A month ago, after Chris Matthews made a forced (and ridiculously inadequate) apology for one of his many sexist comments about Hillary Clinton, MSNBC colleagues Joe Scarborough, David Shuster, and Mika Brzezinski leaped to Matthews' defense.
Brzezinski and Scarborough suggested that Matthews had been taken out of context; in doing so, they falsely portrayed the controversy as being about a single Matthews comment, rather than a years-long pattern of behavior that has been exhaustively detailed by Media Matters, Bob Somerby, and others. Shuster complained: "[T]o see him have to go through this is absolutely infuriating, to see the way these groups used him for pure political gain is absolutely infuriating." Scarborough added, "This ain't about Hillary Clinton's campaign."
Matthews lashed out at the Clinton campaign, saying that Clinton should "get rid of the kneecappers that work for her," referring to her communications staff who go "after the press." Matthews added, "The kneecapping hasn't worked. Her press relations are lousy. ... If all you do is intimidate and punish and claim you'll get even relentlessly, people of all kinds of politicians -- and in all fairness, the press -- human reaction to intimidation is screw you."
For the record, Matthews' overt hostility toward Hillary Clinton cannot honestly be described as a reaction to how her presidential campaign has treated the press: More than six years ago, Matthews said of Clinton, "I hate her. I hate her. All that she stands for." More to the point, Matthews' apparent blaming of the Clinton campaign for his own sexism is the clearest indication yet that he doesn't "get it" and that MSNBC doesn't care that he doesn't get it.
MSNBC apparently still doesn't understand that this controversy "ain't about Hillary Clinton's campaign." And it isn't about just one comment, or just one MSNBC reporter. It's about a steady stream of inappropriate comments by Chris Matthews ... and by Joe Scarborough and by Tucker Carlson and by David Shuster. Not just about Hillary Clinton, but about (and to) many women, including some conservative women. And the problem at MSNBC isn't limited to the cable channel's treatment of women: Remember, this is the network that hired Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, and Don Imus. All three were fired after making (predictably) disgraceful comments. Only Imus' firing had anything to do with sexism, and his controversial comments were both sexist and racist.
The controversy, in short, ain't about Hillary Clinton's campaign and never has been. It is about NBC News allowing MSNBC (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, NBC itself) to be a safe haven for hate speech and a sanctuary for sexism.
How else to explain MSNBC's decision to make Ann Coulter a frequent guest? As MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan (a well-known bigot in his own right) explained after a Coulter appearance on the cable channel last year: "I don't think she's peddling hate. ... MSNBC certainly doesn't ... because if they did, they would never put her on the air for an hour."
Ann Coulter peddles nothing but hate. Well, that isn't quite fair -- she typically throws in a few lies as well. But the hate is her bread and butter. MSNBC knows this; they fired her for it long ago. Yet they continue to host her.
Media Matters noted in October:
As Media Matters for America documented, in the weeks following the release of her last book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum, June 2006), Coulter made numerous appearances on MSNBC, CNBC, and their parent network, NBC, where she unleashed a stream of attacks on the widows of victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As Media Matters also documented, while NBC continued to provide Coulter an open platform with which to spew her inflammatory and offensive rhetoric, several NBC hosts and anchors -- including Tonight Show host Jay Leno, Today co-host Matt Lauer, and Nightly News anchor Brian Williams -- expressed disapproval of Coulter's "harsh" and "nasty" statements. On June 26, 2007 -- the date Godless was released in paperback -- Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, claimed that Coulter forces him to "go to confession." Matthews, however, has a history of inviting her on his show. Following an appearance on Today in June 2006 -- during which Coulter criticized the 9-11 widows for "speak[ing] out using the fact that they're widows" and "using their grief" and "the fact that [they] lost a husband" to make "a political point while preventing anyone from responding" -- Williams devoted a segment of the Nightly News to the subject of "civility in American life," highlighting Coulter's comments. And yet NBC and its cable affiliates have continued to invite her on the air. The upcoming release of Coulter's new book gives rise once again to the question of whether NBC programs will keep hosting her.According to a Media Matters review*, Coulter has been interviewed at least 194 times on at least 13 individual programs on MSNBC, CNBC, and NBC since April 28, 1997.
Coulter was a guest on MSNBC Live. A day earlier, she had referred to Barack Obama as "B. Hussein Obama" five times in a span of two minutes and once described him as "President Hussein." During her appearance on MSNBC, the cable channel touted her recent statement that Obama "wouldn't be running for president if he weren't half-black," which she has described as his "big accomplishment."
On NBC programs alone, Coulter has called former Vice President Al Gore a "total fag" and has attacked former President Bill Clinton as a "latent homosexual." She has defended her claim that 9-11 widows were "enjoying their husbands' deaths." She has wished aloud that "the American military were targeting journalists." She has claimed that "John Kerry does not believe in God." And she has spoken of "perfecting Jews."
