MSNBC's Chris Matthews is clearly not going to tolerate anyone on his program saying Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich isn't racist.
Politico's Jeanne Cummings had the nerve to do exactly that on Thursday's "Hardball," and for her sins Matthews relentlessly browbeat her until she finally gave up (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: This is the worst we`re going to show right now since maybe the Welfare queen stuff that Reagan would pull, the young buck waiting in line to use his food stamps for booze or something. This is the most -- to me, the most graphic use of language. Watch this. Anybody watching tonight, tell me you don`t know what he`s saying. Here`s Newt last night on home court on Hannity comparing -- well, let`s watch the language. Let him speak for himself. No filter from me. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH: If you look at the collapse of Detroit and the rise of Texas, and you say to yourself, Which would you like better, the state that had the most job creation in America for the last 10 years or a city which has collapsed? You know, I know -- talking with Governor Rick Perry and others, I know how to get the whole couple to resemble Texas. President Obama knows how to get the whole country to resemble Detroit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jeanne Cummings, how do you read that, Detroit?
JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO: Well --
MATTHEWS: Writ large.
CUMMINGS: Well, first, I want to push back for a little bit. I`ve known Gingrich for a long time, and I need -- I personally would need a lot more evidence to accuse him of being racist or salting in racist marks. I think what he`s doing is typically where he goes, and that is this is liberal versus conservative. And so you have, you know, the liberal urban areas and they`re collapsed, and then, you know, pastoral, you know, free market system in the South being, you know, the standard by which he would embrace --
JOSH MARSHALL, TALKINGPOINTSMEMO.COM: I think there`s -- if you`re talking about --
CUMMINGS: -- and try to take the country.
MARSHALL: -- liberal cities, there`s --
CUMMINGS: I really think that`s more where he is.
Reasonable response to Matthews' question, right? As you'll observe, Matthews and his perilously liberal guests would have none of it:
MARSHALL: -- New York, there`s San Francisco.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s right.
MARSHALL: There`s a lot of -- you know, Detroit is -- is --
CUMMINGS: But Detroit has collapsed.
MARSHALL: -- unique in its of collapse. It`s a very --
CUMMINGS: New York hasn`t.
MARSHALL: -- black city. I think -- you know, I don`t -- whether Newt Gingrich is a racist, I -- it doesn`t even -- it doesn`t even cross my mind. He frequently -- particularly with President Obama, he traffics in highly-raced language that --
MCMAHON: That`s right.
MARSHALL: -- I don`t think there`s any -- there`s any getting away from that. He`s the -- Obama is the avatar of Detroit. He`s the con artist and hustler. He`s the Kenyan anti-colonialist.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back --
MARSHALL: You know, Mau-Mau -- these are all -- these -- these -- I think these things speak for themselves. And you know --
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to what he said about the president. Let`s go back to that quote about how he`s really a Mau-Mau. Here`s a great one for him. This is to "The National Review." What if Obama is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together his actions? That," he says, "is an accurate predictive model for this president," for his behavior. "This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works who happened to have played a wonderful con as a result of which he`s now president."
So calling a guy having the mindset of a Mau-Mau, Jeanne, what do you make of that?
CUMMINGS: Well, I think in that -- in that case, what -- he is trying to foster the notion that -- that Obama is exotic and foreign and not a real American. I think he definitely is trying to hit those veins in people and to stir up that sense of concern about the president`s credibility.
Another reasonable response to Matthews' question, especially as what Gingrich was referring to was a Forbes article by Dinesh D'Souza and offering an opinion on it. Since this surfaced at National Review in September, Matthews has been citing it virtually every time Gingrich's name comes up on either of his programs.
Thursday was no exception as after reading Gingrich's quote, the "Hardball" host began browbeating Cummins to change her view:
MATTHEWS: What`s a Kenyan anti-colonial behavior? What is that for an American born here in America? Why would an American have an anti- colonial Kenyan mind-set? That`s Mau-Mau talk. What is he -- I know the history of Africa. You do, too. He`s talking about the blacks in Africa that killed white people to get their independence. What is he talking about in using that language about an American politician who grew up the way Barack Obama, who had never really as a kid ever been to Kenya? What`s he talking about?
CUMMINGS: Well, again, I think --
MATTHEWS: Wasn`t raised by his father. Wasn`t raised by his father. Was raised by his white American mother from Kansas and his white American grandparents. Where would this Kenyan, Mau-Mau, anti-colonial mentality come from except ethnically, through his body? Where would it come from?
CUMMINGS: Well --
MATTHEWS: If this isn`t race, I don`t know what it is, what he`s talking about.
CUMMINGS: Well, again, I push back on the race thing. I think it`s foreign. I think it`s exotic. I think not one of us. And so I think that`s where he`s trying to go, that he`s got a mindset that`s not an American mindset and that --
MATTHEWS: Well, how would he have that? Why would he have such a -- why would he have a non-American mindset?
CUMMINGS: Well, I think --
MATTHEWS: What would be his -- what would be his premise here, Newt`s premise here?
CUMMINGS: Well, that he did -- he was raised -- his father, of course, was foreign, but --
MATTHEWS: He wasn`t raised by his father. He was raised by his white American mother from Kansas and her parents. How would he have a Kenyan mindset, an anti-colonial mindset? Where would that come from?
Having taken enough pounding, Cummins gave up:
CUMMINGS: OK, I can`t defend it, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. It`s indefensible.
CUMMINGS: I can`t take on --
MATTHEWS: Thank you. I`m glad you agree with me.
So I guess that's the way it's going to be on "Hardball" now. If you go on Matthews' show and disagree with him, he'll browbeat you until you do:
MATTHEWS: Josh, your thoughts here.
MARSHALL: Well, you know, the one thing I think everybody forgets about with Newt -- go back to his signature election, the huge blowout in 1994. Just before the election, there was this horrible crime, down -- I believe, it was in South Carolina, Susan Smith --
MARSHALL: -- this mentally deranged woman who killed her kids, accused -- falsely accused some black man of having stolen her car and done it. Turned out she killed her own children. Newt finished the election on blaming this crime on the Democrats. That is -- that`s Newt`s style. This goes back 20, 30 years. And it`s just his -- it`s his signature. It`s how he exists in politics.
As the segment came to a conclusion, Matthews made clear his view that Gingrich is racist:
MATTHEWS: By the way, Dave Bing is trying to clean up Detroit. He`s doing a great job. And this old epithet here about Detroit being a city that`s had real problems, Motown. I think that`s a racist charge.
So anyone that refers to the horrible economic conditions in Detroit is racist. Got that?
MATTHEWS: Anyway -- I don`t know what Newt`s heart says, I know he`s willing to play this game. And it is the San Andreas fault of American politics, and anybody who plays racial politics is doing bad things for this country.
Thank you, Jeanne Cummings. I know you have to be objective. I think this is an objective fact this guy`s doing wrong things here.
"I know you have to be objective."
Shouldn't that be the job of all journalists?
Obviously not when they're on "Hardball."