Chris Matthews’ Panel on Torture: Americans Are Either Stupid or Oblivious

On NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” this morning, the host’s panel members stated that the reason 55 percent of Americans surveyed in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll were comfortable with the way the CIA is treating captured terror suspects is because Americans either “don’t know the truth” or “don’t want to know what the specifics are.”

The discussion was focused on torture issues raised in Congress this week, and Matthews brought up this poll to demonstrate that a majority of Americans don't seem to be concerned by how the CIA is interrogating prisoners. Andrew Sullivan of the New Republic quickly responded, “I don't think they know the full truth of what we're doing.”

Michelle Norris of NPR said: “I don't think people really know what's going on.”

And Michael Duffy of TIME said: “I think their attitude about torture might be different if they knew how little they were getting out of this.”

Yet, in the next segment, as Matthews moved the discussion in the direction of how poor a job the president is currently doing, no one on the panel questioned the results of a new poll stating that only 38% of the country approves of the president's job performance. This suggests that these panel members only believe Americans are intelligent and informed when they agree with them.

What follows is a full transcript of this discussion.

Chris: Let's take a look at what Americans think right now. There was a poll by NBC. It talks about tough treatment and what we’re doing right now. According to a "Wall Street Journal" poll 55% of Americans right now are comfortable with the way we're treating terror suspects. Only 30% think we've gone too far.

Sullivan: I don't think they know the full truth of what we're doing. For example, do they know that we waterboard people?

Chris: Explain that. That's fascinating. That means you're going to drown, right?

Sullivan: We know for example because the Pentagon has said it forced one person in Guantanamo into near drowning and then they take you out of the water at the moment you feel like you're going to die and then they do it again and again.

Andrea Mitchell of NBC: I have to disagree, Andrew, I do think that because of the American attitudes toward the war on terror that people in America in this NBC poll by 55%, they don't want to know what the specifics are, they agree with whatever it takes. What they don't --

Andrew: It's not focused on specifics.

Michelle Norris of NPR: I'm not sure that I agree with you there, though, because I agree with Andrew. I don't think people really know what's going on. Abu Ghraib, for instance, the worst of those pictures have not seen light of day and I think that if people really understood what was happening there and what might be happening in these black sites those numbers might be different.

Michael Duffy of TIME: I think their attitude about torture might be different if they knew how little they were getting out of this. And the one good record we have…we’ve had an interrogation, that was a prisoner number 63, Muhammad al Khatani, made it very clear that they didn't get after 84 days of this very much intelligence at all.

Foreign Policy Iraq War on Terrorism NBC NBC Nightly News NPR Time
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