Fake News: Matthews Claims Garland ‘Never Got a Conversation with a Republican’

On Wednesday’s Hardball, host Chris Matthews engaged in a fascinating debate with Stanford University’s Lanhee Chen on Supreme Court appointments and the Biden rule. But above all, Matthews lied that Obama appointee Merrick Garland “never got a conversation with a Republican” when Garland met with at least 16 Republican Senators.

The tension was first touched off by Chen correctly calling out retired Democratic Senator Harry Reid (Nev.) for first invoking the Senate’s nuclear option that somehow angered Matthews even though, as Chen explained, “the precedent was set, Chris.”

Matthews became even more angered when Chen knocked Democrats for the likelihood they’ll “be petulant about it and insist on fighting a good man” in Neil Gorsuch and force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell into using the nuclear option: 

CHEN: I think that he would love to see this be a process where we get 60 votes, but if the Democrats are going to be petulant about it and insist on fighting a good man, then they may have to use it.

MATTHEWS: Petulant? That's the kind of word — that’s the kind of word —

CHEN: Oh, it's petulance. 

MATTHEWS: — that starts fights. Petulant.

The MSNBC pundit then uncorked this piece of fake news:

Now, I just want to say this to you. We had Merrick Garland nominated a year ago, more than a year — a year ago and he never got a conversation with a Republican for a whole year. He was a center-left, close to center, just like your guy people now people say is a center right. Why was one centrist not given a conversation and your version of a center-right person demanding to be confirmed? What's the difference here? 

As I alluded to earlier, this is an outright falsehood. Between various sources ranging from Roll Call to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to The Washington Post, 16 different Republican Senators met with Garland after Obama nominated him on March 16. 

Here’s a list of the Republicans who did meet with him (in alphabetical order): Ayotte, Boozman, Collins, Flake, Graham, Grassley, Hatch, Hoeven, Inhofe, Johnson, Kirk, Portman, Rounds, Toomey, and Murkowski.

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Upon review of Nexis archives, Matthews doesn’t appear to have discussed these meetings himself on Hardball. However, it was twice alluded to in news briefs with one coming on March 29 regarding Kirk and April 20 after Graham met Garland.

Going back to 2017, Matthews came across as petulant himself in the way he sarcastically knocked Chen and the idea of the Court temporarily functioning with eight members:

MATTHEWS: I don't care. You can cite anybody you want, but the bottom line is we were supposed to have a Supreme Court without its full membership and therefore ties couldn't be broken and therefore, they couldn't take up the most controversial cases because they weren't going to be able to be decisive. You know the problem of mathematics. You need nine to decide something and they had eight. And you're saying the Court should be inactive for a year. That's what you're arguing? A year off? Just take a year off?

CHEN: No, the Court will continue — the Court will continue making decisions and if they need to rehear them, they'll rehear them when they have nine. That was the whole point that Joe Biden made when he advocated for — 

MATTHEWS: Oh, okay, so — 

CHEN: — when a President would nominate someone in an election year.

The three-minute-long debate concluded with fruitless attempts by Matthews to have Chen agree to reappear on his show if a vacancy occurred in 2020 prior to the presidential election.

“Look. You know what, Chris? Chris, Democrats can do whatever they want to do when that time comes if that time comes, but let me just say — let me just say — what I’ll say is Democrats can do whatever they want at that point. The ball will be in their court,” Chen responded.

Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on February 1:

MSNBC’s Hardball
February 1, 2017
7:12 p.m. Eastern

LANHEE CHEN: On the nuclear option, let me just say this, Chris, it wasn't the Republicans that first entertained using this. It was Harry Reid that first used it a few years ago on cab — on nominees for the cabinet as well as for potentially lower courts. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS: He's gone. He's gone. 

CHEN: He’s gone, but the precedent was set, Chris. The precedent was set.

MATTHEWS: Mitch McConnell is there now and believes in fighting it. Will he fight it this time? Will he fight it this time? Will he fight it? 

CHEN: Well, it's going to be in Senator McConnell's — it’s going to be in Senator McConnell's court to decide and he certainly is an institutionalist. I think that he would love to see this be a process where we get 60 votes, but if the Democrats are going to be petulant about it and insist on fighting a good man, then they may have to use it.

MATTHEWS: Petulant? That's the kind of word — that’s the kind of word —

CHEN: Oh, it's petulance. 

MATTHEWS: — that starts fights. Petulant. Now, I just want to say this to you. [CHEN LAUGS] We had Merrick Garland nominated a year ago, more than a year — a year ago and he never got a conversation with a Republican for a whole year. He was a center-left, close to center, just like your guy people now people say is a center right. Why was one centrist not given a conversation and your version of a center-right person demanding to be confirmed? What's the difference here? 

CHEN: Here’s why, Chris. It was highly — highly —

MATTHEWS: Well, what is this deal you got here? No Democratic president can pick a candidate but you guys can. 

CHEN: — it was highly unusual for the President to have made that selection in an election year, first of all and second of all — 

MATTHEWS: Really? 

CHEN: Look, the kind of conversation — oh, absolutely, it was unusual for him to do that and in fact, Joe Biden himself — 

MATTHEWS: We were supposed to have a Supreme Court of eight members for a year?

CHEN: — the President’s Vice President.

MATTHEWS: I don't care. You can cite anybody you want, but the bottom line is we were supposed to have a Supreme Court without its full membership and therefore ties couldn't be broken and therefore, they couldn't take up the most controversial cases because they weren't going to be able to be decisive. You know the problem of mathematics. You need nine to decide something and they had eight. And you're saying the Court should be inactive for a year. That's what you're arguing? A year off? Just take a year off?

CHEN: No, the Court will continue — the Court will continue making decisions and if they need to rehear them, they'll rehear them when they have nine. That was the whole point that Joe Biden made when he advocated for — 

MATTHEWS: Oh, okay, so — 

CHEN: — when a President would nominate someone in an election year. 

MATTHEWS: — so if Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves the Court or Stephen Breyer leaves the Court or Anthony Kennedy leaves the Court in the last year of this term, you'll come back on the program and say there should be no confirmation hearings? Will you? Will you promise to do that now? Promise to do that now? Just be consistent, sir. 

CHEN: Look. You know what, Chris? Chris, Democrats can do whatever they want to do when that time comes if that time comes, but let me just say — let me just say —

MATTHEWS: No, I'm just asking you. Will you commit? Sir, will you? You're an expert, will you commit to consistency? 

CHEN: What I’ll say is Democrats can do whatever they want at that point. The ball will be in their court.

MATTHEWS: Oh, no, you’re just wobbly. This is just wobbling here. You won't do it. You're smiling but you won't play the game. Will you be consistent, last question, and say in the fourth year of any presidency, there should be no confirmation? 

CHEN: What I'll say is that the Democrats have the opportunity to do what they want, Republicans will do what they will. Let's not play politics with this good man now. 

MATTHEWS: Let's — well, I think you just did. Anyway, thank you, Lanhee Chen from Stanford. It’s very impressive setting out there. We need to match that setting with yes or no answers. 

NB Daily Appointments Judiciary Gorsuch Nomination Double Standards Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Hardball Roll Call Wall Street Journal Wisconsin Fake News Video Government & Press U.S. Supreme Court Chris Matthews Mitch McConnell Merrick Garland Donald Trump Neil Gorsuch
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