Chris Matthews Takes Victory Lap After Ann Coulter Ambush

Update with transcript of Matthews on MSNBC appended below.

After yesterday's ambush of Ann Coulter by Elizabeth Edwards on Hardball, MSNBC's Chris Matthews was rewarded a victory lap by Meredith Vieira on this morning's Today show. Matthews crowed that Edwards came out the winner, long after he stacked the deck against the conservative columnist with the surprise call-in, from John Edwards' wife, on a live show. Like a bribed referee in a fixed match Matthews, proverbially, raised Edwards' hand in victory as he blared: "Elizabeth Edwards has won this round."

The following is the full transcript of the segment, first noted here, as it occurred on the June 27th Today show.

Meredith Vieira: "Make sure you don't invite columnist Ann Coulter and presidential candidate John Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, to the same dinner party any time soon. The sparks flew when the two faced off on MSNBC's Hardball on Tuesday. Edwards called in to complain about Coulter's attacks against her husband."

[Clip of exchange between Edwards and Coulter]

Vieira: "And Chris Matthews is the host of Hardball. Chris, good morning to you."

Chris Matthews: "Good morning to you Meredith."

Vieira: "Boy, Mrs. Edwards said that her husband had no idea she was calling in, that this was something that hit home with her and she wanted to speak out. How do you think people are gonna respond to that? You heard the applause."

Matthews: "Well that was a pretty tough crowd and if you think Ann Edwards [sic] is over-the-top, she had a lot of people behind her last night who agreed with her. Now you have to remember that when we poll the American people and we ask them questions that we all think we know the answers to, there's always gonna be a portion of people who are off-base. Ann Coulter's one of those who believes that Iraq attacked us on 9/11. She liked that poll number. She also believes that we found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So, there's always gonna be people off to the right or to the left that have very different opinions than the rest of us. She, obviously, believes that she can take the shots at, at the Edwards family and that's part of the political discourse..."

Vieira: "So is it politics getting personal, Chris? Or is it just Ann Coulter being-"

Matthews: "It has always been personal and she's an agent provocateur. She sells huge numbers of books because I think a lot of, relatively, boring guys like to walk around carrying her books, to be honest with you. She's a very brilliant writer. She knows how to enrage and she did it. This is very personal stuff. Unfortunately, you're dealing with a real life situation with Ann [sic] Edwards' medical challenges, which we all know about it. And the fact that they did lose their son, Wade. And you don't make jokes about those things-"

Vieira: "Well given-"

Matthews: "-in polite society."

Vieira: "Yeah, given the fact, that they did lose their son Wade, and here's Ann Coulter, speaking with the mother of that young man. Were you surprised that she didn't back down at all?"

Matthews: "No, because I know Ann Coulter, and if she did back down, she wouldn't be selling millions of books. It's a, it's a way of charging up the political debate, from the right in this case. I'm sure the left is just as good at this. And in this case it involves a very personal tragedy in a family. When you use a, when you lose a son in youth and you have to live with that, every second of your life and anyone who's familiar with these families knows what's that like. It never goes away. And to have someone rip away at it, for, for journalistic or book-selling purposes, obviously hurts. And Elizabeth Edwards wanted to call-in yesterday when she knew that, that Ann Coulter was going to be on the program because Ann Coulter, just the day before on another program, had said that she hoped that John Edwards would die in a terrorist attack."

Vieira: "Well so, Chris, if you are John Edwards, do you respond to this at all? And if so, how do you respond?"

Matthews: "My hunch is that, in human terms, Elizabeth Edwards has won this round."

Vieira: "Elizabeth has won?"

Matthews: "That's right."

Vieira: "Alright, Chris Mathews, thanks very much for your perspective."

Matthews: "Okay, thank you very much."

Vieira: "Whoa."

Matthews: "And now let's get the, yeah, it's very emotional stuff."

Vieira: "Yeah."

Update (Ken Shepherd | 12:31 EDT): As promised in an earlier post, the transcript of Chris Matthews with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC earlier this morning, a few hours after his victory lap on "Today." (thanks to MRC analyst Brendan Jones)

You'll notice that nowhere in the segment does host Chris Jansing nor Matthews or Scarborough admit that the Edwards call-in was a set-up.

06/27/07

MSNBC News Live

9:04am

Chris
Jansing, host: “Joining me now, the referee of that event, Hardball’s Chris
Matthews. And from morning Joe and Scarborough Country, Joe
Scarborough. Gentlemen, good morning.”

Chris Matthews: “Good morning.”

Jansing: “Chris, did you feel a little like a referee there?”

Matthews:
“Well, it was hard to keep control of it, I mean, Ann Coulter’s Ann
Coulter, and it you’ve read her books, you know that she is a brilliant
writer and she’s a provocateur, and she writes in a way, and speaks in
a way that most people have been taught not to.”

Jansing:
“And as a provocateur, she is, many people would argue almost
unparalleled in the current political discourse, but Joe what is your
take on this?

Matthews: “No, unfortunately, there’s worse than her out there, but go ahead.”

Scarborough:
“Well, I mean my take on it is what Chris said, unfortunately, this
does happen. It’s happening on both sides. And this all started by Ann
Coulter, not explaining herself on Good Morning America when she said I
guess the next time I talk about John Edwards, I should just wish that
he died in a terrorist attack and they immediately took that quote, put
it up on the website, Ann was talking about a comment that was made by
a guy I like very much, in fact I was on the show that night that Bill
Maher suggested that America, the world would be better off if Dick
Cheney were killed in a terrorist attack. The difference is that when
Bill Maher says something like that, he’s applauded by a lot of people
and embraced, but when Ann Coulter, when Ann Coulter.”

Jansing: “So you think, you think it was unfair and taken out of context.”

