Chris Matthews played the race card on Mitt Romney, Thursday, angrily insisting that the Republican presidential candidate bringing up Jeremiah Wright is the equivalent of mocking Black History Month. After guest Major Garrett suggested that Romney's attack on Wright indicated, simply, that the Republican was running a primary race, Matthews erupted.
The Hardball anchor snarled, "That was his tribute to Black History Month? Whacking at the guy for his minister. Whacking at him for his philosophy and his religion?" Unloading on Garrett, Matthews continued, "What, he was allowed to do it in February?...Why do you so loosely let him skip away from the standard he set?" [MP3 audio here.]
So, questioning the associations a presidential candidate has to a radical, racist preacher is the same as dismissing Black History Month? Matthews made his attack even sharper, screeching, "Trash the guy's religion! And his race, perhaps, in this regard."
Romney's actual quote, from the February 7, 2012 Hannity show, is actually relatively mild. Regarding Obama's comments on how America "is no longer a Christian nation," the Republican replied, "And I’m not sure which is worse, him listening to Reverend Wright or him saying that we ... must be a less Christian nation."
Perhaps Matthews should be careful in throwing around the race card so easily. On Monday, the cable host ran into trouble for telling a black minister he needs to "evolve" on gay marriage.
A transcript of the Hardball exchange can be found below:
MAJOR GARRETT: When was that Sean Hannity episode taped? February. Where are we now? We're in mid to late May and it's a different context. And here's the other thing that I think is worth pointing out, Chris, just for a second: the implicit premise of this Tom Ricketts proposal is that John McCain made some catastrophic political blunder not attacking then-candidate Obama-
CHRIS MATTHEWS: So, that was Romney's tribute to black history month? No, wait a minute. I'm not going to move on here from February.
GARRETT: But- But-
MATTHEWS: That was his tribute to Black History Month? Whacking at the guy for his minister. Whacking at him for his philosophy and his religion? What, he was allowed to do it in February? And now he's declaring this, "Oh, we don't attack each other's religions" in May. Why do you so loosely let him skip away from the standard he set? Trash the guy's religion! And his race, perhaps, in this regard. Who knows what the number there was. Why'd he bring up Reverend Wright? What's he up to?
GARRETT: He- I'm saying-
MATTHEWS: No wonder this guy, Fred Davis brought the ad campaign to him. He brought the ad campaign to this guy 'cause he saw this guy is willing to play this card. He saw that, you know, John McCain was a man of honor. He said, "I'm not going to play this card." Then he says "Oh! Oh! This new guy is desperate to get the job. He'll use the campaign. So, why don't I do a 54 page proposal for the guy, get prior approval at a New York meeting, come back for further approval." It hits the New York Times and wait a minute, oh, now the New York Times find out about it, he says he's not going to do it. But he indicated before a couple times he would do it. Romney said, personally I'm going after Wright. We saw it on Sean Hannity and then we see a little note that says, with your preliminary approval at the New York meeting." Well, here we go again and then we get caught red handed here and all of a sudden they say, "We're not going to do this." You know why? The Times caught him. That's my thought.