Chris Matthews' double-standard: makes Obama references like those he criticized from Kerrey

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

On Morning Joe, Chris Matthews speculated on how the world would react to a win by Sen. Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses: "I tell you, it's going to be a headline all over the world: 'Barack Hussein Obama wins first presidential test in America with a Kenyan father.' " Matthews went on to say, "I just think it's absolutely -- with an Islamic background in his family -- is so dramatic." Matthews used Obama's middle name and referred to "an Islamic background in his family" despite his criticism of former Sen. Bob Kerrey two weeks earlier for making similar comments.

During the January 3 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Chris Matthews -- host of MSNBC's Hardball -- speculated on how the world would react to a win by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) in the January 3 Iowa Democratic caucuses: "I tell you, it's going to be a headline all over the world: 'Barack Hussein Obama wins first presidential test in America with a Kenyan father.' " Matthews went on to say, "I just think it's absolutely -- with an Islamic background in his family -- is so dramatic." Matthews used Obama's middle name and referred to "an Islamic background in his family" despite his criticism of former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) two weeks earlier for making similar comments.

On December 16, Kerrey announced his endorsement of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) for president. Following the official announcement, Kerrey said of Obama, "I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims and I think that experience is a big deal." On the December 17 edition of Hardball, Matthews read Kerrey's comments and asked during the segment, "What the hell is Bob Kerrey doing?"

Matthews' criticism of Kerrey notwithstanding, the first mention of Obama's middle name in a political context that Media Matters for America found in the Nexis database came from Matthews himself. During MSNBC's special election coverage on November 7, 2006, Matthews stated that Obama's "middle name is Hussein" and suggested that "that'll be interesting down the road." Cook Political Report editor and publisher Charlie Cook responded that he "didn't know that." Matthews laughed and said: "Well, now you do."

As Media Matters documented, allegations that Obama was a practicing Muslim as a child in Indonesia and attended a "madrassa" have been disproved by the Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press, and CNN. The Tribune reported that "[i]nterviews with dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia." In a Time magazine piece posted online on October 16, 2006, Obama wrote that "although my father had been raised a Muslim, by the time he met my mother he was a confirmed atheist, thinking religion to be so much superstition." Further, Obama's Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro was described by the Tribune as "much more of a free spirit than a devout Muslim."

From the January 3 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

DAVID SHUSTER (MSNBC correspondent): Hey, Chris, it's Shuster here. Great to see you, and I want to get you to say something that you've said before about Obama. And that is, if Obama wins -- you've said on our conference calls as we get ready for Hardball -- this will be the biggest, biggest story around the world. I want you to get in and explain why.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think the biggest story if Obama wins tonight will be Obama around the world. I mean, the newspapers in Europe will start printing their headlines around midnight our time tonight, and I'd like to see copies of them if we're still on the air.

Because I think the idea of a guy who has a Kenyan father, at a time when Kenya is in such turmoil, a man with a real third-world background -- and I mean that very positively, because this brings us back into the world. It will be taken by the American people as a 180 on Bush. Everything they don't like about Bush in the world -- our go-it-alone, our way or the highway, our interventionism, our use of our military to enforce our will in other regions of the world -- all those things they don't like about us, they'll say, "Wait a minute. The American people must not have liked that because, look they're going 180."

I think it really dismayed the world when Bush got re-elected. They could no longer say it's the American government they don't like, it's the American people, then. But now if the American people shift or begin to shift, I tell you, it's going to be a headline all over the world: "Barack Hussein Obama wins first presidential test in America with a Kenyan father." I just think it's absolutely -- with an Islamic background in his family -- is so dramatic.

I don't think we who have gotten used to it over the last six months are realizing what a thunderclap that's going to be around the planet.

From the December 17 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: What the hell is Bob Kerrey doing? Here's what Clinton-boosting Kerrey said about Barack Obama out in Iowa the other day. Quote, "It's probably not something that appeals to him" -- here he's talking about Obama himself -- "but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim, and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal."

Well, I, as a friend and somebody who likes Bob Kerrey, sincerely hopes that Kerrey is appealing to our optimism here and not simply poisoning the well, like some of the other people have been doing against Barack.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball, Morning Joe
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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