Chris Matthews Accuses Republicans of 'Criminal' Incitement

Does Chris Matthews want Republican congressmen arrested? On Wednesday's Hardball he actually posed that possibility to Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen, as he blamed GOP rhetoric for causing vandalism of Democratic offices as he asked Van Hollen: "Would you say that this incitement, from the Republican leadership is criminal?" After relaying reports of Democrats receiving death threats and having "windows thrown bricks at," Matthews escalated his usual slandering of the entire Tea Party movement for the offensive or unlawful actions of a few, to actually blaming Republican officeholders for the illegal acts. The concerned MSNBC host also worried: "Is it harder to recruit members to run for Congress now that they're facing death threats?" [audio available here]

The following exchange was aired on the March 24 Hardball:   

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You have people, Congressman Neugebauer from, he's a, he's a real Birther from down in Texas. He's one of these guys who doesn't believe Barack Obama was born here. Not one of us. He's gone all the way to that extreme. He's the one who yelled "baby killer" on the floor against Bart Stupak. Bart Stupak has gotten death threats. Would you say that this incitement, from the Republican leadership is criminal? I mean seriously. If people are gonna have windows thrown bricks at, if they're gonna get their lives threatened, if we're getting criminal behavior resulting from their incitement, is the incitement itself criminal?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, it's a very dangerous game, Chris. I mean I don't know whether -- look, people have to draw their conclusions as they want. But I think the big, the, the big giveaway here is that they are not coming out and forcefully condemning these statements and through their-, not just, they're not just being silent. They're also making highly heated remarks that obviously, in the case of "baby killer" crossed that line. And so they have, in fact, joined in this kind of activity. So people can characterize it how they want but there's no denying the fact that they are stoking the flames here and they are not trying to separate themselves. In fact they've embraced the benefits that, what they consider the political benefits from these activities.

MATTHEWS: Let's go to former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. I don't know whether you put her on the fringe. I think she's close to it. She certainly appeals to those people on the fringe. I don't know if she's or not, but she's put out a map, targeting Democrats with these cross hairs over it. These red cross hairs. I mean the kind you do at target practice, I guess where they, where they, you know, a mounted, what do you call those things? A sight on top of your gun. She's put these things out. There's a picture of it out there. What do you make of that? Her putting out this picture of, of Democratic seats and where you gotta target them?

MATTHEWS: Let's go to former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. I don't know whether you put her on the fringe. I think she's close to it. She certainly appeals to those people on the fringe. I don't know if she's or not, but she's put out a map, targeting Democrats with these cross hairs over it. These red cross hairs. I mean the kind you do at target practice, I guess where they, where they, you know, a mounted, what do you call those things? A sight on top of your gun. She's put these things out. There's a picture of it out there. What do you make of that? Her putting out this picture of, of Democratic seats and where you gotta target them?

VAN HOLLEN: You know I really think that in this environment that, that is crossing a line because it's not the folksy, the sort of, "you betcha" kind of thing that, you know, she's trying to portray at least she tried to when she was running for Vice President. In this particular environment, I think it's really dangerous to try and make your point in that particular way because there are people who are taking that kind of thing seriously. We've heard from a whole lot of members who have received death threats, not just to themselves, but to their families. We there to have a meeting today with the Capitol Police to go over security procedures. And, again, we should be able to disagree on the floor of the House and we should be able to have emotional debates but when it crosses the line into threats to the lives of people and their families, this has gotten out of control and this is why someone, someone needs to step up on the Republican's side and say, enough is enough. Rather than trying to play this double game.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe this violent language and violent behavior is the result of the fact that the polls seem to be switching against the right, at least temporarily. Let's take a look. I know that you know these polls. The new CBS poll has a seven-point swing under way right now in favor of health care -- it's still not the most popular game in town, obviously. But the approval number's gone up dramatically from 37 to 42 and disapproval's come down a bit. Do you sense that out in your Maryland district, which I'm quite familiar with, since I live there. Do you have a sense the President has his case this week or is there a lot more selling to do down the road for health care reform?

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MATTHEWS: Is it harder to recruit members to run for Congress now that they're facing death threats? Even though the polls may be slightly turning in your direction? How's recruitment going?

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