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MSNBC host Chris Matthews misrepresented a Democratic memorandum on Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. for the third day in a row November 2, falsely claiming that the "hit sheet" accused Alito of being "soft on the mob" by failing to win a conviction in an "easy case."
Media Matters for America previously flagged Matthews's false claims about the memo -- that Democrats were "going after ethnicity for an Italian-American" -- and corrected him again along with nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh and MSNBC contributor and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who both echoed and expanded upon Matthews's claims. Matthews has yet to correct any of the false claims identified by Media Matters.
A Democratic memorandum began circulating shortly after President Bush announced Alito's nomination for the Court and was soon posted to conservative website Townhall.com. The memo includes a bullet point regarding a 1988 criminal trial in New Jersey that Alito prosecuted as a U.S. attorney. The defense called no witnesses; the case ended with the 20 defendants -- all members of the Lucchese crime family -- acquitted of 77 criminal charges.
On November 2, during interviews with senior White House official Dan Bartlett, former Bush legislative assistant Nick Calio, and former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers, Matthews made two false claims: that the memo "suggested it was an easy case, he blew it," and that "the Democrats put out a hit sheet saying he was soft on the mob."
The memo makes no such suggestion about the case being easy, or that Altio "blew it"; it only notes a 1988 Associated Press story printed in the Chicago Tribune that called the loss a "stunning defeat" for the government. The memo also makes no claim that Alito was soft on the mob; Media Matters previously debunked a similar assertion by Matthews.
Matthews did not repeat the baseless claim that the memo attacked Alito's ethnicity during the November 2 show, as he did on October 31, when he asserted that Democrats are "going after ethnicity for an Italian-American with an incredible record like this as a prosecutor, as a judge, as a Yale Law grad," and on November 1, when he claimed, "They're out there saying this -- the Italian-American guy is too weak on the mob." Matthews has yet to correct those statements.
From the November 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: The Democrats have been circulating a little fact sheet -- it might be a hit sheet, you might call it -- on Alito's nomination saying -- first thing they mention in this little document is that he lost a big mob case in New Jersey back in '88. It suggested that -- in fact, it said he embarrassed the U.S. government, it suggested it was an easy case, he blew it.
MATTHEWS: Nick, I've got to ask you about the Republican party and the Democratic party. The minute Judge Alito -- Samuel Alito from Philadelphia from the Third Circuit -- the minute his name was announced, within 17 minutes, the Democrats put out a hit sheet saying he was soft on the mob, the first thing that he did. What do you make of that?
MATTHEWS: You know, he made a big hit against a mob. New Jersey's got problems obviously there, Dee Dee. But he made a big kill the next year. He got three big indictments, including the chief hoodlum in one of the big families up there. Do you think the Democrats are a little bit stupid to be making that an issue, when there's so many things to go after? To lead with that, this was the number-one item on their hit sheet.