Talk about a red herring and case of whataboutism. On Monday’s Hardball, MSNBC host Chris Matthews tag-teamed with Democratic strategist Steve McMahon and The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker to downplay the fiasco concerning Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s razor-thin Native American heritage by invoking President Trump’s tax returns.
But things seemed like they were starting off on the right foot as Matthews noted how statistically small Warren’s Native American ties were (“if 1,000 of her ancestors were sitting in this room right now, all thousand of them, one might be Native American”) and how Warren claimed that she was a Native American while working as a law professor.
Republican strategist Adolfo Franco even got the first crack, blasting Warren for having “compounded the problem” and “failed miserably” with what “was a clumsy 2020 test, not a DNA test.”
He added that it served as “an insult to people” by “lying and misrepresenting herself as a Native American.”
Clearly, McMahon wasn’t happy, and instead tried to save face for Warren by asserting “[t]he President tells lies every single minute.”
Once Matthews cut Franco off, the sense of balance was over. Matthews offered a nutty defense that he doesn’t want to “get into the percentage[s]” as there’s a “problem with percentages, obviously, but I think most people are proud of their ancestry even if it's a little bit and most people would say if ‘I was a little American Indian, I'd talk about it.’”
If percentages weren’t the issue, anyone would had a scintilla of a racial minority in their ancestry could demand the benefits of affirmative action. Plain and simple. As with most things, Matthews’s logic made zero sense.
McMahon picked up the baton with more incompatible claims about Warren’s heritage and Trump’s taxes (click “expand”):
We know that she said she has native American ancestry and she does. We also know that she's being transparent in having taken this test and released it. Both of which, by the way, Donald Trump is not. He’s neither transparent. He won't release his tax returns and he doesn't tell the truth about almost anything. And The Boston Globe looked into whether she received any racial preference and in fact she did not. And so — what the Trump — what the Trump people are doing and what Adolfo is — is supporting them in doing is these little racial code words that they — that they throw out there and these little racial triggers that they do to their base... This is about grievance. This about grievance. This is about grievance.
Parker ended the segment by repeating the spin, arguing that “[t]his is a President who.... has not released his tax returns yet, but had no problem demanding proof from President Obama for his birth certificate for his school transcripts, asking Senator Warren for something and when she delivers it, moving the goal post.”
To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on October 15, 2018, click “expand.”
October 15, 2018
7:41 p.m. Eastern
[CLIP FROM TRUMP ON 10/09/18 IN COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA]
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. We're getting there. That was president trump last week mocking Senator Warren's statement that she has Native American ancestry. Well, earlier today, believe it or not, Warren released the results of a DNA test indicating that she has Native American blood in her family tree dating back 6 to 10 generations. Well, that's pretty far back. Ten generations means one — that if 1,000 of her ancestors were sitting in this room right now, all thousand of them, one might be Native American. Well, Warren's political opponents have accused her of using a Native American ancestry to gain an unfair advantage in her career. For example, The Boston Globe reports today: “She had her ethnicity changed from white to native American at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she taught from 1987 to 1995 and Harvard Law School where she was a tenured faculty member starting in 1995.” So, in those jobs, she classified herself as native American. Well, down in Georgia today, surveying the hurricane damage, President Trump dismissed the news of her new DNA testing.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Senator Warren released some of her DNA results that show a strong likelihood she does have Native American roots.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: How much, 1/1,000?
PETTYPIECE: Do you owe her an apology? What about the money that —
TRUMP: Absolutely not. She owes the country an apology.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, that brings in tonight's round table. He did rather soberly “she owes the country an apology?” Oh, come on. The country? [INTRODUCES PANELISTS] I have to do it, Adolfo. I'm giving you the opening tee here. Go for it.
ADOLFO FRANCO: Well —
MATTHEWS: Is she off the problem or still in the problem coming out with the testing?
FRANCO: She compounded the problem in my opinion. It was a clumsy 2020 test, not a DNA test that she failed miserably.
FRANCO: Well, the fact of the matter is —
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, she didn't get one of those spit thing? She did do the spit thing.
FRANCO: Well, listen, when anyone puts that little box, mine is Hispanic. People aren't looking that. I think it is an insult. I think the Cherokee tribe today denounced her. When people put Native American, in our minds, as the people the President was honoring when he referred to her as Pocahontas, as you remember at a White House ceremony. It's really — it’s really an insult to people. It's not a question.
STEVE MCMAHON: Oh Pocahontas? Really, an insult?
FRANCO: The point I was referring to the event where the President was really with Native Americans. This wasn't a question of whether she has less than the average European in the United States. It's a drop, less than a drop of Native American blood. She was calling — she was lying and misrepresenting herself as a native American.
MATTHEWS: Wait, when she was at Penn?
MCMAHON: The President tells lies every single minute.
FRANCO: If you all on this set, Chris, you were just talking earlier, put Hispanic or African-American, I think you'd be insulting people and people wouldn't believe it if you came out to 1/1,000th. That’s the truth.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. I don’t want to get into the percentage — that's the problem with percentages, obviously, but I think most people are proud of their ancestry even if it's a little bit.
FRANCO: But if it wasn’t an issue.
MATTHEWS: And most people would say if I was a little American Indian, I'd talk about it. She did say at the time she first talked about it was six to 10 generations ago. The problem, of course, is what she said, how she identified herself at Penn Law School.
MCMAHON: Yeah, correct.
MCMAHON: The problem —
MATTHEWS: That's the problem she still gonna have.
MCMAHON: — right, so The Boston Globe — here's what we know. We know that she said she has native American ancestry and she does. We also know that she's being transparent in having taken this test and released it. Both of which, by the way, Donald Trump is not. He’s neither transparent. He won't release his tax returns and he doesn't tell the truth about almost anything. And The Boston Globe looked into whether she received any racial preference and in fact she did not. And so —
FRANCO: But she's not Native American.
MCMAHON: — what the Trump — what the Trump people are doing and what Adolfo is — is supporting them in doing —
FRANCO: I do support.
MCMAHON: — is these little racial code words that they — that they throw out there and these little racial triggers that they do to their base because this is really not about —
MATTHEWS: Ashley, lemme ask you about the politics of this.
MCMAHON: This is about grievance. This about grievance.
MATTHEWS: Lemme ask you about the politics of this.
FRANCO: We're calling somebody what she is. Misrepresenting her heritage.
MCMAHON: This is about grievance.
MATTHEWS: Adolfo, you led off. Let me go to Ashley. Is there any way to track in the future how this is going to — can he still say Pocahontas and get a chuckle out of his crowd probably? Is it going to have a ring to it if she's been clear in saying, ‘look, I have ancestry. It’s been proven I do, so let's move on.
ASHLEY PARKER: Oh, he absolutely can and this the problem for her. This has been the issue when she was running for Senate and the idea by releasing this DNA test and this ancestry is somehow going to prevent Donald Trump from either doing the culturally sensitive thing or not claiming the moral high ground on telling the truth is absurd. This is a President who, as Steve was saying, has not released his tax returns yet, but had no problem demanding proof from President Obama for his birth certificate —
PARKER: — for his school transcripts, asking Senator Warren for something and when she delivers it, moving the goal post. He is going to move the goal post-up until she's out of the race.