As the Meredith Vieira incident shows us, network anchors and talk show hosts can display their biases off the air by where they go and speak...or march. At the tail end of "Hardball" Thursday night, MRC's Geoff Dickens found MSNBC host Chris Matthews promoted Rosie O'Donnell and her new HBO documentary on her gay-family cruises. But the real eye-opening part for media watchdogs was Matthews admitting he spoke at an event for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-left lobbying group, in Philadelphia. (Sure enough, here's a picture, with the Matthews mane in a frostier phase. And wow! See another media speaker, NPR "Fresh Air" hostess Terry Gross, whose show originates from Philly.) Matthews explained:
“You know about five years ago I was up at the Human Rights Campaign in Philadelphia. They had a big regional meeting up there and I spoke. And then Barney Frank spoke, and he was, of course, a towering figure in that community, your community, gay and lesbian community. And he, and he said to people in the room, it was rather inspiring. He said, ‘be patient, times are changing, acceptance is coming. Don’t get frustrated.’ Do you believe that?”
O’Donnell: “Yes, I have to believe that, because, you know, this country is founded on the principle that every man is created equal, right? Every person’s life is just as valuable as the next. It’s the tenet of democracy..."
Matthews just didn't come to speak. The event was clearly an annual dinner, a fundraiser (as you can see from the silent auction photo). I'd guess that booking was a favor to one of the "Hardball" regulars, Hillary Rosen, a lesbian lobbyist whose partner is Elizabeth Birch, a long-time head of the HRC, through 2003.
Matthews also showed a clip from Rosie's HBO documentary featuring children living with gay couples on a cruise ship, feeling their pain about the hateful protesters who would meet them at the docks:
Rosie O’Donnell: “When you got off in the Bahamas, did you hear that there were protesters?”
Unidentified Boy: “Yes.”
O’Donnell: “Yeah what do you think about that?”
Boy: “Well, what the, what the heck were they protesting against?”
O’Donnell: “Against gay people in families.”
O’Donnell: “Well, that’s not exactly the right kind of language, but if you would say what defines your family, what makes up your family? What makes your family good?”
Boy: “I guess it’s the love.”
O’Donnell: “You guess it’s the love?”
Matthews betrayed his socially liberal position just in listing new poll numbers: “Well, let’s talk about the electoral situation. In terms of popular belief and prejudice, if you will, or openness, the numbers are definitely shifting. On gay marriage in February, 2004, and I’m sure you know these numbers, 63 percent of Americans told the Pew Foundation, the pollsters, they oppose gay marriage. That number is down to 51. It’s getting close."
For her part, O'Donnell attacked Bush strategist Karl Rove: "I do believe that Karl Rove and, and the current administration used the marriage issue as a political wedge. And they knew it would be divisive, and Karl Rove actually has been quoted as saying that ‘it’s the gift that keeps on giving,’ gay marriage. So, you know, I think that they used it in order to provoke people and to be divisive, which is, you know, a sad state of where the administration is."