On Hardball, Chris Matthews reacted in apparent surprise to former presidential adviser David Gergen's reference to a widely reported incident from newly elected House Majority Leader John Boehner's past -- which MSNBC had reported earlier that day. Boehner drew criticism in 1995 for distributing checks from a tobacco political action committee on the House floor before a key vote on a tobacco issue.
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On the February 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews reacted in apparent surprise to former presidential adviser David Gergen's reference to a widely reported incident from newly elected House Majority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) past -- which MSNBC had reported earlier that day. When Gergen stated that Boehner "is the guy who ... was giving out tobacco checks at one point, in the 1990s, on the floor of the House of Representatives," Matthews responded: "Wow." He then added, "I like the way Gergen operates. He puts that shiv in really good. I like that. Everybody else ... forgives and forgets, but not Gergen."
As The Hill reported on July 25, 2003, Boehner drew criticism in 1995 for "distribut[ing] checks from a tobacco political action committee on the House floor before a key vote on a tobacco issue."
But Gergen was not the only one to point out the tobacco checks incident, in the wake of Boehner's election to the majority leader position. Matthews's own cable channel had reported on it earlier on February 2. As Media Matters for America previously noted, during MSNBC's 3 p.m. ET hour coverage of Boehner's election, reporter Mike Viqueira stated:
VIQUEIRA: It's really a question of how much of a reform candidate Boehner really is. That's how he was portrayed in early days here in Congress. He was seen as a reformer. Then he did get into some problems, passing out checks from lobbyists on the House floor. He since apologized for that.
Additionally, a Media Matters search* of the Lexis-Nexis database revealed February 2 news articles describing the incident on MSNBC parent company NBC's Nightly News, on CBS' Evening News, and on NPR's All Things Considered. The same search, unrestricted by date, returned a total of 183 hits, beginning May 10, 1996.
Gergen made his comments in response to Matthews's assertion that Boehner "has no connection to the history of the [Republican] leadership." Gergen described Boehner as "a [former Speaker of the House] Newt Gingrich [R-GA] ally" who "really did well ... during the Newt Gingrich years." A February 3 Washington Post article by Dana Milbank described Boehner as "a fallen Newt Gingrich lieutenant" who "lost his position as chairman of the House Republican Conference as his patron, Gingrich, fell from the speakership" in 1998. The same article also reported: "Though long a Gingrich acolyte, Boehner was suspected of having a role in the failed 1997 GOP coup against him."
From the February 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, which also featured Chuck Todd, editor-in-chief of The Hotline, National Journal's weblog:
MATTHEWS: David, what do you make of the decapitation, the coup d'état on Capitol Hill today, that Republicans having gotten rid of [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay [R-TX], now got rid of his guy, [former acting House Majority Leader] Roy Blunt [R-MO]? They've got a new man out there, John Boehner, who has no connection -- who has no connection to the history of the leadership?
GERGEN: Well, he does not, Chris, but I don't think it solves their reform image problem. They clearly -- they clearly dropped Blunt because they thought he was too close to DeLay, and they're looking ahead to the elections, and as Chuck will tell you, you know, this is going to be a big issue in the fall for the Democrats.
So, they wanted to get away from it, but they didn't go all the way to a reformer. In John Boehner, they got another Republican, a Newt Gingrich ally. You know, Boehner really did well with Newt Gingrich -- during the Newt Gingrich years, he fell from grace, and now, he's back.
He's well-liked on Capitol Hill. He's also has a reputation of being a little too close to the lobbyists, even though he was against earmarks, he is the guy who -- he's apologized for it now -- but he's the guy who was giving out tobacco checks at one point, in the 1990s, on the floor of the House of Representatives.
TODD: Yes, no, he's - David's right. He's --
MATTHEWS: I like the way Gergen operates. He puts that shiv in really good. I like that. Everybody else forgets -- forgives and forgets, but not Gergen.