Matthews: Is 'Community Organizer,' the New 'Welfare Queen?'

Chris Matthews, on Monday night's "Hardball," speculated that Republicans were playing the race card, when they made fun of Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer, even going as far to say they're using the phrase like a "bullwhip." In a segment with NBC's Chuck Todd and pollster Stuart Rothenberg, Matthews suspiciously noted that Republicans like Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani, at last week's GOP convention, were "giggling" over the "community organizer" title as he pondered: "Is this the new 'welfare queen?'"

Then a little later in the program, in a segment with the Financial Times' Chrystia Freeland and the Independent Women's Forum's Michelle Bernard, Matthews returned to the subject as he declared: "It seems to me that the use of the word, 'community organizer,' is almost like a bullwhip." 

The following exchanges occurred on the September 8 edition of "Hardball" [audio excerpts available here]:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah but also, Chuck, and this is tricky business. She's [Palin] rural, she's white, she's from out in the country. She's very conservative on rural issues. She's no where near an ethnic from a big city, she's about as far from urban as possible. Meanwhile Barack and Michelle Obama are from the Southside of Chicago. They're urban, they're ethnic, they're African-American. They're community organizers. And by the way, there's a phrase I wonder about. "Community organizers." Do Republicans think, Stu [Rothenberg], when they say that we're supposed to think Al Sharpton? What do they, what, why would they use that to toy with, this week? Rudy Giuliani got the biggest giggle out of that. And then, of course, Sarah, Sarah Palin did. They're giggling over the community organizer role as if it's, has, it carries more freight than just a job you once had. Is this the new "welfare queen?" Is this a new symbol, that we're talking about here?

...

MATTHEWS: But do you think there, do you it has an ethnic piece, an urban piece even?

CHUCK TODD: I don't, I don't. I mean I'm sorry-

MATTHEWS: Well you don't have to say it, I'll say it. I think what they're getting is urban, downtown, trouble, tough neighborhoods. Community organizer is not a winning phrase for a place like Scranton....Yeah I think, I think it has Al Sharpton connotations, anyway.

...

MATTHEWS: But Chrystia [Freeland] it seems to me that the use of the word, "community organizer," is almost like a bullwhip. Rudy Giuliani used it. He's not exactly light-handed when it comes to this stuff, he can be heavy-handed. He giggled about the phrase, "community organizer." Are they saying that, that Barack Obama is Al Sharpton? Is that what they're saying? Is that what the real brand they're trying to put him is?

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