Matthews suggested his Clinton comment was an aberration, but he's been making similar remarks for years

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN & RYAN CHIACHIERE

On January 17, Chris Matthews addressed the firestorm sparked by his January 9 comment that "the reason" Sen. 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." Matthews said: "The truth, of course, is finer, smarter, larger than that" and suggested that in the course of "the heated, fast-paced talk we have here on Hardball," he did not "take[] the time to say things right" or "simply said the inappropriate thing." But contrary to his suggestion that his January 9 comments were an aberration, Matthews has repeatedly attributed Clinton's success to her status as "victim" of an adulterous husband.

On the January 17 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews addressed the firestorm sparked by his comment about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). On the January 9 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Matthews had said: "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." He continued: "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."

On January 17, he said of his remarks: "The truth, of course, is finer, smarter, larger than that." Citing "the heated, fast-paced talk we have here on Hardball," Matthews stated: "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."

From Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Some people whom I respect, politically concerned people like you who watch this show so faithfully every night, people like me who care about this country, think I've been disrespectful to Hillary Clinton, not as a candidate, but as a woman. They point to something I said on MSNBC's Morning Joe the morning after the New Hampshire primary, that her election to the U.S. Senate, and all that's come since, was a result of her toughness, but also the sympathy for her because her husband embarrassed her by the conduct that led to his impeachment, because he, in the words I used, "messed around."

The truth of course is finer, smarter, larger than that. Yes, Hillary Clinton won tremendous respect from the country for the way she handled those difficult months in 1998. Her public approval numbers spiked from the mid-40s up to the 70s in one poll I looked at.

Why? Because she stuck to her duty; she performed strongly as first lady. She did such a wow of a job campaigning for Senate candidates, especially Chuck Schumer of New York, that she was urged to run for a Senate seat there herself. She might have well gotten that far by another route and through different circumstances, but this is how it happened.

The rest is history: how Hillary went up to New York, listened to peoples' concerns, and beat the odds, as well as the Republicans, to become a respected member of the U.S. Senate. So, did I say it right? 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.

In his January 17 statement, Matthews said that it was not "fair to imply that Hillary's whole career depended on being a victim of an unfaithful husband." But, a Media Matters for America review of Matthews' previous statements about Clinton's successful campaign for the Senate shows that Matthews has repeatedly and consistently attributed Clinton's success to her status as "victim" of an adulterous husband. For example:

  • Most recently, while discussing Clinton's presidential campaign during the November 18, 2007, edition of the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, Matthews told BBC News Washington correspondent Katty Kay: "We know that Hillary Clinton succeeded as a victim after the whole mess with Monica [Lewinsky] and all. She gets to be elected senator. People of New York sort of cheered her on as the victim." He then asked: "Does victimization work for her?"
  • On the May 26, 2006, Hardball, Matthews led a panel discussion on whether the Clintons' "marriage [is] an issue" in Clinton's campaign. Tucker Carlson, host of MSNBC's Tucker, asserted: "I think it helps her. I mean, look, if he hadn't been exposed as a philanderer, would she be a United States senator?" Matthews, who did not challenge Carlson's claim, interjected, "Great question," before Carlson answered his own question: "No, of course not." Matthews then asked: "Will she continue to benefit as the victim of Bill Clinton's behavior, Tucker?"
  • On the May 21, 2006, Chris Matthews Show, Matthews and his guests discussed former Vice President Al Gore, who, at the time, was promoting his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and speculated about whether Gore was "thinking again about maybe running" for president. In response to NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory's statement that "I also think Democrats are pretty hard on those who lose," Matthews said: "But don't they identify with victims in the end? Identified with Hillary and gave her the Senate nomination in New York."
  • On the June 4, 2003, Hardball, Matthews led a discussion about Clinton's recently released autobiography, A Living History (Simon & Schuster, June 2003), with former Clinton press secretary Lisa Caputo, New York Post editor Fred Dickers, and former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA). In response to Caputo's assertion that "this Monica issue is one piece of her life history," Matthews said: "Why do you keep putting it down as one piece when everybody recognizes it, right, left, and center, that Monica, in her victimhood, if you'll accept it, is the reason she became the United States senator from New York. So why put it down as an inconsequential event? It was so consequential to the fact that she's standing there in the U.S. Senate right now." After Caputo disagreed that her husband's affair was the reason Clinton won her Senate seat, Matthews asked: "You mean her victimhood and the sympathy for her isn't the reason she went to New York in the first place and got all that good treatment?"

After Caputo again disagreed, Matthews said: "Let's try to get some other perspective. I have a different memory than you. I remember the fact that she campaigned for Schumer up there in 1998 to get out from the mess around the White House with Monica. And it was the sympathy for her and all those stops up there that launched her campaign. Besides, [Rep.] Charles Rangel [D-NY] and the other Democrats were desperate as hell to beat Rudy Giuliani. Let's go to Fred Dicker. ... [Y]ou covered that campaign, Fred. Was it the Monica mess and her victimhood there ... the key to her success in that campaign?" Dicker also disagreed, and Matthews replied: "I think your memory is faulty -- all you people. Go ahead, Bob Barr. I think she went up there as a sympathetic figure and she's still playing the sympathy card."

