After Learning of Her Death, MSNBC's Bashir Trashes Thatcher: 'Divisive, Selfish' Instigated 'Race Riots'

Leave it to MSNBC to bring its perhaps most vile ultra-liberal daytime host to make the first comments following the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Speaking with host Chuck Todd and the BBC’s Katty Kay, Bashir sharply smeared the legacy of the Iron Lady, calling her tenure very divisive and one that promoted selfishness. 

The segment began with Bashir -- who has no qualms about calling living conservatives Stalinesque -- giving liberal talking points as to why he disliked the career of Thatcher:

She was breaking unions, particularly with regard to the mining unions, which resulted in some incredibly violent, domestic strife and protest. And, also at the same time, she was developing this notion economically that regulation had been a problem. And so, many city bankers and individuals in the financial community felt completely unleashed to do as they wanted. And the result was a kind of flagrant, excessive and ostentatious pursuit of cash.  [See video below, MP3 audio here.]

Bashir’s grudgingly credited Thatcher with foreign policy success, but dismissed her domestic economic stewardship as "incredibly divisive":

I think Thatcher's career can be divided between a fairly effective role on the foreign policy end of things but a incredibly divisive one domestically.

Unlike Bashir, the BBC’s Katty Kay actually had some positive things to say about Ms. Thatcher, commenting that:

However you view her and she is a divisive figure in British politics. She was transformative and she took Britain from the stale economic chaos of the1970s. When we were having three days a week of power and there were strikes. The Britain that I grew up in the 1970s was a poor third world country virtually and she transformed it by the end of her time into office into a dynamic, modern economy. The way she did that was tough.

But Bashir, steeped in the divisive identity politics of MSNBC as he is, disgustingly suggested the former Primer Minister inspired race riots:

At the end of the day, I think it wasn't just the rhetoric. remember, also, that in the 1980s she unleashed some of the worst race riots because of the excessively overly heavy policing that she encouraged in urban communities. One of which I grew up in that resulted in this. So there was real domestic strife going on at the same time as you are rightly critiquing that she was doing some very positive things elsewhere.

As the segment continued, Daily Rundown host Chuck Todd felt it necessary to push the NBC News pro-Hillary Clinton agenda into conversation, suggesting that: 

I want to hit two more things on here. One is sort of the glass ceiling that she broke in some ways. Obviously, becoming the first lady Prime Minister. What I found during covering Hillary Clinton’s campaign and maybe I did it myself and I think other political reporters do it, is that you were picturing president Hillary Clinton and saying to yourself, okay, how does she compare to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher?

Even when Todd tried to coax Bashir into complementing Thatcher, specifically regarding her dealings with terrorists like the Irish Republican Army, Bashir chose to smear her legacy even further:

People fail to give credit to John Major because it was John Major and of course Bill Clinton who ended up opening negotiations secretly with the IRA that came, that brought to fruition the Good Friday Agreement, of course, with the assistance of Senator George Mitchell. It was not Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher’s campaign organizer and manager Airey Neave was killed by the IRA in 1976. And of course she was the victim of a bombing attack at the Brighton Hotel on the south coast of England. So, she was not that effective.

It would have been nice for MSNBC to bring in a conservative to comment on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, rather than bringing on two ultra-liberal journalists to demean her career.  Instead, Chuck Todd allowed Martin Bashir to throw slanderous language at the legacy of Mrs. Thatcher, a skill he uses daily to smear conservatives without hesitation.

See relevant transcript below. 


MSNBC

The Daily Rundown w/ Chuck Todd

April 8, 2013

9:00 a.m. EDT

CHUCK TODD: We begin though with the breaking news out of London where former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, an icon to particularly a lot of conservatives here in the United States died this morning following a stroke. She was 87 years old after smashing the political glass ceiling to become the country's first woman prime minister. Thatcher established herself as a tough, unapologetic leader earning the nickname the Iron Lady.

MARGARET THATCHER: All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail. What we've got is an attempt to substitute the role of the mob for the rule of law. And it will not succeed.

TODD: When Margaret Thatcher first took over as prime minister in 1979, Britain was facing political and economic turmoil. She managed to reverse the recession and showed medal on the foreign stage by successfully retaking the Falkland Islands from Argentina in 1982. In 1984 Thatcher survived an attempted assassination plot by the Irish Republican Army. In America she became known as a close confident of President Reagan, a man with whom she shared economic and political philosophies. But it was Thatcher’s tough uncompromising style that endured the British public to her even years after she’d left office.

