On Monday, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews repeadly misrepresented reality while hosting his nightly episode of Hardball, putting his fellow panelists in the awkward position of having to correct him. Within the span of the first fifteen-minute segment, Matthews misinterpreted state audio recording laws, attorney-client privilege, and recent reporting by another journalistic outlet.
The MSNBC host’s first gaffe occurred during a conversation about the FBI’s raid on the office of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. Excited by PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor’s reporting that Cohen had made audio recordings of conversations with his clients, Matthews began to pontificate about the law. “Avenatti, who’s the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, said Michael Cohen will be in big trouble if he has those tapes because you need two-party approval to do it,” he related excitedly.
“Well,” began an uncomfortable Alcindor, “in New York, from my understanding, you only need one party.” Mathews insisted, “He says you need two.” Ms. Alcindor was correct; New York has one-party consent recording laws, meaning any phone conversation can be taped as long as one of the participants consents to the recording. She carefully navigated the situation so as not to offend Matthews, explaining, “Yeah, so my understanding as a reporter, and as someone who has read it, is you only need one party.”
Matthews quickly pivoted to another subject:
On Friday, McClatchy News Service reported according to two anonymous sources familiar with the matter that Robert Mueller has evidence that Cohen secretly made a late summer trip to Prague and the Czech Republic. Investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016, as the ex-spy reported.
He continued to read from the McClatchy article, and upon concluding, he endeavored to tie the report to allegations made by the Steele dossier.
This time it fell to Daily Beast reporter Betsy Woodruff to let Matthews down easily: “Thus far we haven’t seen any public evidence that this is true,” she explained gently. “McClatchy didn’t report that he went to Prague. They just reported that Mueller may have some evidence that he did.”
Perturbed at being corrected a second time, Matthews became indignant. “What do you mean ‘some’ evidence that he was there? What does that –?” he shot back. “I’m not sure; that’s how McClatchy characterized it,” Woodruff intoned. “The verbiage they used was vague.”
The next topic on the docket was Sean Hannity’s recently discovered relationship with Michael Cohen. Matthews was eager to confirm whether Hannity’s claim that he had never paid Cohen a legal fee meant that he was not entitled to attorney-client privilege: “If he’s never paid the lawyer a nickel, is he his client?”
Former U.S. Attorney Kim Wehle stepped up to the plate. “Well, he said that he has asked for legal advice,” she reasoned. Not seeing the connection, Matthews remained steadfast in his false conclusion “But he’s never asked him – he’s never given him a nickle, but is he covered by lawyer-client?” he demanded incredulously.
Wehle responded, “Sure, you don’t need to pay someone to be covered by the attorney-client privilege.”
“You don’t?” came the meek reply.
Monday was a rough night for Matthews. It was clear to all present that he lacked the requisite knowledge to weave a narrative wherein the Trump Presidency would eventually be undone. He wisely deferred to legal experts for much of the remainder of his show.