"The clergy should stay off Capitol Hill," MSNBC's Chris Matthews flatly declared on the November 10 "Hardball." Matthews fumed with disgust as Politico's Jonathan Allen told him that Catholic bishops lobbied Democrats to pass the pro-life Stupak Amendment to the Democratic health care reform bill last week.
"I understand the [pro-life] argument" that the bishops brought to the table, Matthews added, but huffed that they should not "show up" on the Hill.
After the commercial break, Matthews took to the air again to clarify that it was not in fact bishops but staffers with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) who lobbied the Democrats. Such a distinction, he insisted, was important.
The relevant transcript follows [MP3 audio available here]:
JONATHAN ALLEN, Politico reporter: She [Nancy Pelosi] did do one incredible political thing the other night. She had the Conference of Catholic Bishops in one room, the pro-choice lawmakers in the other.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, "Hardball" host: No but actually on the Hill? The bishops showed up?
ALLEN: On the Hill. She has two conference rooms.
MATTHEWS: Did the bishops show up?
ALLEN: The bishops showed up.
MATTHEWS: They shouldn't have.
ALLEN: Two conference rooms. She did shuttle diplomacy between them.
MATTHEWS: Well I'll tell ya that's, the clergy should stay off Capitol Hill. Anyway thank you Jonathan Allen. I understand the argument. Don't show up.
MATTHEWS: I first want to clear up something. We had a report a moment ago that bishops of the Catholic Church were actually on Capitol Hill this weekend. Apparently staffers from the U.S. Conference of [Catholic] Bishops were doing the lobbying, not the actual bishops. I want to clear that up, it's important.