THATCHER: To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catch phrase, the u-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn, if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.

TODD: Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted this morning "it was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher's death. We’ve lost a great leader a great Prime Minister and a great Britain." Well, joining me now is NBC’s Martin Bashir and from the BBC Katty Kay, thank you, both. Martin, let me start with you. Just your first reaction. Margaret Thatcher, this is your homeland.

MARTIN BASHIR: I think Thatcher's career can be divided between a fairly effective role on the foreign policy end of things but a incredibly divisive one domestically. In 1982 when Argentina planted a flag on the Falkland Islands, she sent troops 8,000 miles in the distance. The military conflict was won and she won a landslide election following that. But at the same time as that was going on, she was breaking unions, particularly with regard to the mining unions, which resulted in some incredibly violent, domestic strife and protest. And, also at the same time, she was developing this notion economically that regulation had been a problem. And so, many city bankers and individuals in the financial community felt completely unleashed to do as they wanted. And the result was a kind of flagrant, excessive and ostentatious pursuit of cash. Which ended up with a number of comedians. One particular comedian who had a skit called loads of money. And basically he would throw pound notes and five-pound notes in the faces of the poor. And this was in some sense a kind of indication of what they felt many people in Britain felt she was doing. Gordon brown wrote a book, I remember, which is called "where there is greed." Which was basically a critique of that kind of selfishness that she seemed to embody. And you’ll remember, Chuck, in 1987, which was about eight years after she won that first election. She said at a party conference, there is no such thing as society. There are just individual men and women and their families. And that actually defined what she felt about domestic policy. So, I think the way we can look at Margaret Thatcher is that she was incredibly effective in partnering with Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in terms of breaking the Soviet Union. At the same time in domestic terms, she was incredibly divisive.

TODD: You know, Katty, it’s amazing here the reverence with which American conservatives hold Margaret Thatcher and some of the things that Martin was just describing. You know, her sort of stick-to-it-ivness on some principles when it comes to economics and regulations and things like that is what made her, frankly, so popular among the conservative movement. If Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan were the founding fathers of the modern American conservative movement, you could make an argument that Maggie Thatcher was the founding mother of the American conservative movement.

KATTY KAY: Yeah and I would say not just among American conservatives. You speak to Democrats in America and I would say the respect, the admiration, the fondness for Margaret Thatcher is almost universal in America. There's little sense of the divisiveness with which she’s viewed still in Britain. I think there is even people on the left and Britain would say many of her policies were right. That doesn't mean they hold her in affection and that’s certainly not the case here. She is one of those rare British leaders who has come across the pond and won over the hearts. You put Churchill up there, you actually put Tony Blair…

TODD: We don't do that in the United States. We're pretty narcissistic, we’re pretty self-centered. We usually only revere our own people, we don't revere outsiders.

KAY: I don’t know…Churchill, Thatcher, Tony Blair are all leaders.

TODD: And we draw the line right there.

KAY: Right. However you view her and she is a divisive figure in British politics. She was transformative and she took Britain from the stale economic chaos of the 1970s. When we were having three days a week of power and there were strikes. The Britain that I grew up in the 1970s was a poor third world country virtually and she transformed it by the end of her time into office into a dynamic, modern economy. The way she did that was tough.

TODD: You know, Martin, it always struck me is that her rhetoric was more strident sometimes on these conservative ideals that she put out there than some of her policy. She didn't try to end some parts of what some deemed as socialist.

BASHIR: What you mean the National Health Service, the BBC and things like that? Yeah that would have been extremely difficult. But remember, Chuck, the end of her career was not brought about by her rhetoric, but by her policy. And it was called the poll tax and the poll tax meant it didn't matter whether you were a duke or a dustman, a refuge collector, a sanitation worker, you would pay the same amount in local authority taxes. And that was what provoked riots in Britain. Remember, also, she was responsible for some of the most heavy--

TODD: By the way let's put it in American terms here. The flat tax. That's what she tried to implement.

BASHIR: Yes absolutely, which is why people like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and I note this morning Eric Cantor treat her almost as the fourth person of the Holy Trinity. But at the end of the day, I think it wasn't just the rhetoric. remember, also, that in the 1980s she unleashed some of the worst race riots because of the excessively overly heavy policing that she encouraged in urban communities. One of which I grew up in that resulted in this. So there was real domestic strife going on at the same time as you are rightly critiquing that she was doing some very positive things elsewhere.

