Matthews Sneers Cruz Was 'McCarthy at His Worst' In Debate Moment with Trump

Updated (12:22 a.m. Eastern, March 4): Minutes after posting this, sure enough, Matthews again returned to the McCarthy well. I've updated the transcript accordingly.

Did Ted Cruz do a good job mixing it up with Donald Trump tonight?

If Chris Matthews's reaction is any indication, you'd have to say yes. The Texas senator, he sneered, was "Joe McCarthy at his worst" in his exchange with Trump in which he challenged the New York real-estate developer to release an off-the-record chat with the New York Times in which he allegedly admitted that his tough rhetoric on immigration was all a ruse.

This is hardly the first time Matthews made the comparison. It's one of his go-to attacks as we've repeatedly noted.

You can watch the relevant video and read the relevant transcript below:



special post-debate edition of Hardball
March 3, 2016; 11:02 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS, host: On immigration, Trump was challenged to release an off-the-record conversation he had with the ed board of The New York Times. He refused. Cruz suggested he was lying to the American people, of course, because Cruz always says things like that without  any foundation, because he said he lied– well, anyway, listening to Cruz is getting more difficult every night.

Here he is.

TED CRUZ: Donald, you could resolve this issue very quickly by simply releasing The New York Times tape because, listen, maybe it's right that you didn't tell them you're misleading the American people. If that's the case, if you didn't tell them that, the tapes will prove you're innocent.

MEGYN KELLY, debate moderator: OK.

CRUZ: But if, in fact, you went to Manhattan and said, I'm lying to the American people, then the voters have a right to know.

DONALD TRUMP: No, no. You're the liar. You're the lying guy up here. You're the one.

CRUZ: Why don’t you release the tape, then?  Release the tape.

TRUMP: You’re the one. Let me just tell you. Let me just tell you. Excuse me. I've given my answer, lyin’ Ted, I’ve given my answer.

MATTHEWS: Well, neither looked good tonight, but that was Joe McCarthy at his worst in the form of Ted Cruz, tonight.


special post-debate edition of Hardball
March 4, 2016; 12:02 a.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: If you want to know what Joe McCarthy was like in the early 1950s, watch Cruz, because his tactics are the same.

He says unless you release tapes from your interview with the New York Times editorial board, you are guilty. In other words, you have to prove you’re innocent. Again and again, that’s his tactic.

Chuck Hagel? He took $200,000 from the North Koreans, unless you can prove otherwise. That is, that is Ted Cruz’s method of operation.

Anyway, Michael Steele, is [sic] the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Robert Costa is national political reporter for the Washington Post. And in Detroit, Omarosa Manigault, she supports Donald Trump.

Let's start with Omarosa. Because I want some thoughts here about this.

These attacks that came from two sources tonight, I think everyone here was saying, I haven't decided, but that the least effective assault was from Rubio, the more concerted ideological attempt, which is always pretty consistent and I think pretty unacceptable because it is McCarthyite coming from Cruz, which is to accuse your candidate of being guilty basically of fraud. He did it the other night, he accused him of tax fraud the other night. Just says it.

He just says it because you can say what you want legally with the libel laws we have in this country during a campaign.

Tax fraud, tonight it’s fraud with something else to do with his university. Uh, he throws these charges around which is revelant [sic- he meant reminiscent] of the McCarthy era.

What about you? What do you think works?

Do either of these levels, explain the, uh, uh, categorize the two. Rubio’s is a sort of so-is-your-old-man attack and Cruz is [an] ideological attack. 

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