MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Monday insisted multiple times that President Trump was unable to deny that he was a Russian agent – even minutes after playing a clip of the President doing just that. Rather than dropping the talking point, Matthews instead briefly acknowledged the President's denial, and then resumed acting as though it had never happened.
The Hardball host’s allegation was based on a remark Trump made to Fox News host Jeanine Pirro over the weekend. When asked during that interview whether he was a Russian agent, the President called the question “insulting,” but never explicitly used the word “no.”
Although more recently Trump firmly denied the allegation when asked about it again on Monday, that evening Matthews continued to act as though the President couldn't provide a definitive answer. “Trump’s failure to give a direct answer to that fundamental question even raised alarm among his allies,” Matthews blustered.
Matthews went on to acknowledge that on Monday morning, the President had given “a direct answer.” But just minutes after his show played a video clip of that denial, he went back to speculating about the President’s supposed “inability” to answer.
“The question is, by most people on all sides of this fight, why didn’t he deny it?” Matthews asked former FBI official Greg Brower.
“It would have been awfully easy to say ‘no’ or ‘of course not’ or anything like that,” Brower remarked. “It’s hard to understand why he couldn’t deny it.”
Later on in the hour, former RNC chairman Michael Steele jumped in on the charade. “The thing about Donald Trump is that he cannot answer the question when he knows it’s a lie,” Steele pontificated.
“Well, explain again why he can’t answer the question,” Matthews pressed, to which Steele replied, “Because for him, the truth is there; he knows it’s right there.”
Ignoring for a moment Steele’s implication that President Trump is somehow incapable of explicitly lying, the continued insistence of Matthews and others that the President “couldn’t” answer the question was remarkably disingenuous. One might have had a case – however thin – that the President was afraid to deny being a Russian agent before Monday morning, when he did just that.
Perhaps Matthews was upset that the new soundbite had prevented him from joining other cable pundits in characterizing Trump’s answer to Pirro as a “dodge.”