Former New York Governor George Pataki on Wednesday got into a heated discussion with Chris Matthews over the Ground Zero mosque and the Republican opposition to it.
In the middle of his second "Hardball" segment on MSNBC, Matthews played a clip of Rush Limbaugh saying on the radio earlier in the day, "If this is a nation that is Islamophobic, how do we elect a man whose name is Barack Hussein Obama?"
This led Matthews to ask his guest, "What do you think of guys that keep putting out lies like that?"
Over the course of the next five minutes, Pataki basically took over the show not only putting Matthews in his place, but also doing the same to his other guest, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Governor, it just seems to me that people on the right of the spectrum, right across the right center right all the way over, really don`t like Muslims. Take a look -- here`s Rush Limbaugh today. Here`s what he said today about -- about the -- about our election of -- well, he refers to President Obama, basically, as a Muslim here again. Here he is. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: My question -- Mr. Matthews and Mr. Fineman, a question for you. How can America be Islamophobic? We elected Obama, didn`t we? If this is a nation that is Islamophobic, how do we elect a man whose name is Barack Hussein Obama?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Governor, this is why, I think, 25 or some 30 percent of the people think that Barack Obama is a Muslim, this trash talking by Rush Limbaugh, the voice of the American right here, who speaks for so many Republicans, assuming that he`s a Muslim because we voted for him and that proves we`re not anti-Muslim.
What do you think of guys that keep putting out lies like that?
So, in Matthews' view, Limbaugh not only believes Obama is a Muslim, but he's also responsible for how 25 to 30 percent of the nation thinks.
Well, before we get to Pataki's fabulous response, here's what Limbaugh actually said today on this subject:
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Monday night on Mess NBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews. He and Howard Fineman are blaming me for the Obama Muslim poll. They're blaming me for the fact that about 20, 25% of the American people think Obama's a Muslim and that fewer and fewer Americans believe that Obama is a Christian. [...]
Well, that's not what I was doing. These guys are outthinking me by half here. To put this back in context, I was trying to explain to these people why the poll was what it was. Don't forget, it's not us that took the poll. I'm in the wake of this. I had nothing to do with the shaping of opinion on this poll. The only time I have referenced Obama being a Muslim was when I was quoting Khadafy. I've never put it out there myself that Obama is a Muslim. I've quoted Moammar Khadafy for saying so. I'm trying to explain to these people in the media, "You want to know why the American people think this, let me help you." What do we know about Obama being a Christian? The only thing we know is that he has said so. But we don't see him going to church. We don't hear him talk about it like other presidents have. But we do know that his pastor for 20 years was Jeremiah Wright. And the American people have heard what Jeremiah Wright said, America's chickens have come home to roost and all of that. And we also have heard Obama say he never heard Wright say any of these things. Well, sorry, media. We just don't believe that a parishioner does not hear the pastor for 20 years. Sorry. We may be rubes, but that doesn't compute with us. I mean those of us that go to church know what the pastor says. One of the reasons we go is to hear what the priest or what the pastor says.
This Pew poll was taken back in July. Now, I never said anything about Obama being a Muslim until the last few days.
With that as pretext, here's how Pataki responded to Matthews:
GEORGE PATAKI, FORMER GOVERNOR NEW YORK (R): Well, I think it`s clear that Rush and I both understand that Barack Obama is a Christian. He has expressed his Christianity.
He has shown that he goes to church, although I have doubts about his choice of the right church when he was with Reverend Wright for so many years in Chicago.
But, you know, you can pick out inflammatory positions on either side. The idea of this Islamic center so close to Ground Zero is wrong, and you`re painting it as something that the right is opposed to. In New York State, the Democratic governor and the Democratic speaker are opposed to it. Harry Reid has come out against it.
There is bipartisan opposition, and by the way, the vast majority of Americans think it is the wrong center and the wrong site at the wrong time.
Exactly. The polling data on this issue finds huge bipartisan opposition to this mosque. Yet, Matthews and his ilk continue to blame this on conservative talkers like Limbaugh:
PATAKI: And just commenting on Eugene`s analysis that it`s making the U.S. look bad in the Islamic world, if the people who proposed building this in fact wanted to reach out, wanted to build bridges, they would understand the nature of the opposition. They would understand the emotion involved around September 11, and they would have taken up a Democratic governor`s offer to relocate that site.
They won`t do that. So, it makes me question, not just question, but doubt seriously, if in fact this is about building bridges, as opposed to just sticking -- poking a stick in our eye at one of the hallowed grounds and the scenes of one of the greatest tragedies in American history.
