On Hardball, Chris Matthews allowed Republican Reps. Jack Kingston and Patrick McHenry to offer up conspiracy theories about purported Democratic involvement in the Foley scandal, challenging their claims only occasionally. In addition, Matthews did not host a Democrat or progressive to balance the discussion.
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On the October 6 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews allowed two Republican congressmen, Jack Kingston (GA) and Patrick McHenry (NC), to push wholly unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democrats' purported prior knowledge of communications former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) allegedly had with former congressional pages. While Matthews did occasionally press Kingston and McHenry to support their accusations during the segment, he did not host a Democrat or progressive to balance the discussion.
When Matthews asked McHenry if Democrats "had anything to do with holding information" about Foley's alleged communications with the former pages "and dropping it on ABC," the network that first publicized the story, McHenry replied that "I don't know that they did not," and then noted that he has written a letter demanding that "[House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi [CA] and [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman] Rahm Emanuel [IL] ... submit themselves under oath and say clearly, yes or no, did they have prior knowledge of the instant messages and/or emails." When Matthews asked if House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) should also have to take such an oath, Kingston replied affirmatively, because "I think that would exonerate him." But McHenry later stated that "this is not about Dennis Hastert" and added: "[T]he only question that remains is what did the Democrat [sic] leadership know and when did they know it?" Matthews also failed to challenge Kingston's statement that he "would be very surprised if Foley's opponent [Democratic challenger Tim Mahoney] knew absolutely nothing of this."
As Media Matters for America has noted, The Hill newspaper reported that the media received Foley's alleged emails "from a House GOP aide" who "has been a registered Republican since becoming eligible to vote." As Media Matters has also noted, ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross reportedly said that the sources for his initial Foley report -- to the extent they had partisan affiliations -- were Republicans.
From the October 6 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
McHENRY: Look, Chris, this story is pretty clear. What the speaker did in reaction and what Mark Foley did to perpetrate this crime -- clearly what Mark Foley did was sick. But the only question that remains in the story, Chris, is what person, group, or political entity held that email or -- and/or those instant messages?
MATTHEWS: Well, tell me who it is.
KINGSTON: Well, that's why we'd like to get Ms. Pelosi and Mr. --
MATTHEWS: Well, no, wait a minute. Let me get this -- you're going to offer an opportunity for whoever did it on the Democratic side to come in and say that they did it. But you don't know that anybody on the Democratic side did it, do you, gentlemen? First of all, Mr. McHenry, do you believe that a member of the Democratic leadership had anything to do with holding this information and dropping it on ABC last week? Do you believe that?
McHENRY: I don't know -- Chris, I'll answer it this way. I do not know that they did not. And Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel, I asked them two days ago in a letter, to submit themselves under oath and say clearly, yes or no, did they have prior knowledge of the instant messages and/or emails, and if they did, they're an accessory to this crime --
MATTHEWS: How so?
McHENRY: -- because they allowed to keep a pedophile out on the streets.
MATTHEWS: How? Just to follow -- let's follow that line of inquiry. Do you believe that your party controls all of the committees, you control subpoena power, you control the leadership, you control all the non-member officers of the House, including the page control. You have all the authority in the world. If the Democrats have none of that authority, even if they had a glimmer of this, or a rumor of this, what were they supposed to do?
MATTHEWS: Please give me the name of somebody you suspect -- some inclination of something you've heard. Who do you believe -- you just mentioned George Soros.
KINGSTON: I would be very -- I would be very surprised if Foley's opponent knew absolutely nothing of this. Chris, how do you explain the timing of it? Again, as a Republican, I can tell you, we would've weeded the guy out because we know the political risk of child predatorness [sic] -- that's nuclear plutonium. We wouldn't touch the guy. Somebody had to sit on the -- a 3-year-old email purposely. And as soon as the Florida law is in place that you can't take a guy's name off the ballot --
MATTHEWS: OK, why George Soros? Why do you suspect him -- the wealthy guy?
McHENRY: Well, George Soros funds CREW and a number of liberal groups. And, let me tell you, the leader of CREW, the executive director, is a former [Rep.] John Conyers [D-MI] staffer, a former Democrat [sic] staffer from Capitol Hill. I will tell you that CREW had this emails as reported in numerous media outlets. And I would tell you also that they submitted it to the FBI. That has been reported. What we do not know is how CREW got it. We do not know who CREW gave it to. And with their connections to Democrats on Capitol Hill, you're telling me that Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi had no knowledge, nor did their political organizations know about this? Come on. Give me a break. Rahm Emanuel was a professional opposition researcher before he was hired by the Clinton White House. So those are the facts, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, you're making charges without making charges. I want to ask you. You both have a shot now.
McHENRY: I'm asking questions, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I want to know, do you believe that the House Democratic leadership was involved in leaking this story -- holding it, then leaking it at an opportune political time? Do you believe that? Congressman McHenry, do you believe it?
KINGSTON: I would say I believe -- here's what I'd say. I believe that they need to come in and testify before the ethics committee under oath in order to clear any question of suspicion.
MATTHEWS: OK, it is a bipartisan committee. Don't you expect if they are suspects in this in any regard, they will be called?
KINGSTON: Well, I hope they're called sooner than later, because I think it's very important for Mr. Emanuel -- Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi to clear their names.
MATTHEWS: OK. Do you believe the speaker of the House should swear under oath, be held to oath on his behavior in this matter? The speaker of the House?
KINGTSON: Yeah, I'm comfortable with that because I think that would help exonerate him.
McHENRY: Yes, I agree.
McHENRY: This is not about Dennis Hastert. It's about the sick acts perpetrated by Mark Foley. And the question remains -- the only question that remains is what did the Democrat [sic] leadership know and when did they know it? And I have asked Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi to submit themselves under oath. They said no. That is their answer. So the question remains, Chris, the question remains, what their involvement was. When did they know it -- that's the question.