MSNBC 'Morning Joe' Panelists (Yet Again) Call Tea Partiers 'Economic Terrorists'

A trend is emerging on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," whereby guests make inflammatory statements likening conservatives to terrorists, and none of the co-hosts insist on a more elevated level of dialogue.

Following in the footsteps of Newsweek's Tina Brown and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), two MSNBC analysts called conservatives in Congress "economic terrorists" and "crazy" on Friday, yet none of the program's co-hosts questioned the offensive choice of words or called for a more civilized tone.

Disgraced former Obama car czar Steve Rattner went first, framing Tea Partiers as suicide bombers:

You know, the problem with this is it's like a form of economic terrorism. I imagine these Tea Party guys are like strapped with dynamite, standing in the middle of Times Square at rush hour and saying, 'either you do it my way, or we're going to blow you up, ourselves up, and the whole country up with us.' So you tell me how those kinds of standoffs end.

Co-host Joe Scarborough pushed back on the substance of Rattner's argument, but was mum on the MSNBC economic analyst's insulting comparison.

"Well you subtract the 87 'no' votes from the Republican caucus and you pick them up in the Democratic caucus," replied Scarborough, a former Republican congressman. "I mean, there were several times where Newt had to roll us and get some Democratic votes."

Moments later, analyst Mike Barnicle employed the word "crazy" three times to describe House Republicans who oppose the Boehner plan: "[Senate Republicans] now know, these people are crazy. There's 8 to 15 to perhaps 20 members of the Tea Party-influenced wing of the Republican Party in the House who are crazy. They are crazy."

Between co-hosts Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist, and Scarborough, only Joe objected to Barnicle's insult: "Crazy as defined by Boston standards...A lot of people in Tupelo [Mississippi] think they're pretty smart."

On July 6, Newsweek editor Tina Brown opined that congressional Republicans are "suicide bombers" for not supporting tax increases. Brown's comparison came after Geist said conservatives "are holding the hostage." Scarborough was not on the set that day and Brzezinski did not object to the comparison.

On July 27, after House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer asserted that Republicans "want to shoot every bullet they have at the president," none of the "Morning Joe" co-hosts so much as lifted a finger in protest to the Maryland Democrat's use of language.

Later on the Friday program, Scarborough offered to defend the Tea Party position on the debt limit after Rattner remarked that he was "prepared to take the bullet of defending the president."

"We've gotten to this point, it's one of the rare times where conservatives have any leverage to actually enact spending cuts," argued Scarborough. "And so I think their feeling is this is our opportunity."

The support evaporated quickly though, as Scarborough turned to criticizing the House Tea Party freshmen: "I think the biggest problem with that, Mike, is that their moment has passed and what they don't understand is the more chaotic things get in these types of crises, the more the president's power expands."

As civility continues to be in short supply on "Morning Joe," it seems MSNBC is failing at practicing the new tone it likes to preach.

A transcript of the segment can be found below:

MSNBC
Morning Joe
July 29, 2011

8:04 a.m. Eastern

JOE SCARBOROUGH: And how's it going to get broken? How's the stalemate going to get broken, Steve?

STEVE RATTNER, Morning Joe economic analyst: I wish I knew. You know, the problem with this is it's like a form of economic terrorism. I imagine these Tea Party guys are like strapped with dynamite, standing in the middle of Times Square at rush hour and saying, 'either you do it my way, or we're going to blow you up, ourselves up, and the whole country up with us.' So you tell me how those kinds of standoffs end.

SCARBOROUGH: Well you subtract the 87 'no' votes from the Republican caucus and you pick them up in the Democratic caucus. I mean, there were several times where Newt had to roll us and get some Democratic votes. I'm sure there are no Democratic votes for this Boehner plan. So they're going to have to come up with a plan, Mike, that if they can't pass it with Republicans in the House, they're going to have to come up with a plan that 100 or so Democrats will support.

MIKE BARNICLE: You know, I actually view it as a positive sign, what happened yesterday. Because what it does, I think, is it liberates a lot of Republicans in the Senate who may have been on the fence. They now know, these people are crazy. There's 8 to 15 to perhaps 20 members of the Tea Party-influenced wing of the Republican Party in the House who are crazy. They are crazy.

SCARBOROUGH: Crazy as defined by Boston standards.

BARNICLE: They're taking the country to the verge of economic catastrophe.

SCARBOROUGH: A lot of people in Tupelo think they're pretty smart.

BARNICLE: Well I don't want to find out. The point is I don't want to find out. But it's as if John Boehner, whose speakership I think now is in some peril, he didn't read the fine print in the ransom note that they read. You know, let's have that vote, we're going to have that vote at 6:45. Oh whoops, I see we're not going to have the vote. So now it's going to be Reid and McConnell. They're the ones who are going to have to fix this up in the Senate.

[...]

RATTNER: I'm prepared to take the bullet of defending the president, up to a point anyway.

SCARBOROUGH: Hold on let's have an exercise. You defend the president, I'll defend the Republican president. Ready, go.

RATTNER: I'm simply – my point is simply that if we did something along the lines of what the president has proposed, we would have certainty, at least for a year and a half. Would we have solved all our problems? No. We'd have a grand bargain. We'd have $4 trillion of deficit reduction. It would be balanced between spending and taxes and we'd live to fight another day. What we're talking about here is a hodgepodge of stuff that will get us through a few months and provides no certainty.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: And economic uncertainty. Go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH: I got nothing. I would say and actually Steve agreed with me a couple of weeks ago, the only thing worse than a short-term fix is no fix at all. You know, we were talking about a $4 trillion grand bargain and how good it would be for this country. Passing a clean debt ceiling, which I fear is what we may be headed toward if this chaos continues, that's not an economic nightmare immediately, but I think we get a downgrade if we pass it cleanly without any cuts. We've gotten to this point, it's one of the rare times where conservatives have any leverage to actually enact spending cuts. And so I think their feeling is this is our opportunity. After this train leaves the station, well we're back to the status quo and nobody's going to cut and all they're going to want to do is want to spend, spend, spend to get reelected. So we got to do it now or it's never going to get done. I think the biggest problem with that, Mike, is that their moment has passed and what they don't understand is the more chaotic things get in these types of crises, the more the president's power expands.

BRZEZINSKI: It will be on them.

--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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