During the 6 a.m. ET and 8 a.m. ET hours of the July 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, commentator John Ridley said he was "curious" about syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak's July 15 assertion during a panel discussion on NBC's Meet the Press that, as Media Matters for America documented, "Republicans are very pessimistic about 2008. When you talk to them off the record, they don't see how they can win this thing. And then they think for a minute, and only the Democratic Party, with everything in their favor, would say that, 'OK, this is the year either to have a woman or an African-American to break precedent, to do things the country has never done before.' " During the 6 a.m. ET hour of the show, Ridley -- who wrote about Novak's comments in a July 17 post on the Huffington Post blog -- quoted Novak's statement and said: "I'm actually curious. I hope that Mr. Novak will clarify this." Ridley continued: "So are the Republicans hopeful for change? Or are they hopeful that when you have a black or a woman running on the Democratic ticket, a majority of Americans will go, 'Nah. I ain't voting for that.' " Novak was scheduled to appear during the 8 a.m. ET hour of the show.
During the 8 a.m. ET hour, before the interview with Novak, Ridley again quoted Novak's statement and said: "And so I was curious, just hopefully he could elaborate, what he means by hope." Ridley then stated, "By the way, if he is talking about a Wilder effect, here, referencing [former Virginia] Governor Doug Wilder [D], I don't necessarily disagree with that." The "Wilder effect" refers to the theory that African American candidates sometimes do better in pre-election polling than they do in the actual election because some voters tell pollsters that they will vote for the African American candidate but choose a white candidate instead on Election Day. After mentioning the Wilder effect, Ridley then asked: "[I]s he saying that the Republicans' only hope come November is hoping that there is some latent bigotry in America who -- that wouldn't vote for a man of color or a woman for president?"
As Media Matters noted, neither Meet the Press host Tim Russert nor any of Novak's fellow panelists, Bloomberg News Washington managing editor Al Hunt, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, and Democratic strategist Bob Shrum -- all of whom are, like Novak, white men -- commented on or challenged Novak's assertion. As Media Matters has also documented, a breakdown of the guests on Meet the Press from 2005 to 2006 shows that 76 percent of the guests on the program were white men.
During the interview -- which, according to Scarborough, occurred later in the broadcast than expected due to "some mix-up" -- Novak was not asked about his comments on Meet the Press. Scarborough did state, however, that Novak would return at 7:30 a.m. ET on the July 19 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe to continue the conversation.
From the 6 a.m. ET hour of the July 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
SCARBOROUGH: So John Ridley has a -- your Huffington Post.
RIDLEY: On Huffington.
SCARBOROUGH: And you've written this column saying that the only thing the Republicans have going for them, according to Bob Novak, are that they're white.
RIDLEY: Well, it was interesting. They had the roundtable discussion with Tim Russert on Meet the Press. Everybody was, you know, galvanized by the [Sen. Jim] Webb [D-VA]-[Sen. Lindsey] Graham [R-SC] cage fight. But there was something that he said. Republicans, right now, as you probably know, are a little pessimistic. I think you had something interesting yesterday that 21 percent of the people -- they still don't know who they're gonna vote for.
SCARBOROUGH: Unknown is leading on the Republican side.
RIDLEY: Unknown leads the pack for the Republicans.
SCARBOROUGH: So what's the Republicans' hope?
RIDLEY: Well, as -- and I want to -- I'm actually curious. I hope that Mr. Novak will clarify this, but he was talking about, that this year -- and this is a quote from him -- "the Democrats will either have a woman or an African-American to break precedent, to do things the country has never done before, and it gives the Republicans hope." So are the Republicans hopeful for change? Or are they hopeful that when you have a black or a woman running on the Democratic ticket, a majority of Americans will go, "Nah. I ain't voting for that."
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I think it's the latter. I really do. I think a lot of people will stop and think -- I think it's a little different with Hillary because Hillary's been around for a long time. She has her sort of own identity. Barack Obama, though, I think for a lot of people out there that, again, have not followed these candidates as much as anybody else are thinking: "Hey, he's that young black guy that's really energetic and exciting." And so it's going to be very interesting.
From the 8 a.m. ET hour of the July 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
SCARBOROUGH: Now, you had concerns with Bob Novak -- who's supposed to be calling in -- about Novak and what he said this weekend on Meet the Press.
RIDLEY: Well, more curiosity because I don't --
SCARBOROUGH: And this, by the way, this is on the top of Huffington Post right now.
RIDLEY: Yeah. This is Huffington Post. I wrote about it. Look, it was a heck of a show on Meet the Press on Sunday. Something happened --
SCARBOROUGH: Oh. Great show.
RIDLEY: Yeah. You had the Webb-Graham cage match. But at the roundtable, Tim Russert was talking to some other individuals about how the Republican Party is disenfranchised at this point. They're not raising money, they don't know who they want their front-runner to be. And Mr. Novak said something regarding the Democrats that -- and this is a quote -- "This is a year either to have a woman or an African-American to break precedent, do things the country has never done before, and it gives the Republicans hope."
And so I was curious, just hopefully he could elaborate, what he means by hope. And, by the way, if he is talking about a Wilder effect here, referencing Governor Doug Wilder, I don't necessarily disagree with that. But is he saying that the Republicans' only hope come November is hoping that there is some latent bigotry in America who -- that wouldn't vote for a man of color or a woman for president?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I think it's -- I think it is obviously something that's never been done before. So --
MIKA BRZEZINSKI [news anchor]: And the question is, are the times right, is the historic moment here?
RIDLEY: It is, but the bigger question for me is, is that what he's saying the Republicans -- that's what they're running on? They can't run on the war, they can't run on national security, they can't run on family values.
SCARBOROUGH: You know what they can run on?
RIDLEY: What can they run on?
SCARBOROUGH: They can run on the fact that they've got a president that, every time he opens his mouth, makes history. You see, [late-night talk show host David] Letterman has these things -- great moments in presidential speeches.
SCARBOROUGH: Had another one last night.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, hey, Bob, we've got to go because we, unfortunately, we had some mix-up --
NOVAK: Sorry, but I look forward to talking to you tomorrow.
SCARBOROUGH: I'll see you tomorrow morning at 7:30.
NOVAK: Terrific. Thank you, Joe.