The Chris Matthews Show aired footage of a 1999 interview on NBC's Today in which Sen. Hillary Clinton said that she has “always been” a fan of the New York Yankees as evidence that Clinton, according to Matthews, “tried hard to prove she was a Noo Yawker.” Following the clip, Matthews said: “I just love the way Katie Couric went at her there. 'Come on, how many hats you wearing, babe?' I just think that was great.” But evidence supports the claim that Clinton has, in fact, been a longtime Yankees fan.
On the September 23 broadcast of the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show, host Chris Matthews claimed that when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) first ran for the Senate “she tried hard to prove she was a Noo Yawker,” and aired footage of a June 10, 1999, interview with Katie Couric, then co-anchor of NBC's Today, in which Clinton said that she has “always been” a fan of the New York Yankees. Following the clip, Matthews said: “I just love the way Katie Couric went at her there. 'Come on, how many hats you wearing, babe?' I just think that was great.” As Media Matters for America noted, however, Clinton's 2003 autobiography Living History (Simon & Schuster) contains a photograph of Clinton wearing a Yankees cap in 1992 -- eight years before she ran for the Senate. Also, The Washington Post reported on September 12, 1994, that “Mrs. Clinton ... as a kid was a 'big-time' fan of the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees and 'understudied' Ernie Banks and Mickey Mantle.”
As Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler noted on September 24, neither Matthews nor any of his guests -- blogger Andrew Sullivan, columnist Kathleen Parker, MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell, and New York magazine columnist John Heilemann -- noted that the Clinton/Yankees story is bogus. Following the clip, Sullivan said: “She's a Midwesterner, she's a New Yorker, she's from Arkansas, she has California -- she's anything she needs to be,” to which Heilemann added: “She contains multitudes.”
As Media Matters has noted (here and here), several conservatives and media figures have falsely claimed that Clinton proclaimed herself a Yankee fan only after she decided to run for the Senate in New York, and have used Clinton's statements regarding the Yankees to question her “authenticity.” Indeed, conservative activist Thomas D. Kuiper based an entire book -- which he admitted was “culled from disputed sources or unverifiable private conversations” -- around the false premise that Clinton had lied about being a Yankee fan.
From the September 23 broadcast of the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: Well, just how New York would the face-off really be? When Hillary ran for the Senate, she tried hard to prove she was a Noo Yawker.
[begin video clip]
COURIC: Are you a Yankees fan, too?
CLINTON: Well, now, the fact is, I've always been a Yankees fan.
COURIC: I thought you were a Cubs fan.
CLINTON: I am.
CLINTON: I am a Cubs fan, but I needed an American League team. Because when you're from Chicago, you cannot root for both the Cubs and the [White] Sox. I mean that's -- you know, there's a dividing line which you can't cross there. So as a young girl, I became very interested and enamored of the Yankees.
[end video clip]
PARKER*: Oh, my god.
MATTHEWS: I just love the way Katie Couric went at her there. “Come on, how many hats you wearing, babe?” I just think that was great.
SULLIVAN: She's a Midwesterner, she's a New Yorker, she's from Arkansas, she has California -- she's anything she needs to be.
HEILEMANN: She contains multitudes.
The original transcript in this item identified MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell as having said, “Oh, my god,” after the clip of Sen. Clinton's interview was aired. The transcript of the program available in the Nexis database indicates that both O'Donnell and syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker said the phrase “Oh boy” after the clip aired. After reviewing the video clip, it appears that just Parker -- not O'Donnell -- said either “Oh, my god” or “Oh boy,” though her precise words are not clearly audible. Media Matters For America regrets the error.