  • On the July 16, 2001, Hardball, Matthews hosted author Gail Sheehy to discuss her August 2001 Vanity Fair article on Clinton headlined, "Flying Solo." During the interview, Matthews said to Sheehy: "We have been in many places with many faces and many hairdos with Hillary," before asserting that Clinton was "the nation's favorite victim, and that got her a Senate seat."
  • On the February 21, 2001, Hardball, Matthews addressed reports that the Clintons denied knowledge that Hillary's brother, Hugh Rodham, was compensated for his involvement in "helping win the pardon of Almon Glenn Braswell." During the discussion with conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan and USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page, Matthews noted that Clinton had "just become a senator," adding, "[S]he deserves great credit for having the guts to run and to win." Later in the segment, Matthews again referred to Clinton's successful 2000 Senate campaign and asserted: "I'll bet you a nickel that they're [Bill and Hillary Clinton] going to try to play victim; that this is -- remember, Hillary got to the U.S. Senate playing victim, and she was, to a large extent." Matthews continued: "Can you think the president and the first lady can now say -- the former first lady, now senator from New York, can now say, 'We were harmed by our brother, and it's -- really, we're victims. We're all victims'?"
  • During the September 13, 2000, Hardball, then broadcast on CNBC, Matthews reported on that evening's debate between Clinton and then-Rep. Rick Lazio (R), as the two vied to become New York's next U.S. senator. During the debate, moderator Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press, aired a January 1998 clip of Clinton from NBC's Today, in which Clinton defended her husband against accusations that he had engaged in an extramarital affair and lied about his relationship with Lewinsky. Russert then asked of Clinton: "Regrettably it was proven true. Do you regret misleading the American people?" Of the exchange, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell stated: "I think that there is some possibility that viewers and voters will feel sympathetic to Mrs. Clinton. We know, Chris, that the American people are fed up with the whole impeachment mess. That's been proved over and over again in the polls. So I think that some people might feel that that was a little bit too tough a tactic."

Matthews later asked Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan: "What do you make of Andrea's comment that it may lead to some sympathy? After all, let's not forget why Hillary's in this race. She's in this race as a victim. ... That's why she got brought up there, why she had her first opening. People felt sorry for her in the way she was embarrassed."

  • On the May 25, 2000, Hardball, while discussing the Pentagon Inspector General's report regarding Linda Tripp with conservative radio host Lucianne Goldberg, Matthews cited "unintended consequences of the work that was done at your advice by Linda Tripp with Monica Lewinsky's unknowing participation," and stated: "[O]ne of the great ironies is that the person you mentioned earlier, Hillary Clinton, became something of a national victim and ... she went up to New York and became a sort of a Joan of Ark figure to a lot of liberals up there because she was somehow abused by their man."

Matthews continued: "But in some weird, perverted way, she somehow was a better person for this having happened to her and she raised herself up to the moral level of a senator from New York. This is not, of course, the first woman that Bill Clinton's tried to get a job in New York. He tried to get Monica a job in New York and now it looks like he's going to get Hillary a job in New York because of you. Talk about unintended consequences."

After Goldberg objected, Matthews asserted: "[I]f you had not built up Hillary Clinton as the first victim, she wouldn't be running for the Senate ahead of Lazio." Matthews later added: "Are you going to vote for Hillary Clinton? I have to ask. She's a victim. You exposed her victimhood but are you going to vote for her?"

  • On the May 11, 2000, Hardball, while discussing Clinton's New York Senate race with Noonan, Matthews said of "Hillary Clinton's career over the last couple of years": "When she was scorned by her husband, when she was the woman cheated upon in that weird mess of '98 and '99, she arose out of nowhere as a plausible candidate for the United States Senate from New York. In other words, her betrayal by her husband made her a credible political figure as a sort of woman trying to make it on her own now."

Matthews then referred to then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's "betrayal" of his then-wife Donna Hanover -- presumably referring to Giuliani's May 10, 2000, announcement that he intended to separate from Hanover, an announcement Hanover was reportedly unaware he was set to make -- and stated: "In other words, it was the two-creeps formula. First, Bill was the creep, and now Rudy's the creep. And in both cases, Hillary comes out as the hero. ... Do you see what I'm saying? The dual victimhood of Donna Hanover and Hillary Clinton have led to Hillary Clinton's almost inevitable election to the Senate now."

  • During a discussion of Clinton on the July 8, 1999, Hardball, Matthews asserted: "I cannot imagine a male going to a state he's never lived in and saying, 'Make me your U.S. senator because my wife's been cheating on me.' " Matthews continued: "I mean, it's hilarious, but isn't that her main claim, that she's the victim of the year?" He later added: "Now it's an election -- it's a bumper sticker. 'My husband cheated on me, make me senator.' "

The following day on Hardball, Matthews asked:

MATTHEWS: I mean, what has she done? Let me just ask you a blunt question. What has she done? Has she ever passed a significant piece of legislation? Has she ever had a job? Has she ever won an Oscar? Has she ever written a book that she wrote herself? Has she ever actually done anything except as she put it, be a quote, "tireless advocate," whatever that is?

His guest, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, identified in the Nexis database as a "jury consultant," asserted: "Well, you know, Chris, what her biggest advantage is right now is she stood by a philandering man for years." Matthews responded by repeating, "Right. She -- OK. 'My husband cheated on me, make me your senator.' "

From the January 17 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Good evening, I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to Hardball. Well, we're in a time of a lot of frustration in this country -- Iraq, of course; the lack of health care for people who work every day; gas prices going up; the weakening economy that scares us every day -- and I come on here every night and try to wrestle with these frustrations, and also the changes in our country. We might soon have the first woman president, the first African-American president, or a man older than we've ever elected before. And of course, we always treat things here with hope -- our uniquely American hope that we can actually make things better, that we can make the greatest of countries, not only survive, but as [author] William Faulkner once said, "prevail."

In the midst of talking about all of this -- almost always without a script, and almost always on tricky subjects of gender and race, and right and left, and what's in our country's interest, and who I think is telling the truth, and who I think isn't -- I know I'm dealing with sensitive feelings. I've accepted all of this as part of the business I have chosen. This program, I am proud to say, is tough, fearless, and yes, blunt. I want people to react when I say something. I don't like saying things so carefully, so politically correctly, that no one thinks they even said anything.

