Chris Matthews

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  • Memo To Media: Trump Said Abortion Should Be Punished "As A Principle"

    Media Are Falsely Claiming Trump Only Responded To Hypothetical Scenario In Which Abortion Is "Made Illegal"

    ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL & TYLER CHERRY

    Some media figures are lending Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump credence by characterizing his remark that "there has to be some form of punishment" for abortion as based on a hypothetical scenario in which abortion is "made illegal." But MSNBC host Chris Matthews' question was, "Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?" He didn't include the premise that abortion had been officially criminalized.

  • The Media's Outrage At Trump's Abortion Comments Ignore That Women Are Already Being Punished

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    Trump MSNBC Town HallGOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump's statement that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions led to widespread condemnation from mainstream and conservative media alike, but the media has ignored that many women already face punishment in many states due to the lack of access to reproductive care.

    Trump was pressed by Matthews during a town hall on March 30 about whether he believed a "woman be punished for having an abortion?" Trump responded, arguing that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who get an abortion.

    Right wing media figures expressed immediate displeasure with Trump's initial remarks calling them "awful," "tone deaf," and "ignorant."

    Trump attempted to walk back his remarks the same day, issuing a statement that said the punishment for abortions should be restricted to "the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act ... not the woman" (emphasis original):

    DONALD J. TRUMP STATEMENT REGARDING ABORTION

    If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed - like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.

    Trump's statement ignores that when abortion is illegal or when a legal abortion is out of reach for women, some will go to desperate lengths to terminate a pregnancy and some states have already punished women for it.

    According to MSNBC's Irin Carmon "women are already being prosecuted and even convicted on suspicion of having abortions." Carmon noted that an Indiana woman "is appealing a 30-year prison sentence for her conviction for feticide" because she allegedly "ordered abortion pills online."

    A New York Times article examined the case of Pennsylvania's Jennifer Whalen, who was jailed in 2014 for ordering medication for her 16-year-old daughter because the nearest abortion providerwas 75-miles away. The state required a 24-hour waiting period between the first counseling visit and the procedure -- which meant Whalen and her daughter would have to take two trips or stay overnight with the family's only car, which Whalen and her husband both used to get to work.

    Whalen and Patel are not the only women who have faced punishment for their attempts to terminate a pregnancy. In 2011 Idaho authorities arrested Jennie Linn McCormack for inducing an abortion, a crime that could have carried a penalty of up to five years in prison. The charges were later dropped for a lack of evidence and McCormack's case actually led to Idaho's self-induced abortion statute being ruled unconstitutional. And in December 2015, Tennessee charged Anna Yocca for her attempt to induce a self-abortion with a wire coat hanger.

    In a statement to Media Matters, the Guttmacher Institute's Senior State Issues Associate Elizabeth Nash explained that, seven states currently ban all or some self-induced abortions. Delaware, Nevada, South Carolina, and Utah prohibit all self-induced abortions while Kentucky, New York, and Oklahoma permit self-induced abortions under very limited circumstances.

    While the GOP and right-wing media may want to spout rhetoric that "punishment" is not their goal in seeking to end legal access to abortion, the truth is that women are already being punished for being unable to cross the many barriers to abortion access already passed by conservative states.

  • Trump's Abortion Comments Demonstrate The Importance Of Taking Away His Phone Privileges

    MSNBC's Chris Matthews Challenged Trump To Defend His Abortion Position In A Face-To-Face Interview

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    MSNBC's Chris Matthews demonstrated the importance of face-to-face interviews by challenging Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's extreme position that women who have abortions should be punished. Matthews' interview showed firsthand how face-to-face interviews can equalize the built-in advantage Trump relies on when given phone interviews.

    During an interview with Trump scheduled to air on MSNBC, Matthews challenged Trump on his anti-choice position, asking "Should woman be punished for having an abortion?" In an attempt to dodge the question, Trump responded, that "people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say yes they should be punished," and adding "it's a very serious problem, and it's a problem we have to decide on." Matthews pressed Trump, telling him "this is not something you can dodge," forcing him to clarify his position on whether or not women should be punished. In total, Matthews interrupted Trump's attempts to filibuster 12 times in order to get him to answer the question.

    The face-to-face interview is a stark contrast to the way Trump has been able to steamroll over interviewers who have conducted questioning over the phone. Earlier the same day, Today hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie hosted Trump over the phone, a format which allowed him to dodge questions and shout over the hosts when faced with tough questioning about the battery charge facing his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

    The phone interview with NBC's Today was one of three phone interviews granted to Trump the morning of March 30. Trump's unprecedented phone interview privileges have extended to Sunday political talk news shows, making him the only presidential candidate granted such privileges.

