According to MSNBC's Chris Matthews, "the only cuts that [Tea Partiers] seem to want are the cuts for the poor people." The Hardball host smeared the conservative protesters on Thursday while discussing planned reforms to Medicare and Medicaid.
Guest Jonathan Alter laughed at Matthews' attack, prompting the anchor to mock, "You're laughing because you know how right-wingers think."
Citing a Washington Post poll showing 52 percent of Tea Partiers support cutting Medicaid, he prompted the former Newsweek editor, "...Strong, zealous Tea Party people have brought themselves to willingness to cut poor people. That doesn't surprise me, but your thoughts."
Alter predicted doom for the Republicans who supported Paul Ryan's reform plan, hyperbolically asserting, "A lot of them slit their own throats by voting this bill."
A partial transcript of the April 20 segment, which aired at 5:38pm EDT, follows:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at the Tea Party numbers. The Washington Post/ABC poll found that only 43 percent of Tea Partiers are strong supporters, a majority of them against it, and 30 percent of general Tea Partiers want to cut Medicare. But you look at these numbers on the other side, 69 percent of Tea Partiers against these cuts in Medicare. It's so interesting. I was thinking- what do you think of this, the Tea Partiers?
SUSAN PAGE: Well, it means that they're just like everybody else, right? They do want a smaller government. They want cuts in federal spending. The deficit and the debt are the things that really sparked the Tea Party movement, big government. But when it comes down to a program that just about every family in America benefits from, they don`t want anything done to it.
MATTHEWS: Well, the only cuts that they seem to want are the cuts for the poor people. And you have a modest majority, 52- [Alter laughs.] You're laughing because you know how right-wingers think.
JONATHAN ALTER: Well-
MATTHEWS: They don't mind cutting the poor people who get Medicaid.
ALTER: But what's so interesting about this-
MATTHEWS: If you- Look at that- 52 percent-
MATTHEWS: -a modest majority of Tea Partiers, strong, zealous Tea Party people, have brought themselves to willingness to cut poor people. That doesn't surprise me, but your thoughts.
ALTER: Well, I think what's interesting about that is they assume that those are poor people who are not seniors, or I don't know who they think those poor people are.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, a lot of them are on long-term care.
ALTER: But a lot of them- a lot of them are their parents.
MATTHEWS: Yes, on long-term care.
ALTER: Because the way it works in this country is that, yes, when you get old, you draw down your- your net worth, so that you're eligible for Medicaid, and it will pay for the nursing home. So if the Ryan plan, what is now the Republican plan, if that were to become the law of the land, and you block-granted Medicaid, which would essentially gut Medicaid, under this Republican program, what you would have is large numbers of seniors who would move- move from the nursing home into their children's home, into the den-
ALTER: -maybe one of their kids' bedrooms, because there wouldn't be the money anymore to have them have nursing home care. So, these are some of the implications of this bill that was passed in this ideological frenzy that people have not yet fully understood. And I think once the details filter down, the implications of the Ryan plan filter down, you're going to see real hell to pay for Republicans in swing districts. A lot of them slit their own throats by voting this bill.
PAGE: And, you know, Jonathan says people aren't yet aware about all the details in the Ryan plan.
MATTHEWS: Seniors are, I think.
PAGE: But they will when they're in a re-election campaign.
MATTHEWS: I think a 65-year-old person or people are aware of the fact that the reason they like Medicare, and everybody likes it, Republican, right, left and center is one it, likes it, because it means for the first time in your life, somebody is paying the bills for you. And you can't afford to pay them when you get older.