What I've always counted on in all the wild, speeded-up conversations on Hardball, and elsewhere on television, is my good heart. I've always felt that no matter how tough I got, how direct, how provocative -- how purposely provocative -- people out there watching would know I was not out against them, that it was them I was rooting for, that while I was tough on individuals who sought to lead the country, I was not against the hopes we all have for a fair shake, in fact, a better deal for people who have been held back before we came along.

Some people whom I respect, politically concerned people like you who watch this show so faithfully every night, people like me who care about this country, think I've been disrespectful to Hillary Clinton, not as a candidate, but as a woman. They point to something I said on MSNBC's Morning Joe the morning after the New Hampshire primary, that her election to the U.S. Senate, and all that's come since, was a result of her toughness, but also the sympathy for her because her husband embarrassed her by the conduct that led to his impeachment, because he, in the words I used, "messed around."

The truth of course is finer, smarter, larger than that. Yes, Hillary Clinton won tremendous respect from the country for the way she handled those difficult months in 1998. Her public approval numbers spiked from the mid-40s up to the 70s in one poll I looked at.

Why? Because she stuck to her duty; she performed strongly as first lady. She did such a wow of a job campaigning for Senate candidates, especially Chuck Schumer of New York, that she was urged to run for a Senate seat there herself. She might have well gotten that far by another route and through different circumstances, but this is how it happened.

The rest is history: how Hillary went up to New York, listened to peoples' concerns, and beat the odds, as well as the Republicans, to become a respected member of the U.S. Senate. So, did I say it right? 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.

On the particular point, if I had said that the only reason [Sen.] John McCain [R-AZ] has come so far is that he got shot down over North Vietnamese -- by North Vietnam, and captured by the enemy, I'd be brutally ignoring the courage and guts he showed in bearing up under his captivity. Saying that Senator Clinton got where she's got simply because her husband did what he did to her is just as callous, and I can see now, it comes across just as nasty, worse yet, just as dismissive.

Finally -- as if anyone doesn't know this -- I love politics. I love politicians. I like and respect people with the guts to put their name, their very being out there for public approval so that they can lead our country. And that goes for Hillary and [Sen.] Barack [Obama (D-IL)] and John and all the rest who are willing to fight to take on the toughest job in the world.

So, let's get on with the show. Whoa.

From the November 18, 2007, broadcast of the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show:

MATTHEWS: Well, Dan, is there -- she used to talk about having a vast right-wing conspiracy out to get her. Are they now doing just that?

DAN RATHER (HDNet Global Correspondent): Yes, but that doesn't mean it's smart for her to complain about it. I do think, Chris, is that there's another side to this. By mocking her, making her the centerpiece, number one, it indicates these Republicans are really worried that perhaps she could win an election, so they're starting to rip her up early on.

Number two, every time somebody tries to mock her or, for that matter, go low-road with her, women who are independent voters or swing voters, you can almost hear them saying, "You know, they're picking on her because she's a woman, picking on her because she's a girl." I would think if I were in somebody's campaign, I'd be very careful about being too harsh on her for fear that you'd pay the price with women voters.

MATTHEWS: Michele, you're shaking your head.

MICHELE NORRIS (National Public Radio host): Well, you know, because mockery is something that may not go over well with the American people. I mean, what we saw in those clips are sober reminders that a vote for the other guy might not be smart. In this case, these are sort of gleeful, you know, gleefully going after the perceived Democratic front-runner. It may cut both ways with women, though, because on some hand, you know, women feel personally stung when they see that these candidates are all piling on Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, you know, one of the strange things about this is that women see themselves sometimes in Hillary Clinton and they think, "If she were to become president, and if they're piling on her now, imagine what happens if she's in the Oval Office. If she stumbles, we might all fall." So --

RATHER: I hadn't thought of that.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, that is so complicated.

Katty, a couple of things: First of all, just look at the records without getting into the intangibles too much. We know that Hillary Clinton succeeded as a victim after the whole mess with Monica and all. She gets to be elected senator. People of New York sort of cheered her on as the victim. Does victimization work for her?

KAY: You know, this is so complicated. I keep trying to think, "What do I feel about Hillary as a woman? What do I feel about her as a candidate?" You almost have to try and separate the two out because there are attacks on her that are legitimate for her policies, or her waffling of policies. And then there are attacks on her that maybe are coming about because she's a woman, and you -- I'm -- as a woman -- I'm trying to clarify what I feel about it.

I think the victim thing is -- does seem to be working. You've had this sort of feminist backlash against us and you can't play the victim card. You can't on the one hand say, "I'm a strong woman," and then say, "but actually I'm also a little girl and please don't attack me."

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

KAY: You can't have it both ways. But I suspect that a majority of voters don't consider themselves staunch feminists, and they're going to side, as Michele was suggesting, with the feeling that, "Don't pick on her like this. We don't like to see another woman being bullied in this way."

MATTHEWS: This, Howard --

RATHER: The never-ending --

MATTHEWS: Howard, of all the things we've ever talked about, you and I, over the years, this is the most complicated, and especially among the women we work with, our colleagues here. It is so -- I listen to it, and I don't get it. I see women who I've always thought were progressive on the issues, certainly feminists, who I would assume would be just taking a swan dive for Hillary, totally in love with her. It would be Thelma & Louise, "Let's go over the cliff together," even. And yet they're going, "You know, there's something I want to think about here."

HOWARD FINEMAN (Newsweek senior Washington correspondent): Well, her candidacy is historic, and it is complicated, and she's being shot at from all directions. She's got to do two things. She's got to show a sense of humor and show that she can live in this new world, in this new situation that she's helped to create. And she also has to counter the notion that she can't unify the country. There's a danger for her here of this becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you look at the polls, people want to unify the country. They want a unifying figure to bring change. If it's just a matter of her being attacked and attacked and attacked, and she attacks back, she fulfills the prophecy that she can't unify the country. She needs to take this big stage and embrace it somehow and not just react to it..

