Matthews: Obama's 'Pig' Not Sexist but Palin’s 'Community Organizer' is Racist

Chris Matthews spent the entirety of Wednesday night's "Hardball," debunking the idea that Barack Obama was referring to Sarah Palin, when he made his "lipstick on a pig," remark as the MSNBC host questioned if it "insults...everyone's intelligence?" But didn't Matthews insult his viewers' intelligence, on Monday, when he accused Palin and Rudy Giuliani of using coded racist language when they joked about Obama's experience as a "community organizer?"

At the top of Wednesday's show, Matthews invited on Republican strategist John Feehry and Democratic strategist Jenny Backus to discuss the topic, and hit Feehry hard, as he admitted to Backus: "I’m doing your job," and dismissed the "lipstick" controversy: "This is like Seinfeld, this is about nothing."

But on Monday's show Matthews, similarly, tried to make a big deal out of "nothing," when he saw racism in Palin and Giuliani using the words, "community organizer":

MATTHEWS: 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?...Do you it has an ethnic piece, an urban piece even?

The following exchanges occurred on the September 10, "Hardball":

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You believe he was referring to Sarah Palin?

JOHN FEEHRY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well I think, I don't know

JENNY BACKUS: I, I just don't-

MATTHEWS: No, just a minute let's get, because if it's not. Just a minute, okay. [To Backus] I'm doing your job for a second here, just then you can take over. I'm just trying to get straight what we're talking about here because if John McCain isn't accusing his rival of calling his running mate a pig, then we shouldn't be talking about this. If he didn't, if he didn't call her but we're seeing a commercial that says, "Barack Obama on Sarah Palin," put out with the money of John McCain's campaign. So he's not endorsing his campaign ad. Yes or no? Is he endorsing that message or not?

FEEHRY: I have no idea I mean.

MATTHEWS: Well he is, we just saw it. He paid for it.

FEEHRY: Well, paid for it, listen.

MATTHEWS: Okay well then John McCain is saying that his opponent, Barack Obama, has called, in fact, his running mate a pig!

FEEHRY: No I think, I think that what-

MATTHEWS: It said, "Barack Obama on Sarah Palin," right there. I'm not gonna say it again. But you can respond, you can respond.

FEEHRY: I think what, what the issue-

MATTHEWS: The audience, by the way, is watching. They know what's being said in that commercial. We'll play it again. But I think it's enough for them, they've heard it.

FEEHRY: Well let me, let me just say that, I think that the, the fact of the matter is that you have to be very careful what you say in this campaign. I think everyone agrees you have to be careful. And I'd like to, frankly I would like to get back on, on the big issues.

MATTHEWS: No, no, no. You're saying, no, because you're not gonna get back because this is all over the place. Let's take a look at the number of times McCain used the phrase, "Lipstick on a pig," fairly recently.

FEEHRY: Sure.

MATTHEWS: In October of ‘07 he used it in terms of Hillary Clinton's health care plan. In February 1st, a couple of times, February 1st last year, he used it in terms of the Iraq war. John Boehner, you used to work with, one of the top Republicans, in fact he's the leader of the Republican Party in the House right now.

FEEHRY: Sure.

MATTHEWS: He used the phrase in April of this year. In April of ‘05 Senator John Kyl of Arizona used the same phrase. Rod Grams, the former senator from Minnesota used the same phrase. Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania used the same phrase. John Ensign, who was just on the show recently, he used the phrase last year. This is a phrase commonly used by Republican politicians but you say when Barack Obama uses it he's talking about Governor Palin. I just want to know what's your standard of proof? If you're in a courtroom right now could you convict him of calling Governor Palin a pig?

FEEHRY: I couldn't, I wouldn't even try. I wouldn't even try.

MATTHEWS: Well then why are you suggesting that's what he meant?

FEEHRY: I didn't say, I didn't say that.

MATTHEWS: Want to run this commercial again?

FEEHRY: No what I said was that you have to be careful in this campaign and people inside the room thought-

MATTHEWS: What are you guys giving us etiquette rules? Let me tell you something! Let me just show this to you. This is Torie Clark, who's the press secretary for guess who? John McCain.

FEEHRY: Right.

MATTHEWS: She wrote how you use the phrase, "lipstick on a pig," in her book of that title.

FEEHRY: Right.

MATTHEWS: She's teaching people how to use the phrase and what it means. Here's what she says. "Spin has become increasingly vulnerable as information sources have proliferated. Spin is simply no longer viable, or put another way, you can't, you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig." She's saying it's a standard usage phrase for cutting through spin. Exactly the way Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate used it. Your witness Jenny.

BACKUS: Well the other thing that I wanted-

MATTHEWS: I made my point which I think is the Republicans use this phrase relentlessly, all their leaders use it. John McCain uses it. His former press secretary wrote a book entitled, "Lipstick on a pig," explaining how to use it to cut through spin. John you're allowed to say "uncle" on this show. You're allowed to come on and say, "My party, in this case, is full of bunk." You're allowed to do that. I give you time to think about that. Your thoughts Jenny.

...

MATTHEWS: This is like Seinfeld, this is about nothing.

...

MATTHEWS: Coming up later on "Hardball," will women buy the McCain campaign's accusations that Barack Obama was making a sexist comment about Governor Palin? Or will they feel it insults their intelligence? By the way, perhaps everyone's intelligence. "Hardball," returns after this.

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