    News outlets have faced increasing criticism for the phone privileges granted to Trump. The Baltimore Sun's media critic, David Zurawik told Media Matters that phone interviews "really shift control away from the interviewer," and former New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt explained that when networks give Trump a phone interview, it allows him to "set ground rules that they don't for others."

    You can add your voice to Media Matters' petition for the media to end Trump's phone privilege by signing here.

  • Media Try To Delegitimize Union Voters Who Helped Clinton Win Nevada Caucuses

    ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    Following Hillary Clinton's "decisive win" in the Nevada Democratic caucuses, media are attempting to undermine and delegitimize the votes of union members, claiming that Clinton was the beneficiary of a "controlled vote" thanks to "self-neutered" "service-union bosses." This anti-union argument suggests that union members do not make their own voting decisions.

  • Media Return To Deriding Hillary Clinton's Laugh

    "The Cackle," "A Record Scratch," And Other Tired Attacks From The Debate

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Clinton and Sanders at the October 13 debate

    Multiple media figures derided Hillary Clinton's laugh during the first Democratic presidential debate, calling it a "cackle" and "a record scratch." During the 2008 presidential race, Clinton's laughter was repeatedly attacked, despite criticism that such attacks were rooted in sexism.

    During the October 13 CNN debate in Las Vegas, Clinton laughed after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defended her from repeated questions about her use of private email by criticizing the media for fixating on the issue and saying, "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Clinton and Sanders shook hands as the crowd applauded.

    The moment has been described by several outlets as a highlight of the night.  

    But several media figures initially focused on Clinton's laugh. BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski tweeted, "oh god the Clinton laugh is out," while the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote, "THE CLINTON LAUGH," and Fox's Sean Hannity tweeted "Omg that laugh."

    Several conservative media figures took it further, calling it a "cackle":

    Attacking Clinton's laughter was a common theme during the Democratic primary before the 2008 election. In September 2007, after Clinton appeared on several Sunday political talk shows and laughed in response to some questions, media figures spent weeks debating and mocking her laughter. Fox News led the charge, with Bill O'Reilly even discussing Clinton's laughter with a "body language expert" who deemed it "evil," and Sean Hannity calling the laugh "frightening."

    The mainstream press picked up on the attacks on Clinton's laugh, with New York Times political reporter Patrick Healy writing an article with the headline "Laughing Matters in Clinton Campaign," in which he described Clinton's "hearty belly laugh" as "The Cackle," calling it "heavily caffeinated" and suggesting it may have been "programmed."

    Then-Politico reporter Ben Smith also described Clinton's laugh as her "signature cackle," while Politico correspondent Mike Allen and editor-in-chief John F. Harris wrote that Clinton's laugh "sounded like it was programmed by computer."

    And New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who has a long history of nasty attacks on Clinton, claimed Clinton's laugh was allowing her to look less like a "hellish housewife" and a "nag" and more like a "wag":

    As Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, once told me: "She's never going to get out of our faces. ... She's like some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won't stop nagging you about it until finally you say, fine, take it, be the damn president, just leave me alone."

    That's why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.

    The list goes on: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, then-MSNBC host David Shuster, then-MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, radio host Mike Rosen, Dick Morris, the Drudge Report, The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi, Time magazine's Joe Klein, the New York Times' Frank Rich, CNN's Jeanne Moos, and others all debated or derided Clinton's laughter during Clinton's first run for president.

    Politico's Allen said on MSNBC during all of this that "'cackle' is a very sexist term," and disputed MSNBC's Chris Matthews' use of it in reference to Clinton. Other outlets agreed; Jezebel called out Matthews for his "cackle" criticism and other derisive remarks, asking, "can we agree that no matter what your political allegiances, this is not the way you speak of a woman -- whether she is a senator or not?" Rachel Sklar, writing in the Huffington Post, said at the time "I keep finding sexist Hillary Clinton bashing everywhere I turn," noting that criticisms of the candidate's laughter "turn completely on the fact that she's a woman. 'The Cackle?' So would never be applied to a man. We all know it."

    Unfortunately, the criticism hasn't stopped in the intervening seven years. The Washington Free Beacon has a "Hillary Laugh Button" permanently on its site. The National Journal published in June 2014, many months prior to Clinton declaring her second bid for president, a "Comprehensive Supercut of Hillary Clinton Laughing Awkwardly With Reporters." And conservative tweet-aggregator Twitchy in August mocked "scary as hell" pens which featured "Clinton's cackling head."