Scarborough:
“No, I don’t think it was taken out of context at all. I think what she
has said in light of his son’s death is as ugly as it gets. I think
it’s deplorable, but I also think again, when Bill Maher suggests that
we may all be better off if the Vice President of the United States is
killed in a terrorist attack, then, that too should be observed and
people should be concerned. I think, as Chris said, the political
discourse on both sides is, is just continuing to lower. It’s
sickening.”

Jansing: “Well, let’s talk about some of
the other points that were raised here. Does Ann Coulter, do you think,
have a legitimate point Chris when she criticizes the Edwards campaign
for putting her on the website to raise money, in other words, they’re
criticizing what she says, but they use it to their advantage was that
the point she was trying to make?”

Matthews: “Well,
politics is about opportunism and if somebody commits a foul against
you as you see it, and you think that you can exploit that, you do. I
mean, Claire McCaskill, was able to exploit the fact in the last
campaign last fall when Rush Limbaugh went after Michael J. Fox and
made fun of his Parkinson’s on the air. Clearly, that helped her raise
money, she told me that, this is what you do in politics. You wait for
the other side to attack you and then you respond. It’s called
attacking from a defensive position. It was used for years in warfare,
and in politics, it’s wonderful. Ronald Reagan, there you go again.
Sometimes the best way to build a political campaign is with righteous
indignation, coming back at the other side. I think that’s what
Elizabeth’s doing here in addition to her own personal feelings.”

Jansing:
“What about the shout out from the audience Joe, “Why isn’t your
husband making this call?” Why isn’t John Edwards making this call?”

Chris
Matthews: “Well, that’s what I want to say, there were a lot of people
in that crowd yesterday who had the same values as Ann Coulter? She
speaks for a group of people who are on the right, and there are people
on the left with just as much vitriol. I would say at different periods
of time.”

Jansing: “Joe, let me ask you about that
whole question, because she said, Elizabeth Edwards, in response to
that, my husband doesn’t even know I’m making this call, I’m making
this call, but is there a political implication here for the Edwards
campaign?”

Scarborough: “Well, I think Ann Coulter is
trying to make a political implication. Is Ann Coulter suggesting that
Elizabeth Edwards as the mother of a young boy who, I think he died
when he was sixteen years old, doesn’t have the right to pick up the
phone and call Hardball, I mean, that’s a ridiculous statement to make.
Elizabeth Edwards, is, is, of course, a great lawyer in her own right,
and has every right to do whatever she wants to do, so I don’t know
what the political implication of that is, that there’s a wife who’s
going to stand up and fight, not only for her husband, but also for her
family, and I would suggest that probably, the sad thing here is, I
mean, it helps the Edwards campaign, but the other side is, the sad
thing is, the sad part of it is it will also help Ann Coulter sell more
books. I mean Ann Coulter always wins. We saw it with the 9-11 widows
when she went after the 9-11 widows. Everybody went out and bought her
book even though there was just a throw away line or two in there about
the 9-11 widows. This is what feeds Ann Coulter. It makes Ann Coulter
happy. It makes her publishers happy. It makes her much, much
wealthier.”

Jansing: “Why are you shaking your head Chris?”

Matthews: “Because her paperback just came out the other day, yesterday. I mean this is very well timed.”

Jansing: “Are you feeling used Chris?”

Matthews: “No, because we invite her on the show.”

Jansing:
“So, it’s a win-win situation. It makes people feel sympathetic. Many
people feel sympathetic toward Elizabeth Edwards. They’re thinking
about John Edwards’ campaign again, and it helps Ann Coulter sell books
again. Win-win situation?

Matthews: “Well, let me just tell you,
this isn’t all gamesmanship. It may be disturbing for some people to
realize this, but there is a good chunk of Americans out there who
agree with Ann Coulter basically on all issues. They may think she’s a
bit over the top on her rhetoric, but they believe that this war was
right. They don’t like abortion. They take every one of her strong
positions and embrace them 100 percent. Look at that smiling crowd
behind her last night. All those people cheering and loving every word
she said. She speaks for a chunk of American life politically and you
have to live with that. You have to live with that fact.”

Scarborough:
“But sure, but, I, I supported the Iraq war. I also voted as a pro-life
candidate. I also voted as a second amendment congressman. I do
support, on a lot of issues, I’m sure, Ann Coulter on a lot of issues,
I do support what Ann Coulter supports politically, but I don’t go
around telling people that a candidate’s using the tragic death of
their sixteen year old son to make political hay. Even if I thought
that were the case, I would bite my tongue until I bled.

Matthews:
“She also goes a bit further. It’s not just her points of view. I
should be more clear here. It’s not just that she takes a very strong
position. It’s that she will never, ever admit the other side at all.
For example, when I quoted the latest Newsweek polling on the program
last night that showed one in five Americans believe that when we got
into Iraq we found WMD, and then we discovered Iraq was involved in
9/11, those facts are basically denied by most objective sources but
she embraced both those positions, because it’s her style to not just
take the conservative position but to take it in the strongest possible
way and to not give an inch on any argument and I think that’s what she
was doing.”

Scarborough: “And of course my position is
Gladstone’s position. When I find out I’m wrong, I change my position.
And then he says to the person attacking him for flip flopping he says,
‘What do you do?’ And that is unfortunate; a lot of people on both
sides just keep their feet planted firmly in cement.”

Jansing: “We got to end it there guys. We’re out of time, but what a great conversation.

Matthews: “Well, here it was. It was a better one here this morning, maybe. It was better here.”

Scarborough: “It was great TV though yesterday.”

Matthews: “Oh well, yes it is.”

Jansing: “Thank you, Christopher. I appreciate it guys.”

Matthews: “Thank you. Thank you, Chris.”

Scarborough: “Thanks.”

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