From the May 26, 2006, edition of Hardball:

MATTHEWS: I see we're changing the subject again. Is the question of their marriage an issue or not in this campaign?

CARLSON: Of course it's an issue.

CRAIG CRAWFORD (Congressional Quarterly columnist): Oh, absolutely. I mean, that's a given to me that it's an issue.

CARLSON: But I think it helps her. I mean, look, if he hadn't been exposed as a philanderer, would she be a United States senator?

MATTHEWS: Great question.

CARLSON: No, of course not.

MATTHEWS: Will she continue to benefit as the victim of Bill Clinton's behavior, Tucker?

CARLSON: Exactly. That's -- as Margaret Carlson famously said, nobody has every benefited more from sexual favors she herself did not dispense than Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Oh, can't beat that. What a weekend that's coming.

CARLSON: It's true.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Tucker. Thank you, Norah. I like the way Norah stays very prim when that --

[laughter]

MATTHEWS: It's so outrageous to stay --

O'DONNELL: I cracked.

MATTHEWS: -- when we all have to look at that --

O'DONNELL: I cracked.

MATTHEWS: There he goes, "Me too." Craig Crawford, thank you.

From the May 21, 2006, edition of The Chris Matthews Show:

MATTHEWS: And right now, Gore is out promoting his new movie coming out this week on the threat of global warning. Joe, is he back? Is he back thinking again about maybe running?

JOE KLEIN (Time columnist): I think he's thinking about maybe running. He's out promoting a movie, but I think he's going to take step-by-step-by-step. He's the darling of the left, especially the Internet left now. If he sees this continuing over the next six months, I think he'll be there.

MATTHEWS: The backdrop seems to have changed. The war's turned very unpopular; a majority of the people now clearly say it was a mistake to go; Hillary Clinton still in the pro-war camp vaguely, somewhere over there. Does this create an opportunity on the left of Hillary in the Democratic Party that could end up being the explosive winner of the nomination?

KAY: Well, I think this is exactly what Al Gore's people are saying, and it's interesting that he has people around him. You always wonder when people have people around them whether that means they're going to run for president one day. But they will tell you that the country has changed, that the ideas that Al Gore was talking about back in 2000, global warming -- that he's talked about since particularly the Iraq war -- that Al Gore is now looking more credible on those issues that perhaps people didn't buy into in 2000.

So, there's been a change of climate in the country. And I also think people are going to start wondering whether Hillary is as electable as they may have thought. There's not just the issue of the Iraq war, which is becoming increasingly popular -- unpopular, and Karl Rove was right when he said it is all about Iraq. But there's also the fact that she's a woman, and I don't think we should underestimate the extent to which that's going to be a challenge for her come the primaries in '08.

GREGORY: I do think that there's some frustration in -- among Democrats that Hillary Clinton is running kind of a general election campaign already before she's gotten the nomination, and Al Gore's got the credibility, foreign policy experience, been opposed to the war for a long time, connected with the so-called netroots with the Internet and all of that. But I also think Democrats are pretty hard on those who lose, and he's been running for president for a long time.

MATTHEWS: But don't they identify with victims in the end? Identified with Hillary and gave her the Senate nomination in New York. They tend to love Adlai Stevenson more than anybody 'cause he lost twice. Isn't there a part --

GREGORY: I think there's a lot of --

MATTHEWS: -- of the Democrats that go back and say -- well, let me ask you the harder question you raised.

GREGORY: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: The Democratic Party, four out of five are totally against this war. Hillary Clinton's not against the war. She's somewhere vaguely for it. Isn't that an opportunity -- doesn't somebody have to carry that anti-war banner in the Democratic Party?

GREGORY: Well, I think somebody does, but I still think that the Democratic Party has to -- is going to have to go through these pains of the progressive wing and a lot of other disaffected Democrats who want to get back in power. And they want to do that by finding a way to actually show they can be tough on these matters.

From the June 4, 2003, edition of Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Lisa Caputo was Hillary Clinton's press secretary. Fred Dickers with The New York Post, and Bob Barr is a former Republican congressman from Georgia. Laci, you're a loyalist, but you are a smart person. Thank you for coming on tonight to talk about this. It seems to me -- let's get this off our backs right away -- that Hillary Clinton wants to prepare herself to run for president. Is that your understanding?

CAPUTO: No. It's not my understanding. In fact, anybody who has followed Hillary Clinton and what she said publicly and privately, she's been adamant about this. She's not running for president. In fact, she's really found her niche as a Senator, and I think it's a real testimonial that we've heard from Senators on both sides of the aisle who have praised her work in the Senate that she's coming --

MATTHEWS: Why won't she say that? When I asked her, "Would you rule out running in 2008?" She said no. She said I have no plans to run. She gave us the usual caveat.

CAPUTO: Well, that's a no.

MATTHEWS: I told her I have no plans to go to Australia in 2008, but I might go.

CAPUTO: I think that's a no, Chris. I mean, you know --

[crosstalk]

MATTHEWS: That's a no?

CAPUTO: Yes. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: It doesn't sound like it to me.

CAPUTO: Absolutely --

MATTHEWS: So you say she's not running for president. This book is not an attempt to clear the decks, to decouple herself from her former husband and the problem of Monica.

CAPUTO: No. This book is a memoir. And this Monica issue is one piece of her life history. It's one piece that, fortunately or unfortunately, the AP has chose to put out on the wire. And what you have here is --

[crosstalk]

MATTHEWS: Why do you keep putting it down as one piece when everybody recognizes it, right, left, and center, that Monica, in her victimhood, if you'll accept it, is the reason she became the United States senator from New York. So why put it down as an inconsequential event? It was so consequential to the fact that she's standing there in the U.S. Senate right now.

