Matthews Joins Barbara Boxer in Dismissing 'Brooks Brothers' Protestors

Chris Matthews, on Tuesday's "Hardball," invited on California Senator Barbara Boxer to dismiss the increasing number of townhall protestors opposed to Obama's liberal agenda as the "angry, and "noisy," "well-dressed middle-class people in pinks and limes...Brooks Brothers Brigade." After playing brief clips from the townhall protests Matthews devoted the first half of his show to knocking down their legitimacy, something Boxer actually instructed Matthews to do, as she urged the MSNBC host: "You, you in the media have to take a look at what's going on here. This is all planned. It's to hurt our president and it's to change the Congress." To which Matthews suggested the grassroots revolt should be ignored, as he depicted the protestors as stooges of the health care industry.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the health insurance companies that have made money for years on health care are the bad guys here? Do you think they're behind these so-called Astroturf demonstrations? That they're not really grassroots. These Brooks Brothers attacks on these congressional meetings?[audio available here]

Before the Boxer interview, Matthews invited on the Politico's Jeanne Cummings who also pooh-poohed the demonstrators:

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO: Well they're conservatives who are being organized by several different Republican organizations. One of them is an organization committed to defeat health care. They're running, on their site, every list of townhall meetings they can find and encouraging people to show up. The Republican House committee is also urging and organizing people to go out to these townhall meetings and basically create a fuss that can then be, go viral on the Web and make it appear as if though there is a great deal of opposition to the President's plan. The problem is at some of these townhall meetings they've been outnumbered by citizens who would actually like to discuss the issue in a more civilized way and they shouted those folks down.

Matthews responded by playing the class warfare card, as he seemed offended that those in the middle-class would dare to fight to protect what they’ve worked hard for, as he railed: "Wow!...It's not usual to see the middle-class in up arms, but these people look pretty well-off. They don't look like rich people but they certainly are not poor people demanding health care. Apparently they have what they want, they don't want it touched."

The following intro and exchanges were aired on the August 4, edition of "Hardball":

CHRIS MATTHEWS: The roar of the crowd! Let's play "Hardball!" Good evening I'm Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight, health menace! Those angry, noisy, shout ‘em down protests at congressional townhalls are getting to be a lot more about things than health care. They are about those who are not rooting for the health of this president and his future. They are about a deep political and cultural divide in this country.

(Clip of protestors chanting, "Silent No More!")

...

MATTHEWS: But first are the protests at those townhall meetings the product of real grassroots rage and resentment over big government and health care reform or are they being orchestrated by the right? White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was skeptical about the grassroots nature of the angry mobs. Here's what he had to say.

(Begin clip)

ROBERT GIBBS: I also have no doubt that there are groups that are, have spread out people across the country to go to those things and to specifically generate videos that can be posted on Internet sites so that people can watch what's happening in America.

(End clip)

MATTHEWS: What's happening in America is right now. Chris Cillizza is with the WashingtonPost.com and Jeanne Cummings is with the Politico. Jeanne I want you to go first. If you had to explain American politics on August 4th 19, well 20 -- I keep getting that wrong – 20, 2009, what would you say is going on in all these crazy meetings? We're gonna show some of this B-roll of these meetings in Long Island and Texas and Pennsylvania. Everywhere a congressperson holds a meeting, apparently, these people show up. Well-dressed, middle-class people in pinks and limes if you will. Who are they? They've been called the Brooks Brothers Brigade. Who are these people?

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO: Well they're conservatives who are being organized by several different Republican organizations. One of them is an organization committed to defeat health care. They're running, on their site, every list of townhall meetings they can find and encouraging people to show up. The Republican House committee is also urging and organizing people to go out to these townhall meetings and basically create a fuss that can then be, go viral on the Web and make it appear as if though there is a great deal of opposition to the President's plan. The problem is at some of these townhall meetings they've been outnumbered by citizens who would actually like to discuss the issue in a more civilized way and they shouted those folks down.

MATTHEWS: Wow! Let me go to Chris Cillizza. Your thoughts. It's not usual to see the middle-class in up arms, but these people look pretty well-off. They don't look like rich people but they certainly are not poor people demanding health care. Apparently they have what they want, they don't want it touched.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Well you know Chris, to Jeanne's point, I think she's right. I'm always skeptical of turning an anecdote into a broader conclusion, which is that there's clearly an element of people whether they're organized or not organized who are not happy with this plan. If you look at national polling and lots of it has been done in the last few weeks support for the President's plan has waned a bit. That said, you know, as someone who writes a blog for a living, I'm all in favor of civil as opposed to uncivil discourse. So I think more is likely to get done by listening to one another, rather than shouting one another down.

...

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: So all of this is a diversion by the people who want to, frankly, hurt President Obama. You've heard the Republican Senator Jim DeMint say it.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

BOXER: "Let's make this Obama's Waterloo. Let's break him." That's what this is about. And by the way I saw some of the clips of people storming these townhall meetings. The last time I saw well-dressed people doing this, was when Al Gore asked me to go down to Florida when they were recounting the ballots, and I was confronted with the same type of people. They were there screaming and yelling, "Go back to California! Get out of here!" and all the rest of it, until I finally looked at them and I said, "You know what? Your hero Ronald Reagan is from California, you should show a little respect." And then they quieted down.

So this, this is just all organized. Just go up on the Web site Chris. You, you in the media have to take a look at what's going on here. This is all planned. It's to hurt our president and it's to change the Congress. It's, and you know what? We went to the White House today, we heard President Obama. It was wonderful to hear him. He's so calm and cool about this. He says we gotta be tougher, we gotta be stronger, we have the truth on our side on these issues. We'll just get out there and present those facts to the American people and let them choose between people who are screaming and those of us who are trying to explain how we can really help our families afford medical care in this great nation of ours.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the health insurance companies that have made money for years on health care are the bad guys here? Do you think they're behind these so-called Astroturf demonstrations? That they're not really grassroots. These Brooks Brothers attacks on these congressional meetings?

BOXER: I think it’s a combination of things. I think it is definitely is the right-wing in this country trying to hurt this president and hurt this Congress. They’re out there playing politics with it. And I have to believe the insurance companies. They have the most to lose. These CEOs, they’ve been having a ball. Every year, $20 million in a salary. Do you know how many families could have had, you know, health insurance for that? It’s, it’s really a shame. We pay twice as much as any other country for health care. Do you know where we are in infant mortality Chris? 29 out of the 30 industrialized nations. And on life expectancy 24 out of 30.

We can do better and we will do better. We have to have the courage to face those crowds to make the point that what we’re trying to do is what is really what the American people want us to do, what they voted for. Bring change and make their lives more secure by ensuring that their health insurance will be there when they need it and it will be affordable. That’s what we’re trying to do.

MATTHEWS: Okay thank you so much for joining us tonight, Senator Barbara Boxer of California.

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