary of protests might greet them.”

(....)

MATTHEWS: And how do we know that — how do know about the groups like Indivisible, that group, I've been reading their material. I thought it was fascinating. Just read this. Maybe you should answer this, Heather. “If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.” Pretty clear voice there. 

(....)

MATTHEWS: Well, what's bottom line on these meetings and this noise that we're hearing and the excitement in the crowds? I mean, I’m seeing people — I know it's dangerous for any politician to challenge an individual member of a town meeting because the crowd there who came there to make noise, to be truthful, to make their voices heard, don't want to hear some politician telling them to shut up because they're really saying that to everybody. How do you handle this if you're a Republican? This is an impressive group of grassroots people. You can say they're liberals and progressives — well, they are, but they're local. They have the local accent. They seem like they know they ought to be at these meetings. 

(....)

MATTHEWS: It seems to me, the logic of people that are putting these demonstrations together, who are making a point of getting people to come out of their homes at nighttime, which is a hard thing. Most people would rather stay home, cook dinner, hang out with their family, watch a little tube, go to bed. But to get people to go out on a cold night and show up somewhere at a strange place. It’s hard enough to vote. ‘Oh, I don’t want to do that. It’s trouble. I don’t know these people. I feel like I’m embarrassed.’ No, they're showing up — that they believe they can move something in history. They can go to a regular Republican and say, buddy, be careful here. Your vote with Trump in getting rid of healthcare. That may be fun with your right-wing, but you’re going to pay a price. It seems to me like they're trying to peel these members of the House — Republican members of the House away from Trump and what he's doing. There’s a logic to it. 

(....)

MATTHEWS: John, what do you make of the Women's March? Cause a lot of this started with that woman in Hawaii. It wasn't a bunch of lefties per se or people who raised money by getting people jacked up. It's a woman out in Hawaii, a private citizen, a civilian, if you will, who said, you know, what? I don't like this guy, Trump. I'm going to make some noise. How about we women get together? And all of a sudden, a million women are marching through Washington in probably the most joyous days for progressives in years and that includes the Hillary campaign. 

(....)

HEATHER MCGHEE: Well, yeah, because frankly, they're afraid of democracy. Listen, we live in — excuse me — a very divided country.

MATTHEWS: And by the way, stop right there. That was brilliant. They’re afraid of democracy.

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