MSNBC host Chris Matthews and Catholic Archbishop John P. Foley furthered the oft-repeated myth that former Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey was prohibited from speaking at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because he opposes abortion rights. In fact, Casey was denied a speech at the convention because he refused to support the Clinton-Gore presidential ticket. Matthews himself has repeated this myth on at least five previous occasions.
Matthews questioned Foley, president emeritus of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications, about the role of Catholic principles in a democratic society. But when Matthews identified Catholic support for Democratic pro-choice candidates as showing differences between the laity and church leadership, Foley cited the Casey case to argue that Democrats were shifting their position on abortion. Matthews then agreed that the incident was "a disgrace."
From the April 8 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Right, but Catholics, in state after state with the exception of Pennsylvania, elect pro-choice senators. Those states which are most heavily Catholic have the most predictably pro-choice senators. And that's not to say Catholics believe in abortion -- they don't. They don't like it. But if you look at the numbers, they tend to vote for senators, whether it's Hillary Clinton [D-NY] or it's Barbara Boxer [D-CA], who are pro-choice.
FOLEY: Maybe that's one reason why I'm so proud to be from Pennsylvania. And this time the Democrats are nominating a pro-life candidate. Which is --
MATTHEWS: Right, but that's the exception in the country.
FOLEY: -- a type of mini-conversion on the part of the Democratic Party. The same Democratic Party that wouldn't permit Governor Casey, the father of the person who is being nominated now for senator, to speak at the convention in New York. I thought that was a disgrace.
MATTHEWS: Certainly I do, too. I've said it many times.
But as Media Matters for America has pointed out on several occasions (here, here, and here) Casey was denied speaking time in 1992 over his refusal to endorse the Clinton-Gore ticket, not his anti-abortion views. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and Howell Heflin (D-AL), and five other governors who opposed abortion rights did address the convention in 1992, as detailed in a September 16, 1996, article in The New Republic on the Casey myth. In addition, anti-abortion speakers have spoken at every Democratic convention since 1992, including Breaux in 1996 and 2000, former House Democratic Whip David Bonior (D-MI) in 1996 and 2000, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2000 and 2004.