MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell Plays Race Card on Gingrich, Colleagues Laugh At Her

MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell on Friday went too far for even her colleagues at the liberal cable channel, receiving mockery for her allegation that comments Newt Gingrich made about Barack Obama were racially-charged. At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Thursday, the former House Speaker commented that “shooting three-point shots may be clever, but it doesn’t put anybody to work.”

Speaking of the President’s basketball skills, Gingrich continued: "What we need is a President, not an athlete. We need somebody who actually focuses on getting people back to work.” After the clip was played, O'Donnell, the guest host on the April 9 Morning Joe, lobbed her accusation at Gingrich:

But I’m not sure what he means by this particular soundbite and I think it’s open to some criticism because it suggests that the President is an athlete and some people may suggest, you  know, because all black people are good athletes. I mean that’s what it sort of sounds like to me.

The rest of the Morning Joe panel scoffed at O’Donnell’s claim, erupting in a flurry of dismissiveness.

“Oh, I didn’t see that at all,” claimed NBC White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie.

“I didn’t get that (impression),” asserted MSNBC contributor and former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle.

“That went right by me!” proclaimed conservative columnist and MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan, laughing.

While the rest of panel ridiculed her, O’Donnell pressed on with her criticism, asking, “Well what’s this suggestion about him playing basketball? That he’s not doing his job?”

But the panel continued to ignore O’Donnell, electing instead to joke about Obama’s athletic abilities.

“You can easily disprove that President Obama is an athlete by showing his first pitch,” mocked Barnicle. “You can show that clip. He is not an athlete.”

“You can show him at the bowling alley in Pennsylvania!” suggested Buchanan.

O’Donnell’s lone defender was the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, who declared, “Norah, I will back you up, because my eyebrow arched as well.”

In the end, O’Donnell’s attempt to further the argument that Republicans, particularly Southern Republicans, are racist backfired. Instead of making Republicans look radical, O’Donnell made herself look like a fringe liberal.

The transcript for the segment, which aired Friday, April 9, can be found below:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We played Newt Gingrich’s comments at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last night; let’s play it again because I know Norah wanted to get in on this. Let’s play it in case anybody missed it.

NEWT GINGRICH, former Speaker of the House: It will presently sink in on people that, you know, shooting three-point shots may be clever, but it doesn’t put anybody to work. And what we need is a President, not an athlete. We need somebody who actually focuses on getting people back to work.

GUTHRIE: Okay, Norah O’Donnell.

NORAH O’DONNELL: I mean this was largely a good speech. Gingrich’s speech about not being the party of no, let’s be yes on this, yes on this. But I’m not sure what he means by this particular soundbite and I think it’s open to some criticism because it suggests that the President is an athlete and some people may suggest, you  know, because all black people are good athletes. I mean that’s what it sort of sounds like to me.

GUTHRIE: Oh, I didn’t see that at all.

MIKE BARNICLE: Oh, I didn’t get that.

GUTHRIE: Yeah I didn’t hear that!
                    
PAT BUCHANAN: That went right by me! Hahahaha.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, Washington Post: Norah, I will back you up, because my eyebrow arched as well. But let’s put this in perspective. The president does play basketball, he did, you know, do a three-pointer.

O’DONNELL: Well what’s this suggestion about him playing basketball? That he’s not doing his job?

CAPEHART: I know! I know!

GUTHRIE: That’s what I thought was odd about it as though we see him on the basketball court all the time, actually it’s the golf course where we see him at.

BUCHANAN: He just had that one-on-one with the fellow shooting three point shots and stuff.

BARNICLE: You can easily disprove that President Obama is an athlete by showing his first pitch. (Laughter) You can show that clip. He is not an athlete.

BUCHANAN: You can show him at the bowling alley in Pennsylvania.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, maybe the DNC could do a whole ad around that as a counter argument to what Gingrich said.

O’DONNELL: Well, what does that mean, 'We need a president not an athlete'?

BARNICLE: I think it’s a typical Newt Gingrich cheap shot. I didn’t read into the–

GUTHRIE: I didn’t hear it either. But we’re insensitive aren’t we? We don’t know.

CAPEHART, to O'Donnell: I’m with you. It’s not like the guy’s on the court all the time.

-- Alex Fitzsimmons is an intern for the Media Research Center.