On Today Show: Chris Matthews Hypes His Bill 'Energizer Bunny' Clinton Special

A buoyant Chris Matthews popped into the Today show studio, on Monday morning, to hype his MSNBC documentary on Bill Clinton's post-presidency and he didn't spare a platitude as he claimed that Clinton is "bigger than the host country president" wherever he goes, is as active as the "Energizer Bunny" and unapologetically offered: "It's right to do a good story about a good guy."

To her credit substitute host Savannah Guthrie, who conducted the interview, actually did poke Matthews a bit when she pressed: "So a lot of people are asking has Chris Matthews gone soft on President Clinton?" To which Matthews sheepishly responded: "That's very nice of you to bring that up. I love film criticism from a colleague," but then lamely rationalized it's "been 10 years" and revealed his personal reason for producing the documentary: "About four years ago my son got out of Brown and he went to work in Africa making sure that the drugs, the AIDS drugs, the cocktails got to the actual people from the donors. And somebody has to make sure that happens. That's the Clinton Global Initiative."

Matthews did theorize the reason for Clinton's post-presidential advocacy was that "it may be to make up for things that went wrong...Obviously Monica and all that stuff," but then quickly returned to singing his praises this way:

The guy is just an Energizer Bunny. I mean you travel with him and he doesn't stop. It's all day long in Northern Ireland with the, with the business guys. All afternoon with his institute in Dublin. All night with a big black tie dinner. It's midnight, he's at the Shelbourne Hotel holding court in his sweater and jeans! Meeting everybody he knows in the British Isles. He, this guy won't quit. And I think it's a big story tonight and it's a positive story. And if there is something wrong with what he's done with the Clinton Global Initiative, I couldn't find it.

The following is the entire interview with Matthews as it was aired on the February 21 Today show:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Bill Clinton is one of the most influential presidents of the modern era, not only for what he accomplished in the White House but what he's done since. A new MSNBC documentary, President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon highlights the past 10 years of Clinton's life. Take a look.

(Begin clip)

CHRIS MATTHEWS: What has been the key to keeping your leverage? Because you seem to have more now than you had, say 10 years ago.

BILL CLINTON: I think the secret is two things. I think first of all, at the Global Initiative, you have to make it interesting. And you have to not only make it possible for them to meet people who might help them but to learn things. Secondly, I think you've got to do something. You don't have to change the world. If you change one life or a hundred or a thousand or 10,000, you've done something.

(End clip)

GUTHRIE: Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews is responsible for the documentary. Chris, good morning.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Good morning, Savannah. Thanks for having me.

GUTHRIE: Well it's good to have you here. Let's talk about the title - President of the World.

MATTHEWS: Well he is! Because wherever he goes in the world - we went out and documented this. Nobody knows it in America. That's why this is quite a production. You leave the country, go to Northern Ireland, you go to Africa, you go to South Asia, he's bigger than the host country president. He is president of the world! And it's one of those things I think we, we show with the film and the, and the tape. It's astounding when he walks into a marketplace in Africa. Kevin Spacey is there with them. They start yelling, "peacemaker, peacemaker!" It's one of those big stories that the regular press has missed, I think.

GUTHRIE: Chris, I have to ask you, over the years, you were pretty tough on President Clinton. You did not spare him some pretty harsh words from time to time.

MATTHEWS: This is different-


GUTHRIE: So a lot of people are asking has Chris Matthews gone soft on President Clinton?

MATTHEWS: No, no, no let me just tell you - well that's, that's very nice of you to bring that up. I love film criticism from a colleague. No, you have a right to do that. Because this, this has been 10 years. I think it's another perspective people have lost. Ten years outside the White House. A big story of - I have to tell you how I first got a look at it. About four years ago my son got out of Brown and he went to work in Africa making sure that the drugs, the AIDS drugs, the cocktails got to the actual people from the donors. And somebody has to make sure that happens. That's the Clinton Global Initiative. It's a wonderful idea to make sure no corruption, and people can do good and help people in real trouble without that intermediary stealing and cleptocracy. And it's because of the Clinton Global Initiative. That was my first sense, this is real and this is big.

GUTHRIE: And you had a lot of access inside with President Clinton. What do you think is motivating him?

MATTHEWS: Well I think part of it may be to make up for things that went wrong. Some things went wrong. Obviously Monica and all that stuff. But also I think he wants to be there, he wants to be active. The guy is just an Energizer Bunny. I mean you travel with him and he doesn't stop. It's all day long in Northern Ireland with the, with the business guys. All afternoon with his institute in Dublin. All night with a big black tie dinner. It's midnight, he's at the Shelbourne Hotel holding court in his sweater and jeans! Meeting everybody he knows in the British Isles. He, this guy won't quit. And I think it's a big story tonight and it's a positive story. And if there is something wrong with what he's done with the Clinton Global Initiative, I couldn't find it. And I think it's a big 10-year story that everybody else has missed. And it's a great production tonight. We're very proud of it. And, yes, it's right to do a good story about a good guy, to answer your question.

GUTHRIE: Alright, Chris Matthews. It's good to have you here.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you, Savannah.

GUTHRIE: And a reminder to everybody. You can catch President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon tonight at 10 o'clock/9 Central on MSNBC.

—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here

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