CAPUTO: I'm not putting it down as an inconsequential event. But it is not the event that got her elected to the Senate, Chris. Come on, you been in --

[crosstalk]

MATTHEWS: It's not?

CAPUTO: Absolutely not.

MATTHEWS: You mean her victimhood and the sympathy for her isn't the reason she went to New York in the first place and got all that good treatment?

CAPUTO: Absolutely not. In fact, she got elected with the largest vote upstate, I believe, in history of a democrat. And now, after two years in the Senate, I think her record speaks for itself. She's sponsored over 200 measures in the Senate with members on the other side. She is a bipartisan --

MATTHEWS: Let's try to get some other perspective. I have a different memory than you. I remember the fact that she campaigned for Schumer up there in 1998 to get out from the mess around the White House with Monica. And it was the sympathy for her and all those stops up there that launched her campaign. Besides, Charles Wrangle and the other Democrats were desperate as hell to beat Rudy Giuliani. Let's go to Fred Dicker.

CAPUTO: She's just a good candidate.

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton, you covered that campaign, Fred. Was it the Monica mess and her victimhood there from the key to her success in that campaign?

DICKER: I don't think it was, as much as I'm uncomfortable disagreeing with you, Chris. I think the sentence, at the time, and it's the sense now that Hillary Clinton won because Rick Lazio, the Republican, was so bad; and also, Hillary Clinton was clearly the strong liberal Democrat in the race who was very articulate and impressive and had a cache as the first lady that Rick Lazio couldn't match.

So it was a combination of things to the extent that she was getting sympathy, I would think, and I know, it was from her base already, Democrats who were inclined to vote Democratic anyway.

MATTHEWS: I think your memory is faulty, all you people. Go ahead, Bob Barr. I think she went up there as a sympathetic figure and she's still playing the sympathy card.

From the July 16, 2001, edition of Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Hillary, because you're a student of Hillary. I know you're a student of Hillary, because you really are interested in this woman. First of all, do you like her?

SHEEHY: I think that's irrelevant.

MATTHEWS: Well, do you like her personally?

SHEEHY: Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. But I really have to say that I was surprised in following her for the last three months at how good a politician she is. Because, as you know, at the beginning of her Senate campaign, she was appalling. But she had fitted into this collegial body like nobody's business. She is one of the boys.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's talk about that new incarnation. We have been in many places with many faces and many hairdos with Hillary. One of the first persons we met was the two for the price of one. She was going to be like William and Mary, only William and Hillary going to roll the country. That went away because she said she didn't want to make cookies and she changed her mind.

Then she became the Tammy Wynette, gee whiz, I'm just here to stand by my man. And then she was the triumphant health expert of the country acting like a super Cabinet member. And then she was the nation's favorite victim, and that got her a Senate seat. Is this just another phase, another look, another incarnation?

SHEEHY: No, this is it. This is it. Her friends say this is Hillary as she was before she met Bill. This is Hillary who can be warm, funny, fun, collegial, even deferential. I mean, she sat at the foot of Senator [Robert] Byrd [D-WV] and took Byrd lessons before she was even inaugurated. She shmoozes with the Republicans, with conservative Republicans. She co-sponsors bills with them. She gets people on television, she gets coverage in The New York Times for senators, she -- where she shows up for their press conferences. You know, she's become quite the popular figure in the U.S. Senate.

MATTHEWS: Has she washed that man out of her hair yet?

SHEEHY: No, their marriage seems to be cozier than ever. I followed them down to the Dominican Republic when they went on a sneak-away vacation, alone together for the first time in who knows how many years, and they were very cozy, sleeping on the beach together and staying in the same room and going out with couples every night and staying up and having dinner until 12, 1 o'clock in the morning, really having a great time together.

From the February 21, 2001, edition of Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Well, the beat goes on. According to the Associated Press story earlier this evening, Bill Clinton's brother-in-law, that's Hugh Rodham -- that's Hillary's brother -- received about $200,000 for successfully lobbying for a pardon and a prison commutation that the former president did grant on the last day in office. That's an Associated Press story. The money has been returned now, according to the story. Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who's the--obviously, the sister of the guy who got the money for the deal--said yesterday--said Wednesday that they were unaware of the arrangements with Hugh Rodham, obviously. They said they had asked him to return the money and were deeply dismayed by what had happened.

Rodham is the brother of Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton. He returned the money in the past 24 hours, according to sources familiar with the arrangement. The sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Rodham, Hugh Rodham -- that's Hillary's brother -- was paid for months of work on the prison commutation request of Carlos Vignali and received a success fee for helping him win the pardon of Almon Glenn Braswell. All of this is an Associated Press story.

We've got Susan Page joining us here from USA Today. We've got Andrew Sullivan of The New Republic. Friends in journalism, another block -- another blockbuster scoop here. AP reports that the president's brother-in-law got 200K for getting pardons for a couple of guys. This is the heart of the hurricane again, isn't it?

PAGE: You know, we've only gone through about seven people on this pardon list of 140. Goodness knows what we'll find by the time we do the -- the other people [unintelligible]. It's really a story that's had incredible legs.

SULLIVAN: There's a wonderful Mike Kelly quote about, "With the Clintons, there is always a fresh hell and never a bottom." And we're just going through the stories one by one by one by one by one down.

MATTHEWS: I said this the other day, Andrew and Susan. Every day the Clintons make it feel more like we're living in the Philippines. It just has that aspect: a special interest booty, family relationships now, deals, money, pardons.

SULLIVAN: But the question is: Why is it only after he's left office that the entire Democratic Party has suddenly realized that this is the modus operandi of this guy?

