Ted Cruz's suggestion on Sunday's Meet the Press that Donald Trump's tax returns may show extensive business dealing with business tied to the mafia is simply below-the-belt McCarthyite attacks that should scandalize Texas voters, Hardball host Chris Matthews complained on his February 29 MSNBC program.
[You may recall that Matthews made a similar McCarthy comparison last Thursday night.]
"He got the word in there, this is McCarthy stuff," Matthews complained to his guests. "He got the name Fat Tony Salerno in there. Everybody thinks mob, mafia, the whole thing."
Hey, "[w]e're very bare-knuckled down here," quipped former Texas Republican chairman Steve Munisteri, which drew a rebuke from Matthews:
You call it bare knuckles and you're chuckling. Is there a limit down here in Texas?!
For her part, fellow guest and liberal Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg gave Chris an assist, saying that, yes, it was beyond the pale for Texas voters:
I think that what we're seeing here with Ted Cruz is troubling to people, small-town Texans like me, is, you expect somebody to, at least, you know, most of the time, to be standing by your word and to stop playing games like this. Just grabbing something out of the air without any kind of proof whatsoever.
Matthews had played for his guests a clip from Sunday's Meet the Press in which Cruz said there were "multiple news reports" from outlets like CNN that Trump may have done business with the mafia and that, perhaps, Trump's tax returns would show extensive business ties to those known mob fronts.
Here's how CNN.com reported the story in July 2015 (emphases mine):
Donald Trump's glittering empire of New York skyscrapers and Atlantic City casinos have long had a darker side, allegations that the mob helped build them.
Trump's alleged ties to New York and Philadelphia crime families go back decades and have been recounted in a book, newspapers and government records.
"The mob connections of Donald are extraordinarily extensive," New York investigative journalist Wayne Barrett told CNN in an interview.
Barrett, the author of the 1992 unauthorized biography "Trump: The Deals and the Downfall," wrote that Trump's life "intertwines with the underworld."
The allegations are getting new scrutiny as Trump runs for president, largely on his record as a successful, and extraordinarily wealthy, businessman. As Trump cements his leads atop the polls, questions about how he made his billions, and who helped him make them, are starting to take center stage.