Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

Does Anyone Miss Chris Matthews?

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams apparently felt Chris Matthews' absence during the network's coverage of the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries.

"We are missing our mutual friend," Williams said of the longtime Hardball host, who had announced his departure from the network the previous evening.

But for viewers tuning in to MSNBC, much was the same as on previous election nights: Williams and Rachel Maddow anchored the coverage, throwing to correspondents in the field and commentators on the set for their takes on election results, while Steve Kornacki broke down incoming vote and projected delegate totals on his screen.

Maybe you enjoy that sort of thing, maybe you don't, but it's hard to argue that what it was missing was a septuagenarian invoking Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders amid a rant about how he would have been executed in Central Park if the communists had won the Cold War.

Matthews, who has helped set MSNBC's tone and direction for decades, wasn't really bringing much to the table. He "didn't listen, didn't do his homework and treated politics as a game in which noisy confrontation was a necessity," as The Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan noted in a typically astute column.

His brand was conflict and the political horse race, and the shoutfests he oversaw became, for a time, the staple of cable news programming. But his particular version of that generally mediocre content was notably hollow, powered by stale and surface-level insights he gleaned from a career in politics now three decades past.

None of this is to underplay the toxic mix of relentlessly misogynistic commentary and casually sexist comments to women who went on his show that led to his departure. MSNBC seems to have shown him the door in light of his confrontation last week with Sen. Elizabeth Warren over her criticism of Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg for reported gender-based discrimination at his company, together with GQ columnist Laura Bassett's essay about Matthews inappropriately flirting with her in MSNBC's makeup room.

These controversies were the latest examples of Matthews' long history of such behavior. He frequently commented on the physical appearances of female politicians and journalists, and regularly objectified women who came on his show. This spurred situations that were uncomfortable for the viewer and must have been unbearable for the recipients of his comments. This rampant misogyny constantly spilled over into Matthews' political coverage, particularly his treatment of Hillary Clinton. Hardball viewers learned that Clinton was a "witchy" and "fickle" "she devil" and "strip-teaser" whose laugh was a "cackle" and whose voice sounded like "fingernails on a blackboard." He termed her male supporters "castratos in the eunuch chorus."

But as Sullivan pointed out, Matthews was a particularly lazy exemplar of a type of commentator whose value to viewers is already marginal. He was more concerned with who was up and who was down than what they had to offer the country. And he shot from the hip, convinced that his gut reactions were evidence of broad trends.

And so President George W. Bush, circa 2003, was an "effective commander" who "won the war" ("Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics," he claimed). Bush "glimmers" with "sunny nobility," and "everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack jobs," Matthew added a couple years later.

Matthews' 2008 commentary is largely remembered for his sexist Clinton remarks and his claim that he got a "thrill up my leg" from Barack Obama. But he was hardly in the tank for the then-Illinois senator — as Jamison Foser noted for Media Matters at the time, he was constantly arguing that Obama couldn't relate to "regular people," by which he meant "white people." Matthews ridiculed Obama for ordering orange juice in a diner, claimed that his lack of bowling prowess "tells you something about the Democratic Party," said he was out of touch for playing pool, and complained that he wasn't "beefy" enough. By contrast, Matthews repeatedly said that the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), "deserves to be president."

In 2016, the Hardball host boiled the choice voters faced down to this: If "you want to keep all this the way it is, vote for Hillary Clinton," but voting for Donald Trump would "shake the system to its roots."

And his commentary this cycle has been marred by a string of bizarre and offensive remarks. Beyond the aforementioned Warren confrontation and his weird comments about Sanders and alternate universe Cold War executions, Matthews compared the rise of Sanders, who is Jewish, to the Nazis conquering France (he later apologized) and mixed up Jaime Harrison, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in South Carolina, with Republican Sen. Tim Scott (both Scott and Harrison are Black).

MSNBC and its viewers will be able to move on without Matthews. They've done something similar in the recent past. As the network's senior political analyst, Mark Halperin helped drive the conversation during the 2012 and 2016 elections. Like Matthews, Halperin fixated on horse-race minutiae and the tactical acumen of candidates rather than their positions or policies. He was known for his mathematically incoherent candidate performance scorecards and his books, which literally described elections as a game. Halperin was considered indispensable to MSNBC — right up to the minute he was fired after women came forward to detail his history of sexual harassment and assault.

Few people look at the coverage of the 2020 election and say, "I wish we had Mark Halperin's take." In a couple of months, the same will be true of Matthews.

MSNBC’s Matthews Blasted Over ’Nazi’ Slur Against Sanders

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) won the Nevada Democratic caucuses resoundingly. Looking for some way to describe how it, MSNBC host Chris Matthews grabbed for an analogy about France being overrun by the Nazis in 1940:

Matthews’ analogy could have been ripped straight out of right-wing media. The comparison was swiftly condemned, including by many people not supporting Sanders:

When he is not using right-wing tropes to attacks Sanders’ positions, Matthews demonstrates his total ignorance about what Sanders stands for, even though he’s supposed to be a politics expert. He recently was harshly criticized for suggesting that there would be mass executions under a Sanders administration. Matthews also has no idea of what Sanders’ vision of “democratic socialism” means, even though the candidate gave speeches directly about that topic in 2016 and again during this cycle.

Matthews also has a long history of misogyny, and he frequently praised the George W. Bush administration.

#EndorseThis: Chris Matthews Says Delusional Trump Can’t Separate Reality And TV

Most of the monologues featured at #EndorseThis are dressed-up for comedic effect. Comics can work from very simple themes and premises, but must dress up their punch lines with misdirection and charm. Trevor Noah likes the slow, meandering start. Samantha Bee likes to throw in a dadaist skit or two. Stephen Colbert has to keep going until even the band laughs.

There’s something to be said for simplicity, however. Like the cold sharpness of Chris Matthews’ latest commentary on President Trump. Matthews suggests that the reason Trump has such a loose command of the truth is that in 45’s reality, there is no difference between the commander-in-chief’s chair in the Oval Office and a reality TV show.

As the MSNBC veteran points out, the decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel has caused many deaths as violent protests swirl around the American embassy. Trump made the Jerusalem move with several goals in mind – stroking the Israelis, pleasing his conservative evangelical base, and getting favorable headlines, just to name three – but he may not have considered the real world consequences. Nobody ever died due to bad leadership on The Apprentice.

Click for a reality check.

#EndorseThis: Rep. Jim Himes Thinks Devin Nunes Must Have Written His Memo Drunk

In what sounds like a candid exchange over a beer, U.S. Representative Jim Himes (D-CT) tells Chris Matthews of MSNBC what rational people in D.C. really think of that “secret” Devin Nunes memo on the FBI: a stronger substance than beer could be to blame.

“You’d hope that whoever wrote (the memo) was a couple of whiskies into the bag,” says Himes, before pointing out that the GOP’s pandering #ReleaseTheMemo campaign is based on intel that Republicans in Congress can’t possibly know. Distinguished senators like Ron Johnson should know better than to push such a flawed document.

It doesn’t stop there. Matthews takes a swipe at Fox News, saying that people like Jeanine Pirro used to be “normal.” Himes’ reply is hilarious, throwing a small black hole’s worth of shade at Pirro and Fox wing-nut Sean Hannity.