Chris Matthews once again falsely claimed that Mark Penn, chief strategist for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, "raise[d]" the issue of "cocaine" "on my show twice." Contrary to Matthews' assertion, Penn was not the first to "raise" the issue; Matthews devoted the entire Hardball segment to the controversy over comments about Sen. Barack Obama's past drug use by Billy Shaheen, a Clinton campaign co-chairman who subsequently resigned.
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On the January 23 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews once again falsely claimed that Mark Penn, chief strategist for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) presidential campaign, "raise[d]" the issue of "cocaine" "on my show twice" and also falsely suggested that Bob Johnson, president of Black Entertainment Television and a Clinton supporter, had also used the word "cocaine" in reference to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Matthews asked his guest, Air America president Mark Green: "Why did Mark -- why did Mark Penn raise it on my show twice, "cocaine, cocaine"? Why did Bob Johnson do it again? Why do they keep doing it?" Matthews' question about Penn refers to an exchange he had on the December 13 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Penn; David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist; and Joe Trippi, an adviser to former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC). Contrary to Matthews' assertion that Penn "raise[d]" the issue of "cocaine," the entire Hardball segment was devoted to the controversy over comments about Obama's past drug use by Billy Shaheen -- a Clinton campaign co-chairman who subsequently resigned -- and Penn was not the first to "raise" the issue, as Media Matters for America documented. During the segment on January 23, Matthews used the word "cocaine" five times.
Later in the segment, Green said to Matthews: "That was the show where you kept using the line, 'Do things go better with Coke?' You weren't raising it to be racial." Matthews responded: "Yeah, you're right. You're right. You caught me there." As Media Matters noted, Matthews began the December 14 edition of Hardball by asking, "Is the Clinton campaign pushing the drug story? When it comes to stopping Obama, do things go better with coke?" Matthews and his guests went on to use the word "cocaine" a total of 10 times during the show.
This is not the first time Matthews has mischaracterized the exchange between him and Penn on the December 13 edition of his show. During the December 14 edition of Hardball, Matthews aired a video clip of the exchange three times. In all three cases, the clip did not include any of Matthews' questions and began with Penn's remark about "cocaine," giving no indication that Matthews had explicitly asked Penn at least three distinct questions about the topic and that Penn had offered at least two specific responses before he used the word "cocaine."
In addition, Matthews has also previously mischaracterized Johnson's remarks, falsely suggesting that Johnson had used the word "cocaine" at a campaign event for Clinton. On the January 14 edition of Hardball, in introducing the program's "Big Number" segment, Matthews said: "[Sen.] 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." He later asserted: "Three -- three mentions of Obama's cocaine use for political gain. Three: tonight's 'Big Number.' " Matthews cited Shaheen, Penn, and Johnson as examples. But in only one of those cases was the word "cocaine" used -- Penn during his December 13 appearance on Hardball -- and as noted above, in that situation it was Matthews who raised the issue of Obama's drug use.
From the January 23 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me look at the pattern of what -- - both you look at the pattern of what President Clinton has said. He said "roll of the dice," he said all kinds of things. He's saying "fairy tale." He's used reference -- well, his surrogates and her surrogates, Hillary Clinton's surrogates, have used words like "cocaine, cocaine," references to the fact of his selling cocaine or using it or whatever -- using it -- I think I should be clear there -- all this sort of clever innuendo, talking about dealing with slumlords in the inner city.
Don't you sense a coloration, Mark, on the kind of snide remarks coming out of the whole Clinton campaign that sort of puts Barack back into the bad neighborhoods, sort of a street guy himself? Don't you sense the way they're coloring him into a box? I'm just asking. If you don't think so, let's argue about it.
GREEN: Chris, I've known you a long time. I absolutely don't think your implication that there's some racializing of the criticism. Ed, you, and I were on about a month ago on this exact point. Billy Shaheen, who referred to Obama's book, was out of line, was wrong, should have been fired. I don't believe there's any systematic effort to raise that issue, and frankly--
MATTHEWS: Why did Mark -- why did Mark Penn raise it on my show twice, "cocaine, cocaine"? Why did Bob Johnson do it again? Why do they keep doing it?
GREEN: May I answer? If you want to talk about what surrogates say, then the surrogate who said of Hillary Clinton -- who worked for Obama -- she's just the senator from Punjab, making fun of her pro-Indian views --
GREEN: When I read that, I didn't think Obama believed that. I thought it was some idiot staff person was saying it.
MATTHEWS: But Mark --
GREEN: Let me answer your question.
MATTHEWS: -- Penn is her message person. He's not a surrogate. He's the guy who writes the messages like inner city and slumlord. He's the confector of this theme.
GREEN: Let me --
MATTHEWS: He's not some bystander.
GREEN: Chris, that was --
MATTHEWS: Is he, or not?
GREEN: That was the show where you kept using the line, "Do things go better with Coke?" You weren't raising it to be racial. Shaheen was an idiot and was fired. Let's talk about what's happening with Bill Clinton now. I think Bill Clinton was -- is largely wrong in his attack on Iraq, largely right in his criticism on experience.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, you're right. You're right. You caught me there.