MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews began his November 13 show by asserting that "the Clinton people" are "trying to intimidate" CNN host Wolf Blitzer, who is scheduled to moderate a November 15 Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas. But less than an hour earlier, Blitzer had said on CNN's The Situation Room, "No one has pressured me. No one has threatened me. No one is trying to intimidate me. ... No one has even called me to try to pressure me or anything like that. ... I have not felt any pressure whatsoever." Later during the same edition of Hardball, Matthews referred to Blitzer's denial but misrepresented it.
Matthews' claim echoed an anonymously sourced blurb on the Drudge Report homepage, which asserted that "Blitzer has been warned not to focus Thursday's Dem debate on" Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and quoted an anonymous "top Clinton insider" saying, "This campaign is about issues, not on who we can bring down and destroy. ... Blitzer should not go down to the levels of character attack and pull 'a Russert,' " referring to NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert who moderated the October 30 Democratic debate in Philadelphia.
By the time Matthews asserted at 5 p.m. ET that "the Clinton people" are "trying to intimidate" Blitzer, Drudge had updated his post to include Blitzer's denial.
From the Drudge Report's front page, as it appeared at 4:45 p.m. ET on November 13:
CNN's Wolf Blitzer has been warned not to focus Thursday's Dem debate on Hillary. 'This campaign is about issues, not on who we can bring down and destroy,' top Clinton insider explains. 'Blitzer should not go down to the levels of character attack and pull 'a Russert.' Blitzer is set to moderate debate from Vegas, with questions also being posed by Suzanne Malveaux ... Blitzer says he is not being pressured by any campaign: 'No one has pressured me. No one has threatened me. No one is trying to intimidate me'... Developing ...
Later during Hardball, Matthews returned to the story -- this time noting that it came from the Drudge Report. Matthews said: "Drudge referred to an insider today intimidating -- trying to intimidate our colleague Wolf Blitzer, who said he is not being intimidated." In fact, Blitzer's denial was broader than Matthews claimed. While Matthews asserted that Blitzer said "he is not being intimidated," Blitzer actually stated, "No one is trying to intimidate me," [emphasis added] and "I have not felt any pressure whatsoever."
From the November 13 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
MATTHEWS: Who's afraid of the big, bad Wolf? First, the Clinton people blamed the moderator in that Philadelphia debate for Hillary's bad night. Then, they confess to feeding questions in televised town meetings. Now they're trying to intimidate the next debate moderator. Is everyone fair game except the candidate? Let's play Hardball.
MATTHEWS: It seems like, Chuck, every time we have a conversation, it's like a Rorschach test, and sometimes, it's gender specific, but it isn't always, where you get a lot of reaction to the smallest things like this ringer story. You know, Joe Klein was on and says everybody does it -- I don't know if that's true or not -- but everybody sort of jumps one way or the other. This shows that she's a manipulative candidate; other people say it's trivial to even talk about it.
CHUCK TODD (NBC News political director): Well, no, I mean, the problem -- and both [NBC News chief White House correspondent] David [Gregory] and Julie hit on this -- is that she's got to be careful of the old storylines coming back. I mean, you know, I've always had this theory, if she becomes president, it's because she's a woman; if she loses, it's because she's a Clinton
And that ultimately, the Clinton stereotype of being triangulating, calculating, parsing sentences, if that is ever the message of the week or the campaign debate of the week, as it was for about three or four days, and planting questions fits into that whole umbrella.
Whenever that's being done, those are bad days for Hillary Clinton, because then, suddenly, it's the Clinton that's being emphasized and not the Hillary.
MATTHEWS: David, it seems like there's so many voices coming out of the campaign. I mean, Drudge referred to an insider today intimidating -- trying to intimidate our colleague Wolf Blitzer, who said he is not being intimidated.
But these weird voices that come out in the middle of the night -- is it Mark Penn, is it Mandy -- who are, you know we're not going to say who they are, but it seems like there's so many voices coming out of that campaign they're not under control -- or are they?
From the November 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
JACK CAFFERTY (commentator): Usually, we only do one question at a time in these segments, but, today, I have an extra question. And it has to do with the Drudge Report and my pal, Wolf Blitzer. I was clicking on the Drudge Report, and there you are, big as life, in the middle of the Drudge Report this afternoon, with a headline suggesting that the Hillary Clinton campaign is trying to intimidate you before you moderate this big debate in Las Vegas. What up with that?
BLITZER: Not true. No one has pressured me. No one has threatened me. No one is trying to intimidate me.
CAFFERTY: They'd better not. I'll come down there.
BLITZER: No one has even called me to try to pressure me or anything like that.
CAFFERTY: Where do -- where does a silly thing like that come from?
BLITZER: I don't know. You know, I try to suspect that maybe some rival campaigns are trying to create a little mischief, try to get her embarrassed a little bit getting into the debate Thursday night, but I have no idea where it's coming from. I have no idea who generated this story, but I can tell you I have not felt any pressure whatsoever.
CAFFERTY: What about Drudge just rushing this thing right onto the website without knowing if it's true or not?
BLITZER: Well, that's another story.
CAFFERTY: Well, that's -- we may get into that at some point.
BLITZER: Maybe we will.