Matthews Patronizes Limbaugh Listeners on 'Hardball'

Chris Matthews, on Wednesday night's "Hardball," fell into the same trap many other journalists have in misunderstanding the term "Dittoheads," to describe fans of Rush Limbaugh as having no minds of their own that, as Matthews claimed, "repeat every word he speaks as gospel." Of course, as Limbaugh himself points out, fans of the radio talk show host are a varied group, that listen to him because he expresses the opinions they already share and/or just because he's entertaining and the term "Dittohead" is merely shorthand for saying you are a fan, not some "mind-numbed robot." However that fact was lost on Matthews who went on to patronize the audience saying Limbaugh acts as "a  support group for guys, mainly men," who, "feel underappreciated by their families, by their bosses."

Matthews' slights against Limbaugh and his audience came in several segments devoted to Republican Congressman Phil Gingery coming on the talk show host's program to apologize to him for a criticism he made of him earlier in the week. In one of the segments Matthews threw the following question to Salon's Joan Walsh:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Okay here's a great philosophical-, Joan you have opened a can of worms here. Why do libertarians and I respect a lot of libertarian philosophy. It's, at least, in ideal terms the Ayn Rand stuff. It's-, I love the idea it's romantic. If everybody could live on themselves, and take care of themselves, if that could work, it doesn't, fine. But why do people who say they're individualists, cowboys, out there all alone, refer to themselves as "Dittoheads?"

Why would you take pride in being a ditto of what Rush Limbaugh says? In other words, repeating after him, every word he speaks as if its gospel? And, and, it doesn't make any sense. How can you be both a "Dittohead," and an individualist? It makes no sense to me!

Then a little later in the program Matthews insulted Limbaugh listeners when he made the following observation to guest panelist liberal New York Times columnist Bob Herbert:

MATTHEWS: The Limbaugh constituency and it is a support group. He's a support group for guys, mainly men, I think, traveling around the country trying to sell product between 12 and 3 Eastern. They're out they're working hard, they're trying to meet sales quotas. I guess they feel underappreciated by their families, by their bosses. And he says, "Look you're the guys carrying the load. It's those people out there, that aren't working the ones who are getting a free tax ride. They're the ones we gotta get." Right? That's what he's playing to.

BOB HERBERT, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: That's exactly what he's playing to but I think what is interesting is apparently the "Dittoheads" are in Congress as well. So you have Republican members-

MATTHEWS: Ha!

HERBERT: You have Republican members of Congress who feel free to openly criticize President Obama but if they criticize Rush then they have to genuflect and kiss his ring. I find that fascinating.

The following exchanges were aired on the January 28 edition of "Hardball":

CHRIS MATTHEWS: But Joan what do you make of the politics here? This is a pretty strong charge from Rush. I think it was backed up, well I guess it's, in effect backed up by people like Phil Gingery, the congressman, because he come back and groveled before the altar of, of, of, God, of Rush Limbaugh. What a sight!

JOAN WALSH, SALON: You know, with all due respect, with all due-

MATTHEWS: You see who got the power here.

WALSH: Yes he's licking his boots. Let's be honest. Have you ever seen anything more pathetic than that display? And with all due respect to Dick Armey this is not about the tax code. This is not about smart tax policy. This is not about the stimulus. This is about the politics of resentment. And this is about Rush Limbaugh playing up Democrats against Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Okay.

WALSH: I mean you know we haven't talked about the most disgusting thing that Rush said which is that we should-

(DICK ARMEY INTERRUPTS)

WALSH: No, no, no let me finish. Let me finish.

MATTHEWS: No, no, let's hear...No, no, no! This show is "Hardball." Joan, you have cued me. Here he is. The most disgusting thing he ever said last week. Last week-

WALSH: Oh good. My..

MATTHEWS: Thank you for cuing it. Here it is. Here's Rush Limbaugh last week.

(Begin clip of Limbaugh on Fox News)

RUSH LIMBAUGH: We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds. That we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward whichever, "because his father was black. Because this is the first black president."

(End clip)

MATTHEWS: What, what do we make of that? That we have to, "bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward whichever because his father was black?" What is this? What is this?

WALSH: Did anyone, did anyone think? Did one person, did one Republican think of apologizing to President Obama for such an obnoxious, sickening thing? I mean c'mon! This is what we're talking about.

...

MATTHEWS: Okay here's a great philosophical-, Joan you have opened a can of worms here. Why do libertarians and I respect a lot of libertarian philosophy. It's, at least, in ideal terms the Ayn Rand stuff. It's-, I love the idea it's romantic. If everybody could live on themselves, and take care of themselves, if that could work, it doesn't, fine. But why do people who say they're individualists, cowboys, out there all alone, refer to themselves as "Dittoheads?" Why would you take pride in being a ditto of what Rush Limbaugh says. In other words repeating after him, every word he speaks as if its gospel? And, and, it doesn't make any sense. How can you be both a "Dittohead," and an individualist? It makes no sense to me!

...

MATTHEWS: The Limbaugh constituency and it is a support group. He's a support group for guys, mainly men, I think, traveling around the country trying to sell product between 12 and 3 Eastern. They're out they're working hard, they're trying to meet sales quotas. I guess they feel underappreciated by their families, by their bosses. And he says, "Look you're the guys carrying the load. It's those people out there, that aren't working the ones who are getting a free tax ride. They're the ones we gotta get." Right? That's what he's playing to.

BOB HERBERT, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: That's exactly what he's playing to but I think what is interesting is apparently the "Dittoheads" are in Congress as well. So you have Republican members-

MATTHEWS: Ha!

HERBERT: You have Republican members of Congress who feel free to openly criticize President Obama but if they criticize Rush then they have to genuflect and kiss his ring. I find that fascinating.

...

MATTHEWS TO DAVID SHUSTER: I think Rush Limbaugh plays brilliantly to his constituency - traveling salesmen. I know how he does it. He's a support group. Nobody else roots for him, he does. Everything he says is brilliantly tuned to that constituency against-, the trouble is I have with people like that is they, they're never as tough on the rich people as they are on poor people. And I think it's easy to go after the poor people. People that have nothing, who get a tax break or a tax credit. And they're struggling, and they get to work.

By the way, I always say to people, you think poor people don't work? Come to Washington at six o'clock in the morning and see who's waiting for a bus to go to work. Every street corner people are waiting on busses to go to work in the morning. These are poor people working for very low income. They work 40, 50, 60 hours a week and they make very little money to come home with. But they show up for work every day and they get up very early after taking care of their families. Then they gotta go home and take care of their families when they do get home at six o'clock. They work very hard.

The idea that poor people don't work as hard as rich people is crap. And I, and I think a lot of the people on the right sell that argument all the time. That somehow people are richer because they work harder. A lot of people work very, very hard. They just haven't had the breaks. Sometimes the education. Whatever? Maybe the parents, somebody let them down somewhere along the line. But you can't-, life is not a beautiful meritocracy. It just isn't. It doesn't work that way.

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