Referring to GOP senators vowing to not hold hearings for President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, MSNBC's Chris Matthews suggested racism may be to blame. "Do you think this is another one of those boots in the face of the president on the racial front?" the Hardball host asked African-American White House correspondent April Ryan on the March 16 edition of the program.
"First of all he was a birther [sic], he's not legitimate, now we're not going to give him the chance to name a Supreme Court nominee," Matthews added, conflating GOP senators with the conspiracy theorist "birthers" who insist the president was really born in Kenya, not Hawaii.
For her part, Ryan answered in the affirmative. "I call it blacklash."
"You know, he is the first black president, and there's a segment of society," Ryan added, "even on the Hill, who don't like the fact that he is there." Now that he's "almost finished his term, they don't want him to have a legacy piece," she complained, lamenting that Garland was "conservative" and "capable" and yet was facing strident opposition.
Wait a minute, fellow panelist and fellow liberal Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post interjected, "it may go too far to call him a conservative." He's simply "very judicious."
"He's not as liberal as a Thurgood Marshall," Ryan explained.
Marcus also took issue with Ryan seeing racial animus in the GOP's move. "I have zero doubt that if Barack Obama were Barack O'Bama with an apostrophe... if he were white.... The Republican obstructionism – obstructionism that I'm not endorsing, I think it's outrageous – would be just as forceful."
Matthews doubled down at that point:
But you know that a lot of African-American people do believe what April just said. They really feel that the bar has been changed, like it often is accused of being changed, for black people. Just to change the rules. These are not the usual rules. This disdain they have for his appointment.
The third panelist, African-American conservative Francesca Chambers of the British newspaper The Daily Mail seems to have agreed with Marcus:
They were going to oppose whoever he put up, whatever color that person was. They were going to oppose whoever that was.
Concluding the segment moments later, Matthews predicted of Obama's appointment that at the end of the day "he's going to make the Republicans look bad."
Here's the relevant transcript, adapted from Nexis and corrected against the video:
March 16, 2016; 7:51 p.m. Eastern
CHRIS MATTHEWS: April, this thing -- this question, I think -- do you think people look at this as another one of those boots in the face to the president on the racial front? First of all, he`s a birther, he’s not legitimate. Now, we`re not going to give him a chance to name a Supreme Court nominee.
APRIL RYAN, American Urban Radio Networks: Of course, yeah, I call it blacklash. You know, he is the first black president and there`s a segment in society, and even some on the Hill who don`t like the fact he is there and he’s almost finished his term. And they don’t want him to have a legacy piece.
But what this president is doing, he`s put forth a conservative, someone who is fitting more so for the job, more so than fitting. He dealt with issues in Oklahoma City. I mean, that was one of our first terrorist attacks here on the ground. He is capable.
And what the president is doing, he’s trying to humiliate the GOP because if they don`t put forward his nominee or talk to him, they look bad,
MATTHEWS: Yeah, he’s a prosecutor, not an ACLU lawyer, this guy. He’s not a lefty.
RUTH MARCUS, Washington Post: I think it may go too far to call him conservative.
MATTHEWS: Prosecutorial background.
MARCUS: He`s very judicious.
RYAN: He`s not liberal. He’s not as liberal as Thurgood Marshall.
MARCUS: I have to disagree with April on the racial component here, with all due are respect.
RYAN: Hmm, OK.
MARCUS: I have zero doubt if Barack Obama were Barack Obama with an apostrophe --
RYAN: Barack Hussein Obama.
MATTHEWS: You’re getting into the fact that tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.
MARCUS: Indeed, it is.
RYAN: My last name is Ryan, so I`m Irish, too.
MARCUS: There you go.
MATTHEWS: I accept you completely.
MARCUS: The Republican obstructionism that I`m not endorsing, I think it`s outrageous, would be just as forceful. I think it has very -- this one has very little to do with skin color and everything to do with politics.
MATTHEWS: But you know tjhat a lot of African-American people do believe what April just said, they really feel -- the bar`s been changed, like it often is accused of being changed for black people, just to change the rules. These are not the usual rules. This disdain they have for his appointment.
MARCUS: We can all agree there`s a change in rules.
MATTHEWS: Francesca, there`s an ugly aspect to this, dismissal, just dismiss the guy, you know, nice try, buddy, you`re not going to get to pick a Supreme Court nominee.
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, Daily Mail: Yeah, what I was going to say in response to that was that they were going to oppose whoever he put up, whatever color that person was, they were going to oppose whoever that was, could have been black, could have been white, could have been Hindu --
MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he go with a black woman?
MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he go with a black woman?
CHAMBERS: I think that`s an excellent --
MATTHEWS: There’s an answer to that question. What is it?
CHAMBERS: I think it`s an excellent question. I think part of it is because that person was never going to make it on the court.
MATTHEWS: Neither is this guy.
RYAN: Why wouldn’t she make it on the court because of race in a lot of instances--
CHAMBERS: No, because Republicans would have pushed back on the person. This at least preserves those options potentially if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders --
RYAN, interjecting with crosstalk: What happened to Loretta Lynch? She got confirmed but it was a lot of politics.
CHAMBERS: -- were to win, anyone else could still potentially be on the court.
MATTHEWS: Anything the president does, whatever side he’s on, there’s always guile. I see it here. He`s going to make the Republicans look bad.
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