And I have to tell you that you -- I am not anti-Islam. I am very strongly anti that mosque.
MATTHEWS: Well, you think that`s the message, Gene, that we`re sending here as a country?
MATTHEWS: Is that the message that we`re sending, we`re not anti- Islamic?
PATAKI: It`s not the message you`re sending, Chris, when you say that the right is anti-Islam.
MATTHEWS: I`m looking at the poll data.
PATAKI: We`re in favor of tolerance across the political spectrum.
MATTHEWS: OK. I have just cited a major national poll that says most Republicans don`t like Islam, period. I have just quoted Rush Limbaugh from today`s broadcast where he is making it sound like we have elected a guy who is Islamic, and therefore we`re not anti-Islamic, playing that old game again, that canard that he`s really not a Christian.
I would think if I were a guy sitting in a Cairo cafe right now, I be would thinking, I don`t really want to go to Michigan State and study engineering because those people don`t like me.
Nicely set up, Pataki whacked the ball out of the park:
PATAKI: Well, you know, you always manage to get a clip from Rush. I would love to have one from Keith Olbermann or someone, because you can always take --
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m looking for Republican opinion here.
Exactly! Matthews is always looking for Republican opinion to bash, which once again set Pataki up nicely:
PATAKI: -- take positions -- let me give you a Republican opinion.
PATAKI: We believe in freedom of religion. In New York City, there are over 100 mosques. In New York State, there are over 300 mosques.
PATAKI: We believe that religious tolerance is an important part of our Bill of Rights and of our country.
But that doesn`t mean that we have to tolerate building a center with questionable sources of funds, questionable leadership so close to Ground Zero. It is the wrong thing to do at the wrong site.
MATTHEWS: Gene, your last word here, please.
EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I believe the organizers of the mosque will refuse, as all of us do, to be classified as second-class citizens of this country.
PATAKI: That`s right.
ROBINSON: I believe the governor forgets that innocent Muslims died in the collapse of the Twin Towers, along with Christians and Jews and everyone else.
And -- and I just think it is an outrageous violation of what we as Americans hold sacred, freedom of religion, and the fact that we are all equal to say, yes, sure, we like Islam, but we don`t like you here.
Brace yourselves, for Robinson was about to get schooled:
PATAKI: You know, I think it`s an incredible violation of our freedom of speech if you think that by expressing an opinion that differs from yours somehow, it is in any way treating people as second-class citizens.
Ouch! Even Matthews recognized Pataki was right:
MATTHEWS: OK. I`m with you. I`m with you.
PATAKI: It`s not.
MATTHEWS: Governor -- Governor, you rang my bell. I agree. Both sides -- I respect your opinion. I respect the other guy`s opinion.
What I don`t respect are people talking about blacklisting the construction companies, talking about we`re going to get those people and run them out of business who do try to build this center. That is bad Americanism. That is not American to say, all right, you have a right to do it, but we will ruin your business if you do it. Is that freedom of speech or is that something else?
PATAKI: No, it`s not. No, it`s not. And I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: OK. Then we`re together on that --
PATAKI: We have to follow the law.
But let me raise another point here. The developer, so-called developer of this project, earlier, about a year or so ago, plunked down $4.9 million in cash to buy the site. A year-and-a-half before that, he was a waiter. He then plunked down $5 million to buy the second site and got a mortgage in excess of $20 million or $30 million, a guy who was a waiter as a restaurant a year-and-a-half ago.
People are asking him the source of that almost $10 million in cash.
PATAKI: He won`t answer the questions.
And I think it`s -- the American people and certainly the people of New York have a right to know the source of the funding, because that goes to what this center is going to be used for. I have grave doubts. I think it should be moved.
And if they were really serious about reaching out and building bridges, they would listen to those of us who respect Islam, but who don`t believe that center should be there.
Outstanding, Governor. Absolutely outstanding.
Now watch Matthews further make a fool of himself:
Seven years ago, the man who is building this center was speaking at Danny Pearl`s funeral. I`m not sure he`s a bad guy, like you say he is.
This is why folks like Olbermann don't allow conservatives on their programs, for Matthews was seriously about to get owned:
PATAKI: Well, I can tell you, Danny Pearl`s father has said that it should not be built there.
Game, set, and match Pataki.
Bravo, Governor! Bravo!
As a post facto aside, this isn't the first time Pataki has turned the tables this way on Matthews concerning Limbaugh, as the former New York Governor got into a similar tête-à-tête with the "Hardball" host in May.