MATTHEWS: Why? Only when you pick up the rock do you see the bug --

SULLIVAN: This is how he's behaving all the way through.

MATTHEWS: -- life underneath.

SULLIVAN: Well, may --

MATTHEWS: The rock is up; we're looking at the bug life now.

SULLIVAN: The rock has been up for a very long time. What's different now is the man doesn't have power and patronage, and so people can get at him. And because he's been disloyal, basically, to everybody else in his administration, there's no residual loyalty to the man himself. There was only loyalty to the power he wielded. So I think --

MATTHEWS: Do you realize now that there is a person who lives in this country named Hugh Rodham who took advantage, apparently, of his sister, who's a senator -- who's just become a senator -- and then she deserves great credit for having the guts to run and to win. She had -- he has an ex-president who's his brother-in-law. They have turkey dinner together, and while all this is going on -- they spend Christmas together probably -- and while all this was going on, he was pulling in 200K -- thousand dollars to work a couple of these pardons. You gotta wonder about all the other presidential friends and what they did to get these. Look at the list. They were all friends of friends, right?

SULLIVAN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Or clients of friends or friends of clients.

SULLIVAN: And -- and the saying goes, you know, the fish rots from the head down. There was an atmosphere spread from the very top that if you can get away with it, try it. And that's exactly the atmosphere we had from the very beginning. The very first weeks of this administration eight years ago, suddenly we all realized people are getting appointed because of their money connections.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Well, we know it's going to be on top of the newspaper. Every newspaper you pick up tomorrow morning is going to have this headline, and here it is now live: "Bill Clinton's brother-in-law received about $200,000 for successfully lobbying for a pardon and a prison commutation that the former president granted on his last day in office." The Associated Press has learned the money has now been returned. Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, said Wednesday -- that's today -- they were unaware of the arrangements with Hugh Rodham -- that's her brother. They said they had asked him to return the money and were deeply dismayed by what had happened.

So, apparently, the brother didn't want to give the money back, they had to tell him to do it, which is kind of a little slow mo here. Rodham, brother of Mrs. Clinton, returned the money in the past 24 hours, according -- that's all -- that's why they haven't broken this story. They just gave the money back, according to sources familiar with the arrangement. The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Rodham -- that's Hillary's brother -- was paid for months of work on the prison commutation request of Carlos Vignali and received a success fee for helping win the pardon of Almon Glenn Braswell.

Well, there's a lot of information here in this short story. Susan, you great journalist you, you can analyze it here. This money was only returned in the last 24 hours. These pardons were given a month ago. The president and his wife learned about it sometime before yesterday because they had been, obviously, importuning the brother to give the money back. He's finally given it back. The president has been aware -- or the ex-president and the senator from New York, in other words, have known for at least some time that this scam was afoot; that they were victims of it, or at least collaborators in -- unintentionally. And now the money's back, so they can put out the press story, "It's all dealt with." Is it all dealt with, Andrew?

SULLIVAN: Of course not. I mean, the fact that they haven't said anything about it, the fact that they -- it -- it's classic. They -- they know -- they've always had this strategy of, "It's not true, it's not true, it's not true. It's old news." That's always been their strategy of dealing with scandal. So, "Delay, delay don't say it, don't say it. Give the money back. Now it's all done, it's all over. We're dismayed. It's happened. The money's been returned. No scandal." And only now do they not have that press operation, that spin operation, to keep this going.

MATTHEWS: I'll bet you a -- I'll bet you a nickel that they're going to try to play victim; that this is -- remember, Hillary got to the U.S. Senate playing victim, and she was, to a large extent. Can you think the president and the first lady can now say -- the former first lady, now senator from New York, can now say, "We were harmed by our brother, and it's -- really, we're victims. We're all victims"?

PAGE: Do you have any siblings, Chris?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: Because, you know, they can be kind of troublesome. But to pick up on what Andrew said, I think there's something else that they used to do when they -- when the president was actually in the White House, which is to change the subject. So there'd be a scandal, and he'd talk about education. And the problem is now that he's not in the White House, it is harder for him to change the subject, and the glare is pretty unrelenting, the scrutiny, when it comes to pardons.

From the September 13, 2000, edition of Hardball:

MITCHELL: It was -- it was about as tough a debate as can be. Rick Lazio was aggressive. He was tough. You saw the -- him approach Hillary Clinton demand that she sign an immediate deal to forgo all soft money. She tried to say, 'Well, will you also forgo independent groups putting on nasty campaign advertisements on radio and television?' But he persisted. He walked over to her very aggressively, as I say, Chris, and had -- he pulled out of his pocket a -- a letter and said, "Sign it. Sign it right now."

I mean, that was one of the highlights. Another highlight was, frankly, Tim Russert playing for Mrs. Clinton that painful moment on the Today program back two years ago when she denied that her husband had misbehaved and said that it was a vast right-wing conspiracy and --

MATTHEWS: Andrea?

MITCHELL: -- asked Mrs. Clinton point-blank whether she felt sorry that she had misled the American people.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's look at that moment in tonight's debate for those who didn't catch the debate --

MITCHELL: Good.

MATTHEWS: -- tonight outside New York state. Here's Tim Russert really hitting her with a hardball. Here it comes.

[begin video clip]

RUSSERT: In January of '98 you went on the Today show and talked about what had occurred at the White House. I want to play that for you and our viewers and our voters and give you a chance to respond.

[excerpt from Today]

MATT LAUER (co-host): So these charges came as big a shock to you as anyone.

CLINTON: And too my husband. I mean, you know, he woke me up Wednesday morning and said, 'You're not going to believe this.'

LAUER: So when people say there's a lot of smoke here, your message is where there's smoke --

CLINTON: There isn't any fire.

