Conflict of Interest? Hardball's Suspicious Silence on Rendell Gaffe

With more and more reports coming out that MSNBC's Chris Matthews is actively looking to run for Senate in his home state of Pennsylvania, questions about a conflict of interest have been raised. Can the host fairly cover the Democratic Party when he's actively trying to join its Senate ranks, and even more specifically, how objective can he be when he's interviewing Pennsylvania Democrats like frequent "Hardball" guest Governor Ed Rendell?

Well, if this week is any indication, Matthews is failing that objectivity test as he has yet to mention on "Hardball", the controversy surrounding a, some believe, sexist remark Rendell made about Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano having more time to devote to being Homeland Security Secretary because she has "no life."

Yet Matthews' NBC colleague Ann Curry, thought it was important enough to devote not just one but two anchor reads, like this one, on Thursday's "Today" show:

ANN CURRY: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is apologizing for comments he made about Homeland Security nominee Janet Napolitano, comments that some complained were sexist. Earlier this week, near an open microphone, Rendell said that Napolitano would be good for the job because she has no family. He said for that job, quote, "You have to have no life."

For the record the last time Rendell appeared on "Hardball," was on Tuesday night, and he was granted the typical friendly interview from Matthews, in which he and Matthews pushed Barack Obama to outdo FDR in big government spending. The following exchanged occurred on the December 2, edition of "Hardball":

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let's make some news Governor. Do you get a sense from the President-elect that he's open to the numbers you gave? $136 billion for infrastructure. That's bridges and stuff like that. He's getting requests for money, obviously from the auto industry tonight, in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker is gonna have to deal with that. But let me ask you did you get a sense that he's wanting, some people are talking about a trillion-and-a-half dollar stimulus package, something really, you know, equivalent to something like we saw or could have seen, maybe we should have seen in the early days of the New Deal. Something really big.

ED RENDELL: Well we didn't actually get in to talking numbers although we did lay on the table, because the, one of the things that the President-elect wanted to find out from us is what did we estimate were ready-to-go projects that we could have a shovel in the ground in the next 18 months. And we used a compilation of different things to say $136 billion. And I don't think that was something that shocked him or that he found-

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

RENDELL: -in of itself to be too extreme. That's number one. Number two, there was nothing I heard that would indicate a trillion-and-a-half stimulus program. I think it's gonna be significant. Certainly more significant than anything Congress has talked about but-

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

RENDELL: -but not on that level. Not on that level.

MATTHEWS: The argument is, of course, that the U.S. economy, the GDP is about $13 trillion and over three years it'll be $39 trillion and to have a real impact over the next three years, is what we're probably talking about, you need more than, you need a lot more juice than a trillion bucks. That's what I'm talking about, Governor. It's gotta be big time.

RENDELL: I understand and I think that they, they are thinking big and they are thinking bold and, you know, Paul Krugman had said that FDR failed not because he didn't have the right vision but because he didn't have the courage to, to do it the scale that was needed. And I think President-elect Obama understands that.

MATTHEWS: Well I'm definitely with Krugman on that. I think The New Deal was a little slow in acting. Roosevelt should have been a lot more gutsy than he was in the beginning. He was gutsy enough. Let me thank you very much Governor Ed Rendell, chairman of the, of the National Governors Association that hosted President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden this morning in Philadelphia.

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