MSNBC's Chris Matthews honored Martin Luther King Jr. Day by accusing white Republicans of being afraid of black people. During a Monday night Hardball special called "Obama's America," Matthews insultingly asked former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele if, at GOP conventions, black-Americans at those events were told not to "bunch up" because "you'll scare these people" and added: "Did you fear that if you got together with some other African-Americans these white guys might get scared of you?"
Steele, who was the only Republican on the panel, seemed shocked by the question as he responded to Matthews: "No! What are you talking about?" and then proceeded to cite the successful candidacies of Tim Scott, Allen West and others in the GOP field that would suggest white Republicans weren't exactly afraid of, as Matthews put it, "black folk hanging together."
The following is the full exchange from the panel that featured Steele along with the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson and Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards, as it was aired on the January 17 edition of Hardball:
(video and audio after the break)
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Michael, I watch politics. I'm not an expert on sociology or anything but I'm an expert on watching politics. Like Gene, this is what we do. I go to Republican conventions, I go to Democratic and as a white guy one thing I notice about the difference, one thing I notice about black people at different conventions. You go to a Democratic convention with Donna [Edwards] and black folk are hanging together and having a good time. They're smiling, they're enjoying themselves. They feel very much at home. You go to a Republican event you get a feeling that you are all told, "Individually now, don't bunch up. Don't, don't, don't get together. Don't get together, don't crowd, you'll scare these people." Is that true in the Republican Party? Is that still true in your party? Did you fear that if you got together with some other African-Americans these white guys might get scared of you?
MICHAEL STEELE: No! What are you talking about?!
MATTHEWS: I'm asking-
STEELE: Look I'm just saying - we could've used a few more brothers in the house, there's no doubt about that. No seriously, but-
MATTHEWS: Isn't there still a difference, ethnically, in the two parties on race?
STEELE: Is there a what?
MATTHEWS: A difference ethnically between how at home you feel?
STEELE: I don't know, I don't know about, I don't know if it's a question of how at home you feel? I think what I tried to do, what I can speak to is my two years as chairman, what I tried to do was broaden the landscape on which we could play. Go into neighborhoods where we needed to be and haven't been in a generations.
STEELE: And I think it made a difference. Tim Scott, Allen West-
MATTHEWS: Good victory down there, African-American in South Carolina.
STEELE: Absolutely and Nikki Haley and South Carolina's governor Susanna Martinez. So broadening the party's base is going to be important.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here