Joe Scarborough: "[I]t's outrageous that Chris Matthews has to apologize" for Hillary Clinton comments

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On January 18, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough said it was "outrageous that Chris Matthews ha[d] to apologize" following his January 9 comment, documented by Media Matters, in which he said that "the reason" Hillary Clinton is "a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around." By "apologize," Scarborough was referring to a statement Matthews made at the start of his January 17 show addressing the firestorm sparked by his earlier comments.

During the January 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough asserted that it was "outrageous that Chris Matthews has to apologize" for his January 9 comment, highlighted by Media Matters for America, in which Matthews said that "the reason" Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) is "a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around. That's how she got to be senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn't win there on her merit." Scarborough, in a discussion with co-host Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC correspondent David Shuster, and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, was referring to Chris Matthews' statement on the January 17 edition of MSNBC's Hardball responding to the firestorm sparked by his January 9 comment.

Matthews' original comment about Clinton was not aired during the discussion.

During the discussion, Brzezinski asserted:

BRZEZINSKI: I'm probably going to say something that's wildly unpopular with women, but what bothers me about this is that the websites isolated one portion of what he said and that was a conversation, and I was a part of that conversation, and I actually remember saying to him that of course if Laura Bush or if someone else was humiliated by their husband, they wouldn't win for Senate because they didn't have the qualifications, and Hillary Clinton had worked all of her life getting experience. But what Chris was saying --

SCARBOROUGH: And Chris agreed with you.

BRZEZINSKI: He agreed with me, and that was the conversation. But what he was saying, like in New Hampshire, there was a confluence of events including sympathy --

BUCHANAN: Right.

BRZEZINSKI: -- that led to her success, and there was nothing wrong with pointing that out. There was nothing wrong with it.

Brzezinski was apparently referring to her statement that "if Laura Bush was humiliated by her husband and then ran for Senate two years later, she would not win. Hillary Clinton laid the groundwork before she was victimized, before she was humiliated." However, she did not make that statement during the conversation in which Matthews first made his remarks on January 9, but rather two days later, on the January 11 edition of Morning Joe, during a telephone interview in which Matthews expanded on his original comment. While Matthews acknowledged on the January 11 Morning Joe that "[y]ou can argue a lot of factors" might have led to Clinton's election to the Senate, on January 9, Matthews said:

MATTHEWS: Look, I think that may be true. I think the Hillary appeal has always been somewhat about her mix of toughness and sympathy for her. Let's not forget -- and I'll be brutal -- the reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around. That's how she got to be senator from New York. We keep forgetting it.

She didn't win there on her merit. She won because everybody felt, "My God, this woman stood up under humiliation," right? That's what happened. That's how it happened. In 1998 she went to New York and campaigned for Chuck Schumer as almost like the grieving widow of absurdity, and she did it so well and courageously, but it was about the humiliation of Bill Clinton.

In response to Brzezinski's January 9 statement that Clinton "does have more than being a victim," Matthews did say "I agree," as Media Matters documented in the transcript of the original item.

Also on the January 18 edition of Morning Joe, Scarborough asserted that it was "outrageous" that "Chris Matthews has to apologize for saying something, inartfully perhaps, so many years later that op-ed writers were talking about in '99 and 2000 because Gloria Steinem, who wrote an op-ed supporting Hillary Clinton before New Hampshire, Media Matters, who many people have called a front group for Hillary Clinton, just because they're attacking Chris Matthews, who has obviously been critical of Hillary Clinton." In fact, while conservative commentators have asserted that Media Matters is a "front group for Hillary Clinton," Media Matters has repeatedly noted that it is an independent, nonprofit, progressive organization unaffiliated with any candidate or political party.

From the January 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: Hey Pat, I want to play you a clip of Chris Matthews last night. He talked at the top of Hardball. He's had NOW, Gloria Steinem, Media Matters, a lot of groups going after him, picketing him because of something he said on our show. I want to play you a quick clip of Chris from last night.

[begin video clip]

MATTHEWS: Was it fair to say that Hillary Clinton, like any great politician, took advantage of a crisis to prove herself? Was her conduct in 1998 a key to starting her independent electoral career the following year? Yes.

Was it fair to imply that Hillary's whole career depended on being a victim of an unfaithful husband? No. And that's what it sounded like I was saying and it hurt people I'd like to think normally like what I say, in fact, normally like me. As I said, I rely on my heart to guide me in the heated, fast-paced talk we have here on Hardball -- a heart that bears only goodwill toward people trying to make it out there, especially those who haven't before.

If my heart has not always controlled my words, on those occasions when I have not taken the time to say things right, or have simply said the inappropriate thing, I'll try to be clearer, smarter, more obviously in support of the right of women -- of all people -- the full equality and respect for their ambitions. So, I get it.

[end video clip]

SCARBOROUGH: Pat, I suppose I should guard my words here. I am not going to do it. This is offensive to me, that Chris Matthews said something that op-ed writers wrote about in '98, in '99, in 2000. That Bill Clinton scandal with Monica Lewinsky clearly helped Hillary Clinton politically because she showed enormous grace under fire, she showed just how strong she was, she continued doing her job. It was a very good moment for her. It was a bit like -- let's just say New Hampshire was a microcosm of that time, when she was getting abused last week. And we saw her the night before, when she thought she was going to lose by 15 points, she still showed an enormous strength -- and I've said this on the air before -- an enormous strength that I hope may be an example to my daughter, who -- or any woman who goes through so much -- so many problems but stays that strong.