TODD: Katty, I want to shift, I want to hit two more things on here. One is sort of the glass ceiling that she broke in some ways. Obviously, becoming the first lady Prime Minister. What I found during covering Hillary Clinton’s campaign and maybe I did it myself and I think other political reporters do it, is that you were picturing president Hillary Clinton and saying to yourself, okay, how does she compare to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. I think a lot of women politicians almost know that they're going to, if they have an executive ambition, a time that they're going to be compared to her on the foreign stage and that's where they want to show the steel spine. Is that a fair assessment?

KAY: I do think that times have changed for women since the time that Margaret Thatcher became leader of the conservative party. And when she did so, she was grossly underestimated by her peers by the media in Britain. They expected, here was a woman, she was never going to be tough and she was quite the opposite and I think she completely took people by surprise. But she managed to do it because it was a parliamentary system. She became head of the conservative party and the conservative party was elected into office. And back then it’s a little less true now, you elected the party, not necessarily the leader. And that’s a very different challenge from the challenge faced by the first presidential candidate here in America. I think we have changed our perception of women leaders and of, you know, whether it is in business or whether it is in politics.

TODD: But did she lead to that change of perception?

KAY: You know, she was tougher than most men who have been, i mean, if that's, I think if you’re look at stereotypes and I think the men around her wilted in her company. But she could also be very charming. I mean she had a relationship with Ronald Reagan which was mildly flirtatious and she turned on the kind of Thatcher charm. She figured that out.

TODD: Go ahead, martin, you want to jump in?

BASHIR: I think I agree exactly with what Katty has said. The fact that she was elected Prime Minister was historic in and of itself. In many ways what happened thereafter would not have undermined the fact of that achievement. It was a considerable achievement. I think though the best description I ever heard of her was from French president Francois Mitterrand who said she had the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe. And I think that was a brilliant distillation of the woman.

TODD: Leave it to the French.

BASHIR: Exactly.

KAY: But you know the other thing she did, I think, that was very important and martin is quite right, I think it’s something that’s missed here is anyone who has seen "Billy Elliot" is reminded of how divided they were under Margaret Thatcher.

TODD: Very divided, I mean we lionize her over here in a way that is just…right.

KAY: I grew up in her era. I was at university in Britain in the 1980s and it was all nonstop protests in the streets of the university raising money for the miners' strike, raising money for the miner’s wives whether you were on the right or the left, it felt like a divided country. But the other thing that she did is she made Britain less classest. Here she was the daughter of a grocer. We are living today in a Britain where The Prime Minister was at Eton, the chancellor was at Eton, the lord Mayor of London was at Eton.

BASHIR: The Archbishop of Canterbury.

KAY: They are all Etonians. She was the daughter of a grocer and she brought with her through her economic policies lots of British working class people into the middle class by giving them access to credit.

TODD: The other dominant issue during her time and I say this because this is what I remember growing up was her dealings with the IRA. This was the dominant, we forget here in the United States, this was another part of the dominant storyline of the Thatcher, of the Thatcher years. Was it not, Martin?

BASHIR: And again, Chuck, people fail to give credit to John Major because it was John Major and of course Bill Clinton who ended up opening negotiations secretly with the IRA that came, that brought to fruition the Good Friday Agreement, of course, with the assistance of Senator George Mitchell. It was not Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher’s campaign organizer and manager Airey Neave was killed by the IRA in 1976. And of course she was the victim of a bombing attack at the Brighton Hotel on the south coast of England. So, she was not that effective. In fact that that kind of Iron Lady stance seemed to work in some sectors, but didn't work so well domestically. And that was very difficult for her, I think.

KAY: Well, you know, I do think that in retrospect, the unions and the breaking of the unions given the state, don't you think, Martin, that the country had been in the 1970s with the power outages. You know, you couldn't get your dead bodies buried in cemeteries.

BASHIR: It was the winter of discontent. Refuse was on the street. Nothing was collected. It was terrible.

KAY: Even labor supporters today would say the unions had to be broken and she did it.

BASHIR: But also don’t forget Katty that she also ushered in some fairly brutal attacks on the business of journalism through Rupert Murdoch's work against the unions and the press. I remember becoming a journalist professional in 1984 just as that began to happen. She was not very kind to journalists at all and to our profession.

TODD: Well, I'm going to leave it a pause there. Shockingly, world leaders being unkind to working press. I am used to that myself, anyway. Katty Kay of the BBC and Martin, I imagine we'll get a lot more from you. I look forward to watching you at 4:00 and watching your remembrances and the things we should be focused on when it comes to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's legacy. Martin thank you for coming in early.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.