LAUER: If an American president had an adulterous liaison in the White House and lied to cover it up, should the American people ask for his resignation?

CLINTON: Well, they should certainly be concerned about it.

LAUER: Should they ask for his resignation?

CLINTON: Well, I think that -- if all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true.

[end of excerpt]

RUSSERT: Regrettably it was proven true. Do you regret misleading the American people? And secondly, at that -- in that same interview you said that those are criticizing the president were part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Amongst those eventually criticizing the president were Joe Lieberman. Would you now apologize for branding people as part as a vast right-wing conspiracy?

CLINTON: Well, you know, Tim, that was a very painful time for me, for my family and for our country. It is something that I regret deeply that anyone had to go through. And I wish that we all could look at it from the perspective of history but we can't yet. We're going to have to wait until those books are written. But from my perspective, you know, I -- very hopeful that we can go forward in a united way. That certainly is what I've tried to do.

[end video clip]

MATTHEWS: Andrea, your take on that response. It was definitely a dramatic moment of the evening.

MITCHELL: Well, I think that there is some possibility that viewers and voters will feel sympathetic to Mrs. Clinton. We know, Chris, that the American people are fed up with the whole impeachment mess. That's been proved over and over again in the polls. So I think that some people might feel that that was a little bit too tough a tactic. But overall, Rick Lazio kept portraying himself as a native New Yorker, kept pointing to her record in Arkansas rather than her record as first lady to try to make it clear that she really is from out-of-state. He was the local guy, he was a fighter, and I think he did a very effective job of undermining her claim to legitimacy here in New York state.

MATTHEWS: So it's a battle between his pugnacity and her attempted calm. Do you think she came across as well in the room -- she certainly seemed very calm on television. Did you sense that she was well-possessed -- as self-possessed as she spoke from the podium tonight?

MITCHELL: Yes, she was. I mean, her control and her discipline are extraordinary. I was watching her very closely and she did not flinch despite all of these deeply troubling and personal attacks. And I think she was very substantive. It was a substantive debate. They talked about the brain drain, the economic problem here in western New York state. They had competing visions on education. She criticized the schoolteachers union, which is, you know, among her biggest supporters because they are on an illegal strike here in the city of Buffalo. So she took tough stands. They both were asked about Jonathan Pollard, the convicted spy who has been jailed. And as you know, the Jewish community in New York state, many of them, want that man out and she has been waffling a bit on that. So there were tough questions on a lot of substantive issues. But as you say, the power of the emotional hit that she took when the whole issue of the Lewinsky scandal came up and of her performance in defending her husband was clearly the overriding moment.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News up in Buffalo.

[...]

MATTHEWS: I appreciate that. Let's go to Rick Lazio's reaction to that very tough question that Tim gave to Mrs. Clinton about her reaction to the news -- or the word that the president had that relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

LAZIO [video clip]: And I think that, frankly, what's so troubling here with respect to what my opponent just said is somehow that it only matters what you say when you get caught. And character and trust is about well more than that. In blaming others, every time you have responsibility -- unfortunately, that's become a pattern, I think, for my opponent. And it's something that I reject and I believe that New Yorkers reject.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of Andrea's comment that it may lead to some sympathy? After all, let's not forget why Hillary's in this race. She's in this race as a victim.

NOONAN: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: That's why she got brought up there, why she had her first opening. People felt sorry for her in the way she was embarrassed.

NOONAN: Yes. Christopher, I agree with you. There was a big sympathy bounce, as they say, back two years ago. I gotta tell you, Mrs. Clinton hasn't had to answer questions about the tough and even mean things she said at that time about those who were telling the truth. Tonight she was forced to answer. Does that make people feel sorry for her? I gotta tell you, I think the whole stream of 'I feel sorry for her' is over. I think she tried to play the victim card, she got the stricken look. She talked about how it had hurt her and her family. I don't think it works anymore. I don't think people buy it.

MATTHEWS: Well, I'm still waiting for her to apologize to the journalists who had the story straight and she had it wrong.

NOONAN: Yes. That's right. She never had to and --

MATTHEWS: She never will, probably.

From the May 25, 2000, edition of Hardball:

MATTHEWS: That was Linda Tripp on July 28th, 1998, following her testimony before the grand jury about her role in secretly taping some 20 hours of phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky. The state of Maryland yesterday dropped its wiretap case against Tripp when prosecutors were unable to prove that Tripp recorded the conversation without Lewinsky's consent.

Joining me from New York is radio talk show host Lucianne Goldberg of Lucianne.com, who urged Tripp to tape record her phone calls with Lewinsky. Lucianne, thanks for coming back.

GOLDBERG: Thank you for asking me, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Before I go any further, I have to talk about this big story that's just moving on the wires this afternoon as we begin the program. Linda Tripp's privacy rights were violated by some top officials at the Pentagon, that finding by the Pentagon's inspector general is being made public today. The report concludes that the public affairs officials at the Pentagon violated the Privacy Act by releasing information from Tripp's personal file to a reporter in 1998.They received a reprimand for that today, apparently, according to this news story. Is that enough?

GOLDBERG: Well, certainly I don't think so and I don't speak for Linda, but I can't imagine she thinks so. They went to a great deal of trouble on instructions from, in my opinion from Hillary, to find something in her file that combined with Jane Mayer, a reporter from The New Yorker magazine, digging around, they went all the way back to when she was 19 years old and found, you know, a phony charge and used that to vilify her. And I think most people would have had done this, got, it was in another administration, particularly a Republican one, these people would have been fired a long time ago. As it is, [then-Defense] Secretary [William] Cohen said that they're -- what did he say? That they were hasty and ill considered.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Linda Tripp is going go get away with doing the taping of her friend, Monica Lewinsky, and giving it to federal authorities. Do you think the end justifies the means, however, morally speaking, that it was a moral thing for her to do, for her to give this to the authorities?

