MSNBC's Martin Bashir on Friday offered tax evader Charlie Rangel the opportunity to deride Newt Gingrich for being insufficiently concerned about the poor. Talking to Rangel, who was censured on the floor of the House in 2010, Bashir implored, "As someone who represents a district in New York that includes some extremely poor neighborhoods, what's your reaction to Mr. Gingrich?"
Bashir made no move to interrupt or challenge Rangel as the Congressman slammed Gingrich for financial gain: "Perhaps you know, when you live that Tiffany life or when you're getting $60,000 a speech or when you can make millions of dollars and not know the difference between a lobbyist and historians, maybe this distortion could be a permanent mental problem."
Gingrich has come under fire for suggesting those in poor neighborhoods needed greater access to jobs and a stronger work ethic.
Bashir could have replied by pointing out the hypocrisy of Rangel's statements and by highlighting these facts:
In the months that followed, new problems emerged, including [Rangel's] failure to pay taxes on rental income from a villa in the Dominican Republic or to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets on financial disclosure forms.
Mr. Rangel’s fund-raising for a City College school being built in his honor also became part of the ethics inquiry because he used Congressional stationery and postage to request donations and asked for contributions from companies and executives with business before Congress.
Instead, Bashir piled on and agreed with Rangel's assessment : "There he is again...advising people in the neighborhoods. Have you ever seen him strolling in your neighborhoods, in your district?"
Finally, MSNBC anchors, who so often display outrage when Republicans supposedly question the patriotism of Democrats, also said nothing when Rangel smeared Gingrich's comments this way: "And it's so un-American and so un-Republican, this is not the Republican Party I've known since I've been involved in politics."
A transcript of the December 2 segment, which aired at 3:17pm EST, follow:
MARTIN BASHIR: Well, speaking of politics, sir, if I may, I want to turn to the 2012 Republican primary race and get your reaction to something that Newt Gingrich said about the poor on thursday night. Just take a listen.
NEWT GINGRICH: Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So, they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of "I do this and you give me cash" unless it's illegal. What if they became assistant janitors and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom and you paid them?
BASHIR: As someone who represents a district in New York that includes some extremely poor neighborhoods, what's your reaction to Mr. Gingrich? I mean, he's suggesting poor people have no civilized habits whatsoever.
CHARLIE RANGEL: I don't know how he gets-
BASHIR: I mean, you know this man. You've been in the Congress with him.
RANGEL: I don't know how he receives millions of dollars as a historian when basically our nation started with poor people, the only thing going for them was hard work and hope. And this is happening throughout this country, indeed it's happening throughout the world. The lack of sensitivity that this person has as a former member of Congress, but even more inconceivable as a leader of America and the free world, no, he just doesn't get it.
Perhaps you know, when you live that Tiffany life or when you're getting $60,000 a speech or when you can make millions of dollars and not know the difference between a lobbyist and historians, maybe this distortion could be a permanent mental problem. But I'm saying that the more he talks, the more he will self-destruct and it's painful.
But, I'll tell you this, Martin. Where are the churches when people like this talk, where are people in Matthew that are supposed to say what our obligations are as religious people, Jews or Christians, where are the people that say the sick, the aged, poor and especially our children, who is protecting them against the rhetoric of a guy like Newt Gingrich?
BASHIR: Well, I'm sorry to say this, Mr. Gingrich writes regularly about his love for the Catholic Church. He is a committed member of the Catholic Church, as you well know. He's speaking this from his position as a member of the church. This is what he believes.
RANGEL: Well, the church has gone through dramatic change, but taking a look at the personal life of Newt Gingrich and marriages and the way he speaks about the poor of our great nation, I suspect that he has once again deviated from the written word of the Catholic Church, but I'll leave that up to the Catholic Church.
After all, they speak to me about abortion. They are very concerned about same-sex marriage. Let's see where my church is on the question of the leader of the United States of America. I'm certain this provocation will cause them to have some comment, at least I hope so.
BASHIR: Can I just play something to you of Mr. Gingrich talking in june about having the guts to go around neighborhoods. Just listen to this.
GINGRICH: We have to have the courage to walk into that neighborhood, to talk to that preacher, to visit that small business, to talk to that mother. And we have to have a convincing case that we actually know how to create jobs.
BASHIR: There he is again, talking about speaking to that preacher, advising people in the neighborhoods. Have you ever seen him strolling in your neighborhoods, in your district?
RANGEL: I think we ought to make a formal invitation and see how every mother, single or married, wants the best for her child, black or white, Jew or Gentile, how hard they work during this time in order to find a job when you find five or six people looking for just one vacancy. I had career job format last month. Thousands of people lined up in the street in central Harlem applying for jobs that were there. And so I don't know in these primaries they have to say all kinds of mean things.
Poor Jon Huntsman can't get a decent word in edgewise because they have to fight each other. And it's so un-American and so un-Republican, this is not the Republican Party I've known since I've been involved in politics. This is a mean-spirited thing that the meaner you are, the more support you get from your party.