Now, I've said all of that just to say, I think it's outrageous that Chris Matthews has to apologize for saying something, inartfully perhaps, so many years later that op-ed writers were talking about in '99 and 2000 because Gloria Steinem, who wrote an op-ed supporting Hillary Clinton before New Hampshire, Media Matters, who many people have called a front group for Hillary Clinton, just because they're attacking Chris Matthews, who has obviously been critical of Hillary Clinton. What's your take?

BUCHANAN: Well, let me say, look, I think you're exactly right. Hillary Rodham Clinton became for the American people for the first time a deeply sympathetic figure, not the sort of radical liberal she was perceived as being, when she stood up with grace under pressure under all that humiliation and frankly all that disgrace that was visited upon the presidency and upon her husband, and she handled herself exceedingly well, and that made her a sympathetic figure and was clearly an enormous boost to her when she decided to run for the Senate.

And frankly, I hope Chris was not forced to make any kind of statement like that or coerced. I do think what Chris said was very gracious in this sense: He seemed to say the only reason that she did well was because her husband was messing around. And I think Hillary Clinton -- frankly, I was astounded at how well she did running for the Senate, and she did go up to northern New York, that listening tour and talking to those people and taking the beating, and she did run a fine campaign, and she's been a fine United States senator from her standpoint, and those things have made her a prospective presidential candidate as well.

So what Chris said last night, I think was accurate. There were both things, were factors. But I do hope -- and I do agree with you. I hope nobody forced him to do that. And simply because Gloria Steinem or Media Matters or somebody else like that comes after you is no reason for anybody to apologize. It could be a badge of honor.

BRZEZINSKI. Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, it certainly has a chilling effect on what we do.

BRZEZINSKI: I'm probably going to say something that's wildly unpopular with women, but what bothers me about this is that the websites isolated one portion of what he said and that was a conversation, and I was a part of that conversation, and I actually remember saying to him that of course if Laura Bush or if someone else was humiliated by their husband, they wouldn't win for Senate because they didn't have the qualifications, and Hillary Clinton had worked all of her life getting experience. But what Chris was saying --

SCARBOROUGH: And Chris agreed with you.

BRZEZINSKI: He agreed with me, and that was the conversation. But what he was saying, like in New Hampshire, there was a confluence of events including sympathy --

BUCHANAN: Right.

BRZEZINSKI: -- that led to her success, and there was nothing wrong with pointing that out. There was nothing wrong with it.

SCARBOROUGH: And let me say, Pat, the reason I felt sorry for her personally -- personally, not as a reporter, but personally -- was because of some of the horrible things I thought her husband was saying about her on the campaign trail, and I've talked to a lot of men and a lot of women that felt the same way.

BRZEZINSKI: And she doesn't --

SCARBOROUGH: And we were like -- and we all said, "She deserves so much better than this."

BRZEZINSKI: She doesn't play the victim, but she happens to in some cases in time to have been one. It doesn't take away from her other qualities and her intellectual experience.

SCARBOROUGH: Pat?

BUCHANAN: You know, Joe, on the morning of New Hampshire, I came on before John Edwards came on your show, and you played that clip of Edwards saying, "You've got to be tough to be president," you know, about her sort of emotional moment, and I said it was graceless. And behind that was the sentiment that she had been beaten up in the debate, and she had gotten emotional at the end of a campaign. It looked like everything was slipping away.

And I think, just like I did and others did who are not Clintonites, felt a sympathy for her. The women of New Hampshire came to her rescue there. And there's no doubt about it: It was again a deeply sympathetic moment for her. And just as the 1988 -- I mean, '98-'99, so in those 48 hours before New Hampshire, I think that emotion came to her, and I think it was the winning factor. And to the degree that Chris reflected on that, I think he was accurate.

BRZEZINSKI: Mm-hmm.

SHUSTER: Just one comment about Chris Matthews. I've worked with him for five and a half years. I've been alongside him, on camera, off, good times and bad. Nobody is more gracious and has a bigger heart, and has contributed more in a positive way to our political discourse than Chris Matthews.

SCARBOROUGH: Now, let me say, let me say --

SHUSTER: And to see him have to go through this is absolutely infuriating, to see the way these groups used him for pure political gain is absolutely infuriating.

SCARBOROUGH: And let me say this also about Chris: He says things that drive me crazy. Some of the things he said on the war, on the president, on the vice president has made my face turn beet red, but you know what? I remembered what he said about the Democratic president 10 years earlier.

And again, it is so frightening. And I'll tell you what, Chris is hosting this show on Tuesday, and we're damn proud that he's doing that. The thing is, Pat, it seems that we live now in this media age, in this campaign where you've got groups like NOW, Gloria Steinem, Media Matters. They can take one clip out of a three-hour show and start putting pressure on journalistic operations, and this is what happens. It's terrible, isn't it?

BUCHANAN: The real danger, Joe, is not Chris Matthews, it is censorship.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, that's the bottom line.

SCARBOROUGH: It is censorship, and it's frightening.

BRZEZINSKI: And then at some point during the show, we do have to talk about Hillary on Tyra. I'm just saying. I'm just saying.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. Very good. And I know Pat will agree with me, there is nothing wrong with a political campaign using third parties to try to beat up, to try to push back reporters that are tough on them. I -- Buchanan and I, we tried to do the same thing before. That's fine. That's what they do. It is up to the news agencies to show backbone. Right, Chris -- right, Pat?

BUCHANAN: I agree 100 percent, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. This ain't about Hillary Clinton's campaign.

BRZEZINSKI: No, it's not.

SCARBOROUGH: This is about censorship. We'll be right back. Thank you, Pat. We'll be right back with Willie Geist and some news that you just can't use.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Gender, Elections
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.