While MSNBC host Chris Matthews has routinely cited the American Revolution-era Gadsden flag as evidence of the extremism of the tea party movement, at the end of Monday's Harball, he expressed his love for the banner while remembering West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. [Audio available here]
In his 'Let Me Finish' segment, Matthews shared his thoughts on Byrd and how he particularly admired how the Democrat shared his "deep American objection to the Iraq War." Matthews placed Byrd in an historic context and spoke of the nation's founding, including one particular symbol of defiance during the Revolution: "I love the symbol of the Gadsden flag that, coiled rattlesnake against a field of yellow. 'Don't Tread on Me' – it warned our enemies, and that included especially the British government and London." Matthews then noted: "This morning, a man died who treasured this country and that flag. For those reasons, Senator Robert Byrd opposed both wars – both wars with Iraq."
In contrast, Matthews saw the same flag as dangerous in the hands of tea party protestors just twelve days earlier when previewing his 'Rise of the New Right' special on the June 16 Morning Joe program: "And what scared me, if you want to get scared, was the use of the flag from the American Revolution – the Great Gadsden flag from South Carolina, with the coiled rattlesnake. They are basically looking at the federal government now as an occupying force, basically a foreign occupying force, a tyranny. And that justifies a lot of bad behavior, I would say."
So when Robert Byrd "treasured" the Gadsen flag as inspiration to protest the Iraq war it was okay, but when American citizens use the same flag to protest massive government expansion, Matthews gets "scared."