On 'Hardball': Matthews Praises Sweaty Sotomayor, Maher Disses 'Racist' Republicans

Chris Matthews, on Tuesday's "Hardball," invited on HBO's Bill Maher to mock GOP criticism of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as Maher accused them of being "racist," and Matthews marveled at how Republicans can admire Sarah Palin but not someone who worked as hard as Sotomayor to achieve her position, as he pondered: "Why do they like somebody who's shown no sweat equity against somebody who's shown nothing but sweat equity?"

Before discussing Republican treatment of Sotomayor Matthews asked Maher to rate the audiences that come to see him in the South. Maher, not surprisingly, belittled most of the region, saying the ones that do come to his shows are the minority as they are "marbled in and surrounded by a bunch of hillbillies and rednecks." To which Matthews rejoined: "Isn't it refreshing to meet Southern liberals? Because the great thing about Southern liberals is they don't, they're not competing for the latest nuance of sexual freedom like in Greenwich Village. They are liberals, meaning they're, they're for black equality for example. Things like that, that are pretty nice and wholesome." [audio available here]

Not long after that slam against non-liberal Southerners, Maher threw out the charge of Republican racism:

MAHER: They all, they all act like you know her background as a Puerto Rican woman – I don't know how you walk around being that – is, is somehow different than, you know like Jeff Sessions' background as a Southern, you know, c'mon. He, he was sort of cast as a racist at one point. Like that doesn't come into play in his decision-making.

MATTHEWS: No he's made some unfavorable comments about the NAACP over the years. 

A little later in the show Matthews managed to take a shot at Palin in the midst of praising the sweaty Sotomayor:

MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at something that columnist Margaret Wente wrote in today's Toronto Globe and Mail. By the way that's the number one paper up there. But she's a, she was an American who moved up there. Quote: "According to leading Republican pundits, Judge Sotomayor is a hot-tempered, dim-witted bigot whose judicial activism (read nutty identity politics) could play havoc with the Constitution. Amazingly, these are the same people who continue to insist that Sarah Palin is qualified to run for President of the United States." I thought this grabbed me as a brilliant comparison. It, it really did. Because the very qualities of Sotomayor which is, up from her bootstraps, studying hard, you know bringing yourself up and then this other person that they seem to like based upon no preparation like that. No homework, no scholarships! No effort that's been manifest. What's the story on the Republicans? Why do they like somebody who's shown no sweat equity against somebody who's shown nothing but sweat equity?

Finally Matthews couldn't let the show end before taking a dig at Rush Limbaugh:

MATTHEWS: Lindsey Graham loves John McCain, has supported him so dutifully and wonderfully but everybody knows John has, can have a hot temper, which I do too. A lot of people have but to say that he has a hot temper and yet she needs anger management. He was, I'm sorry, you're laughing because he was tutoring her today. That was condescending. He was telling somebody up for the Supreme Court, "Now you've got to work on this."

ROGER SIMON: He was, he was doing that because Rush Limbaugh beat him up last night after he was too nice to Sotomayor-

MATTHEWS: Oh really...

SIMON: -in his opening comments.

MATTHEWS: You mean he cares?

SIMON: He's saying if, he, you know Rush Limbaugh is saying if, if Lindsey Graham says you're gonna make it, unless you have a meltdown saying, "What's the point of the hearings?" Said, "C'mon have some guts." So Lindsey Graham had to come out-

MATTHEWS: You know that's the worst, condescending thing you've ever said on this show Roger.

SIMON: What?

MATTHEWS: You're saying that Lindsey Graham takes orders from, from Rush Limbaugh.

SIMON: Oh a Republican senator from South Carolina can afford to tick off Limbaugh?

MATTHEWS: Oh gosh. Lindsey's better than that. I think, I won't stoop so low as to accuse him of being a ditto-head. I just don't think he's a ditto-head.

The following is a fuller exchange between Matthews and Maher on the Sotomayor hearings as it was aired on the July 14 edition of "Hardball":

MAHER: Chris, I love going to the South. The South is the funnest place for me to play because, you know, you go to a place like Greenville or I was also in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Let's plug that one I did it in April. And you know there are so many progressive people who live in these states. Now of course they're marbled in and surrounded by a bunch of hillbillies and rednecks. But the fact that they're just there is, is a very positive thing. And when I come to their town, they all come out of the woodwork and they come to my show. And I feel very good that these people do exist everywhere in the United States and I think they feel good that I didn't forget them and say, oh I'm not gonna go to that state, that's a bunch of hillbillies. That I went there and I said, no, I recognize that there are people like this everywhere. So I have a great time in the South.

MATTHEWS: Isn't it refreshing to meet Southern liberals? Because the great thing about Southern liberals is they don't, they're not competing for the latest nuance of sexual freedom like in Greenwich Village. They are liberals, meaning they're, they're for black equality for example. Things like that, that are pretty nice and wholesome.

MAHER: You mean new concepts. Yes and I mean, I mean you, you, you saw that all day with the Sotomayor hearings. You know all these white people, especially these white men who are so incensed about reverse racism and Sotomayor, because you know the problem Chris is that for too long Puerto Rican women have had their boot on the neck of white men in America and this must stop. You know I mean, this constant-

MATTHEWS: I just love Lindsey Graham going after her today about anger management. And here's a guy who was the biggest supporter of John McCain. And he was-

MAHER: Right, exactly.

MATTHEWS: He wanted McCain to be President of the United States and he was wondering whether she might have a temperament problem. Did he ever check in with his number one hero, on that point?

MAHER: Temperament and background. They all, they all act like you know her background as a Puerto Rican woman – I don't know how you walk around being that – is, is somehow different than, you know like Jeff Sessions' background as a Southern, you know, c'mon. He, he was sort of cast as a racist at one point. Like that doesn't come into play in his decision-making.

MATTHEWS: No he's made some unfavorable comments about the NAACP over the years.

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