An unhinged Chris Matthews on Monday excoriated Republican primary voters as racist, deriding them as the "Grand Wizard crowd." Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele fought back, slamming "this Grand Wizard nonsense." "Don't go there with me," he warned. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
After Steele informed the Hardball anchor that subjects such as climate change weren't big issues in the GOP primary, Matthews slimed, "It certainly was in the Grand Wizard crowd over there." The liberal host tried to move on, but his guest stopped the conversation dead: "Wait, I resent that! No. Come on. What is this Grand Wizard nonsense? Are you saying that we're Ku Klux Klan?" "Give me a break," the former RNC chair dismissed.
At the end of the segment, Matthews backed down: "I have to go back to an earlier point. I didn't mean to say Grand Wizard. I want to make it very clear."
However, he then lectured Romney: "If Romney will come out there and denounce all the birtherism all this attempt to make Barack Obama some kind of foreigner, who's not really one of us, not really an American, I'll be with him on that point."
Clearly, Matthews has Romney's best interests at heart.
A transcript of the April 23 exchange, which aired at 5:42pm EDT, follows:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: How does this guy go from hard right, severely conservative to this new regular mainstream character he's portraying himself as? How can he do it with [video] tape? With tape?
MICHAEL STEELE: First off, you're making the assumption that there's something wrong with being conservative.
MATTHEWS: There's tape out there. No.
STEELE: That conservatism is not going to win the day, the argument this fall, and I think it still can. It won in 2010 and I don't think Romney has to go out there and prove to be severely conservative on every issue.
MATTHEWS: He says he was.
STEELE: But that's his description himself-
MATTHEWS: He ran as a full-mooner. He ran as a full mooner, Michael. You know, he was saying "There's no such thing as science." He doesn't really believe in-
STEELE: I totally get-
MATTHEWS: How can you say you say you go for flat or round? How can he go from Flat-Earth, I don't believe in evolution, to all of a sudden I'm teaching biology?
STEELE: But that's not what he said. Why are you putting those words in his mouth? He's never said he's a Flat-Earther. He doesn't believe in evolution. Those are your words, Chris, and that's how you would like to paint him to be.
MATTHEWS: Because that's who he is.
STEELE: That's not who he is. Romney will paint his own-
MATTHEWS: Where is he on science? Where is he on climate?
STEELE: Ask him, I don't know! It wasn't an issue in the primary.
MATTHEWS: Okay, let's go- Okay, look- It certainly was in the Grand Wizard crowd over there. Anyway, look-
STEELE: Wait- Wait, I resent that! No. Come on, what is this Grand Wizard nonsense? Are you saying that we're Ku Klux Klan?
MATTHEWS: Okay, I'm just saying, the far right party.
STEELE: Give me a break! Don't go there with me on that.
MATTHEWS: Okay, okay. Great. Okay, good. Thank you. There's none of those problems there. All those birthers out there.
STEELE: [Sighs heavily] Oh, my God.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the latest NBC Wall Street Journal poll- There's about 30 of them in the Congress right now who are the birther crowd that are right there.
MATTHEWS: I have to go back to an earlier point. I didn't mean to say Grand Wizard. I want to make it very clear. I believe this: If Romney will come out there and denounce all the birtherism, all this attempt to make Barack Obama some kind of foreigner, who's not really one of us, not really an American, I'll be with him on that point.