Everyone knows that politics can be an ugly business, but MSNBC’s Chris Matthews sunk to a new long on his Hardball program Tuesday night. Matthews’ outrage came from an ad put out by the Romney campaign suggesting that President Obama, "announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements," which, his administration most certainly did.
Since there's nothing factually assailable about the ad, Matthews decided that the best approach for criticizing the spot was claiming it was "Willie Horton stuff." Of course, the 1988 Willie Horton ad was also 100 percent factually unassailable, which is why that ad resonated against then-Gov. Michael Dukakis (D-Mass.). The issue at hand isn’t the accuracy of the ad but rather Matthews' insistence that racism is at play. [Video follows page break; MP3 audio here.]
In conversation with the two guests on his show, Mr. Matthews made the following disgusting claim:
The pictures of the wholesome family there concerned about welfare cheating are white people. And the implication here is pretty clear that the people that are getting these welfare checks without working are not white people. This is the old stuff that Romney is resorting to here. It’s familiar territory. It’s Willie Horton's stuff it’s the same old stuff Reagan used to engage in, talk about welfare queens and young bucks waiting in line with their food stamps to get vodka. I lived through all of that stuff. I know all the code. This is code.
Not surprisingly, liberal Sam Stein of The Huffington Post failed to challenge Matthews on his slander but instead simply said that “the history is pretty clear on this.” Matthews offered no shred of evidence to back up his claim that the new Romney ad is full of coded messages other than his insistence that we are to trust Matthews to code-break for us.
Decrying alleged dog-whistle racial politics into this discussion is par for the course with MSNBC. All throughout the Republican primaries, NewsBusters documented numerous MSNBC hosts claiming GOP candidates were using dog-whistle coded messages to inject racist appeals into their campaigns.
Of course, in doing so, MSNBC hosts like Matthews reveal that it's they who are fixated and obsessed with race.
See relevant transcript below.
Hardball with Chris Matthews
7:19 p.m. EDT
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball." Welfare politics seems to conjure up memories of Bill Clinton’s mid 90's reform of Reagan’s tale of welfare queens. Remember how he talked about them? But it’s back. Thanks to a new misleading Romney campaign ad. Take a look at this one.
UNKNOWN PERSON: In 1996, President Clinton and a bipartisan Congress helped end welfare as we know it. By requiring work for welfare. But on July 12, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama's plan you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes to back being plain old welfare. Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement because it works.
MATTHEWS: Well that's a devastating ad if that gets through as truth. Actually last month, the Department of Health and Human Services said it allows states to receive waivers to implement their own programs from welfare recipients and not only did two Republican states recently ask for them but Mitt Romney himself supported similar plans for states when he was governor of Massachusetts. Sam Stein writes for the Huffington Post and Nia Malika-Henderson is a reporter for The Washington Post. Nia let me ask you about this. Is there any truth to the charge that we are getting rid of work as a requirement for welfare payments?
NIA MALIKA-HENDERSON: No. There is absolutely no truth to it. I mean if you look back at this memo that came out in July, it basically says that the HHS won't consider any waivers of that significantly reduce work. In fact, the only way you can get a proof of waiver is if it increases work by 20%. As far as I can tell, there is no difference between Romney's stance and Obama's stance.
MATTHEWS: Well it sounds terrific the way they are selling it.
MALIKA-HENDERSON: It sounds terrific. These ads are running. I was watching the Olympics today. And they are running during the Olympics. So this is their new --
MATTHEWS: No this is Willie Horton stuff. Look at this. Not surprisingly White House Press Secretary Jay Carney took to the podium today to correct the Romney ad’s as falsehoods. Let's watch.
JAY CARNEY: From a policy standpoint, let me say that this advertisement is categorically false and it is blatantly dishonest. This administration's policy will strengthen the program by giving states the opportunity to employ more effective ways to help people get off welfare and into a job. Under this policy, Governors must commit that their proposals will move at least 20% more people, more people, from welfare to work. And as we have made very clear under our policy, any request, from any state, that under -- undercuts the work requirement in welfare reform will be rejected.
MATTHEWS: Well the interesting thing, Sam, and Nia, I’m going to get into this thing rather heartily here. The pictures of the wholesome family there concerned about welfare cheating are white people. And the implication here is pretty clear that the people that are getting these welfare checks without working are not white people. This is the old stuff that Romney is resorting to here. It’s familiar territory. It’s Willie Horton's stuff it’s the same old stuff Reagan used to engage in, talk about welfare queens and young bucks waiting in line with their food stamps to get vodka. I lived through all of that stuff. I know all the code. This is code. Your thoughts, Sam?
SAM STEIN: I mean the history is pretty clear on this and I think you -- illuminated it just there. I would add two other components to the ad. One is that, you know, there has been a concerted effort to make it seem that Bill Clinton is the good centrist Democrat to Barack Obama's radical liberal Democrat. I think that’s been a recurring theme for the Romney campaign. I think this ad gets at it as well. Secondly, is the whole notion of government dependency from cradle to the grave, it’s another theme the Romney campaign is hitting, it goes along with this ad as well. The one other thing I would like to stress is that I wonder if there is a price to pay for campaigns to run ads like this in terms of how their facts are so distorted and wrong. It seems like in -- works on both sides of the aisle campaigns have increasingly decided that there is limited price to pay in terms of public opinion, for just throwing out the distortions and that they might as well do it because it can filter through to the media and who knows how many people in swing states will see and it how many people in swing states will watch shows like this.
MATTHEWS: Well you and Nia are too young to remember this. Fortunately you didn't grow up in this particular generation and still -- engaged in this crap. Here is Ronald Reagan who is a good man in some ways. Some ways. Starting his campaign in 1976 and onward, often referring to welfare queens who collected checks under multiple aliases. Let's watch him in action.
RONALD REAGAN: In Chicago a couple of years back, they found a woman who was getting checks under 127 different names.
MATTHEWS: You know, that's something from Human Events. I don't know where he got it from. Bu this is something you can pick up in the malarky, want to pick it up and everybody watching, I say come to Washington, D.C., By the way, and get up early around 6:00, go and around the neighborhoods like North Capitol and Florida Avenue. Watch all the people going to work in the morning when you make judgments about people. It’s the old blacks are on welfare the whites are working hard and getting screwed. It works brilliantly if your target audience is working whites.