In just the latest example of his fixation on what he has described as former President Bill Clinton's "social life," "personal behavior," "current behavior," and "personal life," Chris Matthews asked whether Clinton is "going to stop trying to play Holly Golightly up in New York," referring to the main character in Truman Capote's novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's. After The New York Times' publication in May 2006 of an article purporting to report on the Clintons' marriage, Matthews has repeatedly referred to the article and to the Clintons' personal life on the air.
On the February 27 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews asked Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen whether former President Bill Clinton is "going to stop trying to play Holly Golightly up in New York," adding: "When he stops that -- if he's doing it -- she'll be better off," referring to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). Holly Golightly was the main character in Truman Capote's 1958 novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's, as well as the 1961 film of the same name. In a February 14, 2006, report (subscription required) on the DVD release of the movie, The New York Times called Golightly a "blithely materialistic semiprostitute." In a June 18, 2006, article, the Times described Holly Golightly as an "Upper East Side call girl."
On February 27, the weblog Think Progress noted Matthews' obsession with "Clinton sex speculation," as well as his reference to "Holly Golightly."
The "Holly Golightly" reference is just the latest example of Matthews' seeming fascination with what he has referred to as Bill Clinton's "social life," "personal behavior," "current behavior," and "personal life." In the past month, Matthews has frequently cited a May 23, 2006, Times article -- noted by Media Matters for America -- which was published, as Matthews has repeatedly pointed out, on the "front page, top of the fold." In the days following the article's publication, Matthews obsessed over the Clintons' marriage on Hardball, asking his guests a combined 16 questions on the subject in the course of a single program, as Media Matters noted.
In its May 23, 2006, article, the Times purported to report on the Clintons' marriage -- which it called "the most dissected relationship in American life." The article, by reporter Patrick Healy, was not explicitly about Bill Clinton's "personal behavior" or his "social life." As Media Matters noted, Healy acknowledged that the amount of time that he concluded the Clintons spent together was "pretty similar" to that of other congressional couples. Healy's only mention of anything relating to the former president's "social life" -- aside from noting a dinner with two former aides -- was a single paragraph rooted in baseless innuendo: "Several prominent New York Democrats, in interviews, volunteered that they became concerned last year over a tabloid photograph showing Mr. Clinton leaving B.L.T. Steak in Midtown Manhattan late one night after dining with a group that included Belinda Stronach, a Canadian politician." The article continued: "The two were among roughly a dozen people at a dinner, but it still was enough to fuel coverage in the gossip pages." Healy also characterized this as "tabloid gossip," even though the Times deemed it worthy of inclusion in the piece.
On the February 26 edition of Hardball, Matthews said that the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton is "not the issue. ... [T]the issue is current behavior raised by The New York Times a couple of months ago."
On the February 23 edition of Hardball, Healy's Times article came up again. This time, Matthews said, "I think the scab's been ripped off so early that Bill's in play now," adding that the "Times put him in play a few months ago."
On the February 22 edition of his MSNBC show, Matthews asked The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut, who worked at the Times when Healy's article was published, if there was "a big reaction from the Clintons when that Patrick Healy piece ran on the top of the front page, raising all kinds of issues about Bill Clinton's social life." Kornblut repeated: "His social life," putting the phrase in air quotes. Matthews, justifying his use of the phrase, explained: "Well, I'm trying to be nice."
Earlier on the same show, Matthews had described Healy's report as "that big front-page piece about Bill Clinton's social life, if you will." Later still, he told Republican strategist Susan Molinari that "[t]here's a buzz" surrounding the Clintons' personal life and asked her whether Sen. Clinton and former New York City Mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani "might agree that their personal lives in both cases are somewhat confusing and we better leave them both out." Matthews later added: "And I don't know whether it's true or not, but there's the buzz, and it's in The New York Times. Let's not get complicated here. Patrick Healy's front-page piece a while back laid the whole thing out. I don't know any more than that."
On the February 21 edition of the show, Matthews reminded Sen. Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson, that "Patrick Healy, a couple of months back, [had] put a front-page, top-of-the-fold story on about Bill Clinton and his personal life," and asked: "Do you believe you can keep that out of action, out of play -- questions about the former president's personal life?"
On the February 2 edition of Hardball, Matthews repeatedly asked Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to Sen. Clinton's presidential campaign, if Bill Clinton was "going to behave himself" throughout Sen. Clinton's presidential campaign. He appeared to attribute this line of questioning to Healy's Times article, which he again characterized as "that story ... in The New York Times ... a couple months back, about Bill Clinton better watch it."
