On Hardball, Pat Buchanan said of Roland Burris' appointment to the Senate and the Senate leadership's refusal to seat him: "[W]hy does [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid not want this guy? Why can't he get elected? Because he's an African-American." However, neither Matthews nor Buchanan mentioned that Reid stated -- well before Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed Burris -- that the Senate would consider rejecting anyone appointed by Blagojevich. Nor did they mention that Reid previously denied that his opposition to Burris was based on race.
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On the January 6 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, political analyst Pat Buchanan said of Roland Burris' appointment to the Senate and the Senate leadership's refusal to seat him: "[W]hy does [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid not want this guy? Why can't he get elected? Because he's an African-American." Host Chris Matthews responded that Illinois has previously elected African-Americans to the Senate; however, neither Matthews nor Buchanan mentioned that Reid stated -- well before Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) appointed Burris -- that the Senate would consider rejecting any Blagojevich appointee because of accusations that Blagojevich attempted to trade the seat for personal or political favors. Further, Reid previously denied that his opposition to Burris was based on race, saying that "as long as Blagojevich has done the appointing, it's really a tainted appointment" -- a denial that neither Buchanan nor Matthews acknowledged.
On December 9, three weeks before Blagojevich appointed Burris, Reid issued a statement saying, "It is clear that anyone Governor Blagojevich appoints to the Senate will fairly or unfairly be tainted by questions of impropriety. A different process to select a new Senator must be put in place -- and that process should not involve Governor Blagojevich." Also, the Senate Democratic Caucus -- headed by Reid -- issued a letter to Blagojevich on December 10 that stated: "Please understand that should you decide to ignore the request of the Senate Democratic Caucus and make an appointment we would be forced to exercise our Constitutional authority under Article I, Section 5, to determine whether such a person should be seated." Further, on December 30, shortly after Blagojevich announced his intention to appoint Burris, Reid's office issued another statement on behalf of the caucus that said:
We say this without prejudice toward Roland Burris's ability, and we respect his years of public service. But this is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus.
Moreover, during a January 4 appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Reid expressly denied that Burris' race was a factor after host David Gregory asked him about a Politico article that said, "[T]op advisers to Burris are suggesting that Reid doesn't want an African-American to succeed [President-elect Barack] Obama." In response, Reid touted his work to get several African-Americans elected and said: "So anyone to suggest anything racial is part of the Blagojevich spin to take away from the corruption that's involved his office in Illinois." Earlier, Reid echoed his previous statements that Blagojevich's appointment would be tainted, saying: "There is a cloud over Blagojevich, and at this stage a cloud over the state of Illinois. They don't have a vote. And if -- as long as Blagojevich has done the appointing, it's really a tainted appointment."
From the January 6 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
SUSAN PAGE (USA Today Washington bureau chief): Hey, one interesting cross tab in this poll: no racial divide. Black opinion, white opinion -- virtually identically.
MATTHEWS: Despite [Rep.] Bobby Rush [D-IL] --
PAGE: Despite --
MATTHEWS: -- who I think we might have on tomorrow.
PAGE: Despite the racial angles of this appointment.
MATTHEWS: Bobby Rush, who's from the South Side, says that this is plantation politics, the denial of this seat. Do you agree with that assessment?
BUCHANAN: I disagree --
MATTHEWS: Not your language, I don't think.
BUCHANAN: I disagree with Rush's statement about lynching and all that stuff. But look, why do you say they -- why does Reid not want this guy? Why can't he get elected? Because he's an African-American.
You know it as well as I: If Miss [Lisa] Madigan [Illinois' attorney general] had been picked, do you think Reid and all these guys would say --
MATTHEWS: No, because Illinois has elected [former Sen.] Carol Moseley Braun [D-IL] and Barack Obama. It's one of the two states that has elected African-Americans.
BUCHANAN: Why do you say he can't get elected, then?
MATTHEWS: I'm not saying -- you said it.
BUCHANAN: Well, why would you hold -- why -- I mean --
MATTHEWS: I didn't say -- you just posited the fact that they don't want him because they don't think he can get elected, and I'm saying I don't think there's evidence to that.
BUCHANAN: I've talked to a number of Democrats that say, "We can't win with this guy." Why did --
MATTHEWS: Not because he's black or African-American, because they figure he's lost five straight primaries statewide, Pat. Would you laugh once in a while? That's why he's not electable, because he's lost five in a row, not because he's black.