GOLDBERG: Well, I certainly think it's moral to protect yourself, and this was the only way that Linda Tripp could do it, and I think she would do it again in a heartbeat, and so would I.

MATTHEWS: Because?

GOLDBERG: Because --

MATTHEWS: How did she need to -- just remind us, why did she need to drop this tape or tape record these conversations to protect herself?

GOLDBERG: Because she was being pressured by the president through Monica Lewinsky, his girlfriend, to lie to the Paula Jones lawyers. It was that simple. And when she came to me she said, "I don't know how to protect myself." I said, "Do you have pictures, do you have witnesses, do you have anybody that'll stick up for you?" And she said, "No." And so I said, "Well, you'd better get a tape recording because that's the only thing anybody's going to believe."

MATTHEWS: You know, there's a law, I think it's Mark Shields, the journalist, who talks about the law of unintended consequences. One of the unintended consequences of the work that was done at your advice by Linda Tripp with Monica Lewinsky's unknowing participation was to embarrass this president so severely and to jeopardize his legal situation so severely that he would be impeached, he would come very close to being convicted and removed from the presidency. But one of the great ironies is that the person you mentioned earlier, Hillary Clinton, became something of a national victim and she was, she went up to New York and became a sort of a Joan of Arc figure to a lot of liberals up there because she was somehow abused by their man.

But in some weird, perverted way, she somehow was a better person for this having happened to her and she raised herself up to the moral level of a senator from New York. This is not, of course, the first woman that Bill Clinton's tried to get a job in New York. He tried to get Monica a job in New York and now it looks like he's going to get Hillary a job in New York because of you. Talk about unintended consequences.

GOLDBERG: Whoa. Talk about spin on spin, Chris.

MATTHEWS: If you had not built up, if you had not built up Hillary Clinton as the first victim, she wouldn't be running for the Senate ahead of Lazio, it looks like two points right now.

GOLDBERG: Well, she would have found another way to do it. I think they're very clever at being able to spin their circumstances and this is one of them. I don't think she has "raised herself," to quote you, to the moral equivalent of a U.S. senator. She ain't there yet and I don't think she's getting there.

MATTHEWS: Are you a voter in New York, Lucianne?

GOLDBERG: Yes, I am.

MATTHEWS: Are you going to vote for Hillary Clinton? I have to ask. She's a victim. You exposed her victimhood, but are you going to vote for her?

GOLDBERG: Yes, I feel so sorry for her that I'm going to vote for her. No. Of course not. I'm going to vote for Rick Lazio. He's adorable and I think he's going to win.

MATTHEWS: Well, there's two job-seekers in New York, Hillary and Monica. Monica's on that fat diet or whatever she's doing up there.

GOLDBERG: Oh, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Isn't she?

GOLDBERG: Don't be unkind.

MATTHEWS: She's getting paid a huge amount of money to lose weight. Let me ask you this, have you bumped into either of these gentle ladies, Monica or Hillary, in New York?

GOLDBERG: No. I went to Hillary's announcement up in Purchase, New York. I love the name of that town for her announcement. And I have not, no, I have not seen my -- New York is a big city.

MATTHEWS: Why would you go to something like that, being an adversary?

GOLDBERG: Well, I now have a radio show and a very popular news forum website, and I have to go to those things.

From the May 11, 2000, edition of Hardball:

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a couple things. Dramatically speaking, there's two fascinating points in Hillary Clinton's career over the last couple of years.

NOONAN: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: When she was scorned by her husband, when she was the woman cheated upon in that weird mess of '98 and '99, she arose out of nowhere as a plausible candidate for the United States Senate from New York. In other words, her betrayal by her husband made her a credible political figure as a sort of woman trying to make it on her own now. Now the betrayal by Donna Hanover of her husband -- by her husband, Rudy Giuliani. In other words, it was the two-creeps formula. First, Bill was the creep, and now Rudy's the creep. And in both cases, Hillary comes out as the hero. It's -- the winner. This is really -- you gotta wonder back again, are the Clintons God's favorite children, or are they the devil? I mean, their -- their luck is so unusual, you have to explain it somehow mystically, don't you, Peggy?

NOONAN: Well, maybe she has special angels watching over her. I'll tell you, Chris, you know like --

MATTHEWS: Do you see what I'm saying? The dual victimhood of Donna Hanover and Hillary Clinton have led to Hillary Clinton's almost inevitable election to the Senate now.

NOONAN: Yes, you do sort of get that sense. But I'll tell you, something else is going on. Mrs. Clinton has quietly been moving forward like a tough little tank from one end of the state to the other. I'm starting to think of her as Hillary "Rommel" Clinton. She is moving forward inch --

MATTHEWS: The "Desert Fox"?

NOONAN: Yes. She's moving forward inch by inch every day. Just in the past few days -- you know, while I do my work, I keep the TV on. Mrs. Clinton had an hour with Rosie O'Donnell, quiet show this week. She had an hour with the Today show, very positive appearance. I put on the radio; she's an hour with Joan Hamburg. She is reaching out in a very serious way to white women who are at home and watching TV. I think men aren't noticing, but this is going to show up in the polls. Mrs. Clinton is daily, like this tough little tank, moving forward, making a good impression --

MATTHEWS: Does she have the toughness for Hardball?

NOONAN: Does she have the toughness for Hardball? Yes. And as a matter of fact --

MATTHEWS: Yes, could she come on here next for an hour?

NOONAN: -- she would come on here and she would charm you, Chris. It would be a wonderful thing to watch.

MATTHEWS: Well, my heart's already melting. Anyway, Peggy Noonan, thank you very much.

NOONAN: Thank you, Chris.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC, NBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
The Chris Matthews Show, Hardball
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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