Chris Matthews, joined by two liberal talk radio hosts on Tuesday's Hardball, essentially blamed the likes of conservative hosts like Mark Levin for creating the climate of hate that led to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords as the envious MSNBC host proclaimed: "People like Mark Levin, Michael Savage...every time you listen to them are furious, furious at the left with anger that's just builds and builds in their voice and by the time they go to commercial, they're just in some rage, every night, with ugly talk....They must have an audience. I looked at the numbers today. They have big audiences! And I guess that's the question. Why and is it ever going to stop if it keeps working?"
Before that Matthews rant, Philadelphia area radio host Michael Smerconish coined a word in his attack on conservative chatter as he talked about "the hatriolic comments" he's heard and in referring to a scene he saw at a town hall meeting worried: "These are people who are on the edge and if somebody pushes them over, God help us all."
E. Steven Collins, another Philly area talker, sided with Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik who attacked Rush Limbaugh, as he hailed: "The sheriff in Tucson was absolutely right...It does impact people who may have a mental problem or may not" and added that there was a "direct relationship" with Sarah Palin putting crosshairs on her Web site over Giffords' district and the loss of a life of "that little girl who went down to meet the congressperson."
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The following is a transcript of the complete segment as it was aired on the January 11 edition of Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: What's been the role of talk radio in fueling the heated language. Also what are people saying out there? What do people think about this tragedy last week. I want to go to the radio jocks and really experts and our friends. Michael Smerconish, a syndicated radio talk show host is on here as my sub and I'm glad to have him. He's an MSNBC contributor of course. And E. Steven Collins hosts the radio talk show Philly Speaks. Gentlemen thank you both for coming in. First, Michael, what are people saying out there? You've got a lot of hours with people, what are they saying about this tragedy and its meaning politically?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH: Well what I'm hearing mostly from callers and I've talked about it for six hours already this week is that they don't see a causal connection. A direct causal connection between all, as I put it, the hatriolic comments and the shooting incident on Saturday in Arizona. However, they view this as an opportunity to have a conversation about the terrible discourse in the nation, something that's been a mainstay in my program for a number of years. Because I think it's appalling. It's been getting worse and although I'm not one to say that gun belongs in the hand of a particular talk show host because they caused it - I am here to say that I hope it's an opportunity for us to reflect. Because things are way out of hand. I've been doing this for 15 years Chris, and it has never been at the fever pitch that I have found since this president came into office.
MATTHEWS: E. Steven I have to tell you, I'll mention a couple of names without getting into too many fights. People like Mark Levin, Michael Savage, for example who every time you listen to them are furious, furious at the left with anger that's just builds and builds in their voice and by the time they go to commercial, they're just in some rage, every night, with ugly talk. Ugly sounding talk. And it never changes. It never modulates. They must have an audience. I looked at the numbers today. They have big audiences! And I guess that's the question. Why and is it ever going to stop if it keeps working?
E. STEVEN COLLINS: The sheriff in Tucson was absolutely right, Chris. It does impact people who may have a mental problem or may not. And they just have an anger toward government, but a little push to the right and they are there and that little girl who went down to meet the congressperson who lost her life for absolutely nothing is a witness to what we've seen over and over again. This kind of violence. The idea that Sarah Palin, who was a governor of a state would put crosshairs over congressional districts and then a week or so later, a congressperson is almost fatally shot and a federal judge is killed and other bystanders, who came out to meet their congressperson were, were shot the way they were, there is a direct relationship. This person, I get that he's mentally ill, but how do we know that what he heard on his radio, saw on his Web site, did not impact him to make that decision?
MATTHEWS: I guess that's the question to you Michael, you and I are both within the 40 yard lines. I don't think we operate too far down field in either direction. I speak for both of us. I think we're somewhere near center left, center right, depending on the issue. There are some people that work at the extremes. They work at the five yard line from either the left or the right and they do see the other end of the field as evil, as awful. Not just disagreeable but evil. And they use that language, when they talk about the other side, isn't that part of the problem? And my question is doesn't that give the moral license to people who have crazy minds to start with?
SMERCONISH: Short answer is yes. You mentioned earlier, in the program, that you find it objectionable when everything is cast as "the government."
SMERCONISH: The government is doing this, that or the other thing. My pet peeve is the way that this is all cast as a revolution. I mean, to listen to some of this talk, Chris, you would swear that we're about to overthrow King George III. And what I object to is an issue like taxes-
MATTHEWS: I know. We didn't elect King George. We didn't elect King George. I keep reminding people of that. You got what you voted for. You know, it's not like they came from Mars, these people, or from London. We keep putting them in office. You want to stop re-electing the same old guy every year in Congress or woman if you change. You know it's self-directed, most of this. But you're, I think you're right-
SMERCONISH: Well but I see, what I see happening is I see that, that revolutionary script then eliciting a response from the audience. And when I say this, I know you'll remember it. I Congressman Mike Castle being at a town hall meeting in Delaware, when this thing was reaching its fever pitch and a woman stands up and she is frothing at the mouth and she is screaming, "I want my country back!" Well she wants her country back from the Muslim, Kenyan born president.
MATTHEWS: I know!
SMERCONISH: And the insanity of all of this is, the, the insanity of all of this is that the audience – and I had this conversation with Governor Castle – the audience was right there with her. And I looked at that video, I was frightened, these are people who are on the edge and if somebody pushes them over, God help us all.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here