Matthews falsely asserted the Clinton campaign made "three mentions of Obama's cocaine use"

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

On Hardball, Chris Matthews asserted that there have been "three mentions of Obama's cocaine use for political gain" by the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, citing former Clinton co-chair Billy Shaheen, chief strategist Mark Penn, and BET founder Bob Johnson as examples. But in only one of those cases -- Penn in an appearance on Hardball -- was the word "cocaine" used, and Penn was not the one who brought up the issue.

On the January 14 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, in introducing the program's "Big Number" segment, host Chris Matthews said: "[Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL] admits in his own memoir that he used cocaine when he was growing up. Even if you haven't read the book, you probably know about it from all kinds of sources, like the [Sen. Hillary Rodham] Clinton [D-NY] campaign." He later asserted: "Three -- three mentions of Obama's cocaine use for political gain. Three: tonight's 'Big Number.' " But in only one of the three cases Matthews mentioned was the word "cocaine" used -- during a December 13 appearance on Hardball by Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn -- and in that case, as Media Matters for America documented, Penn was not the one to bring up Obama's drug use.

The entire December 13 Hardball segment was devoted to controversial comments about Obama's past drug use by then-Clinton campaign co-chair Billy Shaheen. Shaheen had resigned earlier that day in the ensuing controversy. Matthews explicitly asked Penn at least three distinct questions about the topic, two of which directly referenced "drugs" or "drug use," and Penn offered at least two specific responses before he said "cocaine," which he said in direct response to Matthews' question about whether "going after his [Obama's] perhaps youthful drug use" is an "appropriate shot[] at the opponent or ... below the belt." Indeed, prior to using the word "cocaine," Penn had disavowed Shaheen's comments.

From the January 14 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: And, finally, it's time for the Hardball "Big Number" tonight. It's been coming all through this show. As you know by now, Barack Obama admits in his own memoir that he used cocaine when he was growing up. Even if you haven't read the book, you probably know about it from all kinds of sources, like the Clinton campaign.

Well, first, it was Billy Shaheen, Clinton's national co-chair, who brought up the cocaine issue. He resigned from the campaign afterward, but not before the damage had been done. Then it was campaign adviser Mark Penn who brought up the cocaine issue right here on Hardball.

Now, as we mentioned earlier in the show, it's influential Clinton backer and BET founder Bob Johnson who brought it up yet again. How many times is that in total? Three -- three mentions of Obama's cocaine use for political gain. Three: tonight's "Big Number." Will we hear four?

Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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