After Elizabeth Edwards responded to Coulter's description of her husband, John, as a "faggot," MSNBC Live host Chris Jansing asked Edwards, "There are people who support your opinion, I'm sure you know, who say, 'Why even dignify it with a response? Why give Ann Coulter more publicity?'"
Why give Ann Coulter more publicity? That's a question that should be directed to Steve Capus, not Elizabeth Edwards. As the president of NBC News, Capus may be more responsible than anyone else on earth for giving Ann Coulter publicity.
In August 2006, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann said of Coulter: "[W]hy she has not been banned from this network, I do not know." That's a good question, and one Capus should answer -- but it is also too narrow a question.
MSNBC is the channel that hired Coulter in the 1990s, only to fire her after her controversial comments to a disabled Vietnam veteran; that hired Michael Savage in 2003, then had to fire him for telling a caller to "get AIDS and die"; that hired Don Imus, then had to fire him for making sexist and racist comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team. This is a cable channel that has, for years, been a welcome home to highly questionable comments about race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.
Chris Matthews has said Republicans "have a right to fear" seeing a "majority Latino population"; when his guest defended America's "tradition" of welcoming immigrants, Matthews retorted, "Do you live in a Mexican neighborhood?" Tucker Carlson used his MSNBC show to call the NAACP a "sad joke that should be shut down" and has attacked Barack Obama's religion, saying of Obama's church, "[I]t's hard to call that Christianity." Joe Scarborough says that pollster John Zogby, an Arab-American, "may be biased" on the issue of the Iraq war and "the Middle East situation."
Before Don Imus was fired, his executive producer told MSNBC viewers that Obama has a "Jew-hating name"; Imus himself referred to the "Jewish management" of CBS Radio as "money-grubbing bastards." MSNBC apparently didn't have any problem with those comments; it would be months before Imus was fired. The cable channel, however, did issue public apologies for ethnic slurs on Imus' show in 2004 and for comments made on the program about the movie Brokeback Mountain in 2006 -- though the later apology whitewashed Chris Matthews' role in the matter.
MSNBC frequently hosts Bill Donohue, an unrepentant bigot who has said that "[p]eople don't trust the Muslims when it comes to liberty," referred to the "gay death style," demanded that the gay community "apologize to straight people for all the damage that they have done," asserted that Hollywood "is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular," and claimed that Hollywood "likes anal sex" and "abortions." Not to mention his repeated use of the slur "gook." And he has said all of that on MSNBC.
This is a cable channel that, in the middle of a monthlong controversy over its pattern of broadcasting sexist comments, chose to host Ann Coulter, a pundit whose defining characteristic is her tendency to make utterly inappropriate comments about women and minorities. (A more tone-deaf response to such a controversy is hard to imagine, though Arkansas Democrat-Gazette political editor Bill Simmons' decision to respond to accusations that the paper's newsroom is a "good ole' boys club" filled with racist and sexist commentary by referring to "boys being boys" was indescribably bad.)
This is what MSNBC is. It is the cable channel of Ann Coulter and Michael Savage and Don Imus. It is the home to Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson and their deeply disturbed attitudes toward women.
The longer MSNBC responds to legitimate concerns about the conduct of its hosts and guests by lashing out at critics and booking Ann Coulter again, the more clear it becomes that the problems at MSNBC go much higher than Chris Matthews.
- Speak out about the mess at MSNBC!
- During the past year, three MSNBC commentators have been suspended, reprimanded, fired, or forced to apologize for their sexist and/or racist comments. Rather than address these problems by proactively moving to make certain they do not happen in the first place, MSNBC has instead decided to use these controversies as part of an advertising campaign to promote its political coverage. It's clear the management at NBC News and MSNBC has consistently failed to address what appears to be the core problem. Please take a moment to sign our petition and send a message to NBC News President Capus that the time for apologies has passed. The time for a real commitment to change is long since overdue. With your help, we can urge MSNBC to change the demeaning tone that its coverage all too often takes and truly address this disturbing pattern once and for all. Sign our petition - Send a message!
- Please contact MSNBC and Chris Matthews today!
- Using overtly sexist language, he has referred to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) as a "she devil" and compared her to a "strip-teaser." He has called her "witchy" and likened her voice to "fingernails on a blackboard." He has referred to men who support her as "castratos in the eunuch chorus." His sexism is hardly limited to comments about Clinton. In November 2006, shortly after the Democrats took the majority in Congress, Matthews asked a guest if then-presumptive speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was "going to castrate Steny Hoyer" if Hoyer (D-MD) were elected House majority leader. During coverage of a presidential debate last spring, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell was compelled to remind Matthews that Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) wife, Michelle, is a Harvard-educated lawyer after he focused obsessively on her physical appearance. Click Here to Take Action!
From Media Matters.org