Matthews also mentioned the article on the February 25 edition of his NBC-syndicated television show.
From the February 27 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: I love the way you smile. I'm just thinking: Is Bill Clinton going to stop trying to play Holly Golightly up in New York? I'm just wondering. When he stops that -- if he's doing it -- she'll be better off. Anyway, thank you, Hilary.
ROSEN: Holly Golightly!
MATTHEWS: Hilary. Thank you, Rick. I lost my teleprompter.
From the February 26 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: I don't know anything, either. Let me get Chris Cillizza that question. I noticed your newspaper, Anne Kornblut, made a point it was really a retrospective concern that the Democrats running against Clinton -- Hillary Clinton, in this case -- might raise impeachment. That's not the issue. In all fairness, the issue is current behavior raised by The New York Times a couple of months ago and then raised again by David Geffen. Current behavior is the issue.
From the February 25 edition of the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: After The New York Times, Michele [Norris], a couple of -- couple of months ago wrote that big, front-page piece saying the Democrats are worried about Bill Clinton's personal behavior right now, not '98. The Clinton response to that -- the campaign response is "That's personal. That's private." That's a fallback position from "There's no trouble there." It's like saying, "Don't talk about that stuff, whatever it is."
From the February 23 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: I think the scab's been ripped off so early that Bill's in play now. The New York Times put him in play a few months ago. Now Geffen's put him in play. It just seems to me that we're talking about stuff I thought wouldn't be talked about 'til next whenever.
From the February 22 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Patrick Healy, a couple of weeks ago -- in fact, about several months ago now -- wrote that big, front-page piece about Bill Clinton's social life, if you will. That touched a nerve, obviously, with the Clinton campaign.
Then, yesterday, as you point out, David Geffen, apparently speaking as a major supporter of [Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL], said, "Well, Bill Clinton hasn't changed in six years, and what the Republicans will do is wait for Hillary to get the nomination, then jump that family with everything they have got."
MATTHEWS: Anne, when you were at the Times, was there a big reaction from the Clintons when that Patrick Healy piece ran on the top of the front page, raising all kinds of issues about Bill Clinton's social life?
KORNBLUT: "His social life."
MATTHEWS: Well, I'm trying to be nice.
MATTHEWS: He's saying she wins in February and then the assaults come on Mr. Bill and what he's up to and all of that -- whatever that is -- that becomes subject A.
MOLINARI: You know, I almost -- you know, with regard to Senator Clinton and Mayor Giuliani, I don't know what else -- I mean, people in the know --
MATTHEWS: Do you think they might agree that their personal lives in both cases are somewhat confusing and we better leave them both out?
MOLINARI: And I think people --
MATTHEWS: Is that what --
MOLINARI: -- know what's about their personal lives. You know, there is this whisper campaign that there's something that we don't know about the Clintons --
MATTHEWS: No, there's not --
MOLINARI: -- and we don't know about --
MATTHEWS: -- a whisper campaign. No, no, no, no, no.
MOLINARI: -- Mayor Giuliani.
MATTHEWS: There's a buzz.
MOLINARI: A buzz.
MATTHEWS: And I don't know whether it's true or not, but there's the buzz, and it's in The New York Times. Let's not get complicated here. Patrick Healy's front-page piece a while back laid the whole thing out. I don't know any more than that.
From the February 21 edition of Hardball:
MATTHEWS: Sure. That's on the issues. There's no doubt about that. But then Patrick Healy, a couple of months back, puts a front-page, top-of-the-fold story on about Bill Clinton and his personal life.
I'm just asking you: Do you believe you can keep that out of action, out of play -- questions about the former president's personal life? If that's an issue with you -- that you think any candidate that raises that is playing dirty pool -- fine, we'll move on.
From the February 2 edition of Hardball:
MATTHEWS: -- 'cause he's a multitasker. He's going to behave himself, right? No bad publicity. Did you see that story in the big -- in The New York Times, though, a couple months back, about Bill Clinton better watch it -- front page, top of the fold -- he better watch it?
LEWIS: You couldn't miss it. And I was interested to see that that was the most important news that The New York Times could have, was to try to write a story about people's private lives.
But you know what? At the end of the day, you read the story, it said there's no there there. Guess what? That's the story, folks. There's no there there.
MATTHEWS: So, do you think The New York Times is going to stop writing about this?
LEWIS: No. I think Bill Clinton's going to continue doing his work, going around the world, saving lives.
MATTHEWS: So, he's going to behave himself.
LEWIS: He's going to be out on the campaign trail -- and we're -- you'll be --
MATTHEWS: And he's going to behave himself so that Hillary can be the first woman president.