Clinton campaign advisor Joel Benenson's recent whining about how "negative" the "tone" was from the Bernie Sanders campaign prompted an incredulous reaction from Kasie Hunt on Monday's edition of Hardball.
Reacting to a soundbite of Benenson telling CNN's Kate Bolduan that it was unlikely Mrs. Clinton will assent to more debates unless Bernie changes his "tone," the NBC correspondent told MSNBC's Chris Matthews:
With all due respect to Joel, who I love, if he thinks Bernie Sanders is running a negative campaign against Hillary Clinton, what does he expect from Donald Trump?! Come on!
"Is this a fake foul?" Matthews asked Hunt.
"It seems to me that if they can't take the kind of punches that Bernie Sanders is leveling at her, what kind of punches can she take?!" Hunt sputtered.
Moments earlier, for his part, Matthews also mocked Benenson's talking point.
"This is like a nun talking," a smiling Matthews quipped, suppressing a laugh. "You gotta change your tone if we're going to have a proper debate!" After all, "Politics is supposed to have a somewhat rough tone to it!"
The only one on set who defended Benenson's complaint was the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, who apparently sees at least some merit to Team Hillary's perspective.
Yes, from a tactical standpoint, Robinson told Matthews, Benenson is "trying to back Bernie off" and ensure he dials back his aggressive campaigning, but at the same time, Sanders's rhetoric against Clinton lately has smacked of a "high-handed tone."
Here's the relevant transcript:
March 28, 2016; 7:34 p.m. Eastern
CHRIS MATTHEWS, host: Anyway, one of Clinton’s top advisors, Joel Benenson, responded today that there wouldn’t be another debate – listen to this – unless Sanders’s tone changed. Let’s listen to this. This is like a nun talking. You gotta change your tone if we’re going to have a proper debate. Here it is.
MATTHEWS: Tone? Tone? Politics is supposed to have a somewhat rough tone to it. He’s saying unless you clean up your act and get more nice to us, we're not going to have a debate with you.
KASIE HUNT, NBC News: With all due respect to Joel, who I love, if he thinks Bernie Sanders is running a negative campaign against Hillary Clinton, what does he expect from Donald Trump?! Come on!
MATTHEWS: Is this a fake foul?
HUNT: It seems to me that if they can't take the kind of punches that Bernie Sanders is leveling at her, what kind of punches can she take?!
MATTHEWS: What's Joel up to? He’s saying no debate.
EUGENE ROBINSON, Washington Post columnist: No, he's trying to back Bernie off, right? He wants to make sure that Bernie doesn't run a more vigorous campaign. But, that’s kind of a high-handed tone, right, it’s kind of a high-handed tone.
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