Ignoring response at debate, Matthews praised McCain's "candor" and "honest[y]" on economic knowledge

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

On Hardball, Chris Matthews praised Sen. John McCain's "candor" and "honest[y]" for, in Matthews' words, "admitting that his strong suit is not the economy." However, Matthews ignored McCain's comment during a recent debate, in which he suggested that he had not said he knows "a lot less about economics" than "military and foreign policy issues."

On the January 29 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews said to New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, "Bob, it's amazing that, you know, we all in the media salute candor, because we do believe in it. It's also useful in the news coverage. You can actually cover a guy if he's honest." He continued: "[Sen.] John McCain [R-AZ] admitting that his strong suit is not the economy on a number of occasions, and now waffling on that on Meet the Press -- do you think that'll hurt him? Just saying, 'I'm not good at what we're all worried about.' " But in discussing McCain's "candor" and suggesting that "[y]ou can actually cover" McCain because "he's honest," Matthews did not address McCain's reply during the January 24 Republican presidential debate when presented with a quote in which he claimed he knows "a lot less about economics" than "military and foreign policy issues." In response to the debate question, McCain suggested he had not said it, asserting, "I don't know where you got that quote from. I'm very well-versed in economics."

Also, Matthews did not explain how McCain's "waffling" on Meet the Press squares with Matthews' suggestion that McCain deals with the media with "candor."

Following the debate, MSNBC's David Shuster noted McCain's response in a fact check, asserting, "John McCain was asked a question that included a quote about McCain talking about economics. And McCain denied the quote." After airing a video clip of the exchange, Shuster asserted: "Well, actually, NBC News got that quote from last month. John McCain was heard saying on December 17th in The Boston Globe and Time magazine, quote, 'The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should. I've got [former Federal Reserve chairman Alan] Greenspan's book.' " Following Shuster's fact check, Matthews himself acknowledged McCain's lack of "candor," asking Newsweek's Howard Fineman, "Howard, the 'Straight Talk Express': Did it stall tonight? Was it derailed by his denial of a quote that's on the record?" In his response, Fineman asserted, "You can't pretend that you didn't say something you said. You just can't wish it away."

During the January 27 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, after host and NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert aired a clip of McCain's claim in the debate that he did not "know where you got that quote from," McCain responded, "Now I know where you got that quote from." He went on to assert, "Of course I know more about national security than any other issue. That's been my entire life. Am I smart on economics? Yes. I was chairman of the Commerce Committee." He later added, "I'm very strong on the economy. And, frankly, my economic record is a lot stronger than that of the governor of Massachusetts [Romney] when you look at his record as governor."

From the January 29 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Bob, it's amazing that, you know, we all in the media salute candor, because we do believe in it. It's also useful in the news coverage. You can actually cover a guy if he's honest.

HERBERT: Right.

MATTHEWS: John McCain admitting that his strong suit is not the economy on a number of occasions, and now waffling on that on Meet the Press -- do you think that'll hurt him? Just saying, "I'm not good at what we're all worried about."

HERBERT: That might be a little bit too much candor. I mean, you don't want to show -- you don't want to suggest that you're not up to speed on the biggest issue facing the country in a presidential election.

From MSNBC's January 24 post-debate coverage of the Republican presidential debate:

SHUSTER: John McCain was asked a question that included a quote of McCain talking about economics, and McCain denied the quote. Watch.

[begin video clip]

RUSSERT: Senator McCain, you have said repeatedly, quote, "I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." Is it a problem for your campaign that the economy is now the most important issue, one that, by your own acknowledgment, you are not well-versed on.

McCAIN: Actually, I don't know where you got that quote from.

[end video clip]

SHUSTER: Well, actually, NBC News got that quote from last month. John McCain was heard saying on December the 17th in The Boston Globe and Time magazine, quote, "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should. I've got Greenspan's book."

And you heard Rachel Maddow refer to 2005. John McCain said something very similar to The Wall Street Journal in 2005.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Howard, the "Straight Talk Express": Did it stall tonight? Was it derailed by his denial of a quote that's on the record?

FINEMAN: I think he straight-talked him right over that bridge -- himself right over that bridge to nowhere that he kept talking about. You can't pretend that you didn't say something you said. You just can't wish it away, and it's an easy point for his rivals to attack.

From the January 27 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

[begin video clip]

RUSSERT: Senator McCain, you have said repeatedly, "I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." Is it a problem for your campaign that the economy is now the most important issue, one that, by your own acknowledgement, you're not well-versed on?

McCAIN: Actually, I don't know where you got that quote from. I'm very well-versed in economics.

[end video clip]

RUSSERT: Well, I'll tell you --

McCAIN: Now I know where you got that quote from. Now I know where you got the quote from.

RUSSERT: I will show you where I got the quote from. I got it from John McCain, and here it is: "McCain is refreshingly blunt when he tells me, quote, 'I'm going to be honest. I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.' " Wall Street Journal, November 26th, 2005. You repeated it to The Boston Globe in December of '07. You said it.

McCAIN: OK. Let me tell you what I was trying to say and what I meant -- and that's obvious. I spent 22 years in the military. I spent 20 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I've been involved in national security issues all my life. I attended the National War College. Of course I know more about national security than any other issue. That's been my entire life.

Am I smart on economics? Yes. I was chairman of the Commerce Committee. Why -- that's why people like [former Sen.] Phil Gramm [R-TX], [Sen.] Tom Coburn [R-OK] and [former Sen.] Warren Rudman [R-NH] and [former Hewlett-Packard CEO] Carly Fiorina and the real strong economic minds, [1996 Republican vice presidential nominee] Jack Kemp, the real strong minds on the economy and conservatives on the economy are supporting me. They don't think that I'm -- of course, I always have things to learn, and I continue to learn every day, but I'm very strong on the economy. And, frankly, my economic record is a lot stronger than that of the governor of Massachusetts when you look at his record as governor.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 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.