Matthews, NY Times failed to note Lott's racial gaffe

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

On MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews asked Sen. Trent Lott about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech, in which she said the Republican-led House of Representatives "has been run like a plantation." However, Matthews failed to note that Lott was forced to resign the Senate leadership following racially charged remarks he made at late Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party.

On the January 17 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, host Chris Matthews asked Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech, in which she said the Republican-led House of Representatives "has been run like a plantation," and asked whether Lott planned to regain the Republican leadership in the Senate after the 2006 elections. Not once, however, did Matthews note that Lott was forced to resign the Senate leadership following racially charged remarks he made at the 100th birthday party for late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

A January 18 New York Times article by reporter Raymond Hernandez quoted Lott from his Hardball appearance responding to Clinton's remarks, but it, too, failed to note the senator's past remarks. In fact, the Times cropped Lott's quote to remove a portion in which he obliquely referred to his racially divisive comments.

Lott resigned the Senate majority leadership after controversy erupted over comments he made at Thurmond's 100th birthday party on December 5, 2002. Thurmond ran as a "Dixiecrat" in the 1948 U.S. presidential election and actively endorsed continued racial segregation. Lott said of Thurmond at the birthday party: "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." Amid widespread criticism over his remarks, Lott resigned the Republican leadership on December 20, 2002.

Lott announced on January 17 that he will seek re-election in November 2006.

On the January 17 edition of Hardball, Matthews asked Lott if he is "going to get back into the leadership ranks at some point," but failed to mention the reason Lott stepped down in the first place:

MATTHEWS: Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews, and welcome to Hardball. Senator Hillary Clinton slammed Republicans Monday in a Martin Luther King Day speech in Harlem. In response to a question, Senator Clinton called the Bush administration, quote, "one of the worst in U.S. history," and compared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to a plantation. More on this in a bit.

Now, to Senator Trent Lott, who today announced he will run for re-election after a lot of speculation that he might retire. The question now is: Will he get back into the Republican leadership? Senator Lott, thank you for coming here on your big day. Are you going to get back into the leadership ranks at some point?

LOTT: You know, Chris, got to take these things one step at a time. You know, I've been in Congress 33 years, and so when you're running for another term, you need to take a little time to think it through. But in the meantime, my state just got devastated, as you know, last year, by Hurricane Katrina.

Matthews went on to ask Lott if Clinton is "going to end up having to apologize" for her comments, to which Lott responded: "[T]his sort of -- just, vicious kind of language ... doesn't help the discourse, and I think it hurts her." Again, Matthews failed to note Lott's past remarks. Lott himself referred vaguely to his racially controversial comments, saying: "She [Clinton] may wind up having to apologize but I -- you know -- I know, Chris, from experience, words do have meaning."

MATTHEWS: Speaking of common sense, Hillary Clinton, what do you make of -- she stepped in it the other day. Talked about -- went up to Harlem and went to a Black church and started talking about you Republicans running a plantation in the House of Representatives. Do you think she's going to end up having to apologize for that?

LOTT: Well, you know, when she speaks in the Senate, she uses very moderate terms and very low modulation and is very, very good. When she goes to events like this one and starts hollering and using, you know, this sort of -- just, vicious kind of language, I think, it really is a -- you know, it doesn't help the discourse, and I think it hurts her. She may wind up having to apologize but I -- you know -- I know, Chris, from experience, words do have meaning. And if you overstep the line, you know, you wind up having to apologize for it.

Matthews then asked whether comments like Clinton's are "a problem area" -- which he defined as "get[ting] caught pandering to a group in front of you and ignoring the bigger -- the fact that everything's wired today." But rather than mentioning Lott's own experience with this "problem area," Matthews instead noted that he "remember[ed] [former Democratic presidential candidate] Gary Hart having this problem in a different regard" in 1984. Lott responded by saying "[w]e all have to learn" not to use "inflammatory language." Once again, Matthews made no mention of Lott's 2002 comments:

MATTHEWS: Is this a problem area? I remember Gary Hart having this problem in a different regard. He was talking to a gay group out in California and he said, "I'd sure rather be here than back with some solid waste dump in New Jersey." Now, I'm sure there was a lot of giggles about that because it was an aesthetic kind of line. But he was playing to a crowd he thought was very aesthetic and would like what he had to say. But there again, you get caught pandering to a group in front of you and ignoring the bigger -- the fact that everything's wired today. Isn't that the problem you and everybody else gets into?

LOTT: When I had my press conference in Pascagoula today, I mean, I wasn't just speaking to my neighbors and my constituents in Mississippi -- I mean, it was being carried by some of the national programs. So, you need to be careful what you say. We've all fallen into that trap, Chris, where you go before some group that you really shouldn't, or you're not quite sure who they are, or you use some inflammatory language that appeals to that group. And, you know, you just -- you've got to learn not to do that. We all have to learn to not to do that, Republican and Democrat alike.

Matthews then asked Lott about New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's January 16 comments, in which Nagin urged that New Orleans be rebuilt as a "chocolate city." Lott responded by saying Nagin "didn't choose his words well in that speech," and again noted, without elaborating, that "I have had my learning that I've had to go through." Again, there was no comment from Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Well, everybody is whipping up their own people. I mean, Ray Nagin down in Louisiana is talking about chocolate, keeping his city chocolate. I grew up in -- you were in Washington when that was sort of an endearing term. In D.C., you'd have bumper stickers, "Chocolate City." Before we had all the racial division of the late '60s, it was considered sort of neat. And then of course, with all of the division, we all get very sensitive. But now, Ray Nagin's out there throwing the word out and now he's saying it doesn't mean black, it means a mixture of white and black, which is complete BS. He meant it was black and -- is that fair enough for a guy who's a black mayor of a black city to say, "I want to keep this city black?" Is that racist, or what is that? What do you call that?

LOTT: Well, I don't know. Again, I would suggest that he didn't choose his words well in that speech. I mean, he even talked about how God's punishing America for mistakes we've made. And you ought to go back and read the Bible where it specifically says that God's not going to punish the people like that. I don't know where he was coming from. I know the mayor, I've met with him. He's got a tough job and I wish him well. But one of the things that he and I and all of us have to learn, that there's no issue that's more sensitive now and hurts people's feelings and raises hackles quicker than these -- than racial issues. And we need to all learn to be more careful. I have had my learning that I've had to go through. And I think we need to all be careful about that.

The January 18 Times article quoted Lott criticizing Clinton's "vicious" remarks without noting Lott's racially divisive comments, and cropped out the portion in which he said: "I know, Chris, from experience, that words do have meaning."

From the January 18 Times article:

Senator Trent Lott, a Republican from Mississippi, was also critical on Tuesday of Mrs. Clinton's speech and style.

During an interview with Chris Matthews for Tuesday night's "Hardball" program on MSNBC, Mr. Lott said of the New York senator: "When she speaks to the Senate, she uses very moderate terms and very low modulation and is very good. When she goes to events like this one and starts hollering and using this sort of, just vicious kind of language, I think it really is a ... you know, you wind up having to apologize for it."

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
Network/Outlet
MSNBC, The New York Times
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
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