Matthews & Olbermann Deny Media Doubted Palin's Maternal Fitness

Apparently fed up of hearing what they believe was a phony line being delivered by GOP spokesmen – that women across the country were offended by the media questioning Sarah Palin's fitness as a mother – Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann defied critics to find examples of any news outlets making that charge.

Matthews and Olbermann, spurred on by criticism from Hawaii's Republican governor Linda Lingle at around 8:09pm [EDT] during MSNBC's live coverage of Thursday night's (September 4) Republican convention, threw down the following gauntlet:

KEITH OLBERMANN: Alright Andrea thank you. Thank you Governor. It would, I'd love the governor or anybody else repeating those talking points to give us the names of those news organizations that have actually questioned whether or not mothers have a right to sit in office. But we haven't heard that list yet.

...

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well I have to agree. I sit here waiting for that list of major news organizations who have questioned her motherhood or her right to become Vice President, given her motherhood. I don't think it has ever happened. But of course it's become the talking point for all the spokesmen.

Matthews and Olbermann's NBC colleague David Gregory made a similar claim on Wednesday's "Today" show.

Well for Matthews, Olbermann and Gregory's information, the following is "a list of major news organizations," that have, in fact, questioned Palin's maternal abilities:

"There's also this issue that on April 18th, she [Palin] gave birth to a baby with Down's Syndrome....Children with Down's syndrome require an awful lot of attention. The role of Vice President, it seems to me, would take up an awful lot of her time, and it raises the issue of how much time will she have to dedicate to her newborn child?"

–CNN's John Roberts on the August 29th, "Newsroom"

"Adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the Senator, and the Governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?...She has an infant -- she has an infant with special needs. Will that affect her campaigning?"

-ABC's Bill Weir on "Good Morning America," August 30.

"Is she prepared for the all-consuming nature of the job?...Her first priority has to be her children. When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick what choice will she make?"

-Washington Post's Sally Quinn, in an August 29, online column.

The following is a more complete transcript of Andrea Mitchell's interview with the governor of Hawaii and the ensuing exchange between Matthews and Olbermann, as it occurred during MSNBC's September 4 coverage of the Republican convention:

[8:09pm]

ANDREA MITCHELL: Now you have similar backgrounds. You have more years of service though. You were the mayor of Maui for eight years now. Governor for six years. Before that you were an elected official as well. You're a Republican with a Democratic legislature. You managed to get things through. You also support choice. So you disagree with her [Sarah Palin] on some of the social issues?

GOV. LINDA LINGLE: Well I think what you're gonna see is that Sarah Palin is going to attract people whether they line up with her on every issue or not. In fact I had a great voice-mail from home today from a well-known person in the state, who's known as a feminist pro-choice, she said, "I want you to know Governor that the ladies at the gym this morning are so outraged at the kinds of questioning that Sarah Palin's getting on two aspects." Number one they're asking her, "How can you be a mother of five children and be Vice President?" And she said, "We said, the same way we do. We do our jobs and we care for our families."

They're also very upset about raising the experience issue with a woman that has so much more experience than their presidential candidate. Obama has never been the CEO of anything, neither has Biden. Sarah Palin has been the governor for almost two years, a good governor with an 80 percent approval rating. She's been a mayor of a small town and when you're mayor you can't hide. You're personally responsible for your decisions.

So women, I think, across the country, whether they're pro-choice or pro-life, I think they're gonna want to see a woman. Because they know one thing, Andrea. When Obama failed to put Hillary on the ticket he created a situation where it may have taken eight years for a woman to reach this level. And if it's not Sarah Palin it will likely be eight years before women of America have another chance to be in this sort of a leadership position. And I think because of that she's gonna pull a lot of them over.

MITCHELL: Thanks so much, Governor Lingle. And so you can hear the narrative that's coming out of here Keith. They are clearly targeting women voters, the voters that have been critical in so many elections and Republican governors stick together.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Alright Andrea thank you. Thank you Governor. It would, I'd love the governor or anybody else repeating those talking points to give us the names of those news organizations that have actually questioned whether or not mothers have a right to sit in office. But we haven't heard that list yet.

...

MATTHEWS: Well I have to agree. I sit here waiting for that list of major news organizations who have questioned her motherhood or her right to become Vice President, given her motherhood. I don't think it has ever happened. But of course it's become the talking point for all the spokesmen, especially the Governor of Hawaii there.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.