MSNBC’s Chris Matthews seems determined to kill the idea that unlike the Veterans Administration scandal, past Obama scandals such as the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups are not in fact legitimate issues to investigate.
Appearing on his nightly Hardball program on Wednesday, May 21, Matthews declared “For the first time, President Obama speaks out about the VA scandal and this is no phony IRS or Benghazi nonsense, this is the real deal.” [See video below.]
While Matthews is correct that the VA scandal is in fact serious, his dismissal of the IRS scandal contradicts his past statements on the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups. On May 22, 2013, the Hardball host proclaimed that “profiling” by the IRS was akin to targeting innocent Arabs:
I go to the airport and I'm running TSA. Instead of deciding based upon people's movements around the world that might be suspicious, going to countries that cause us trouble, I just look for everybody that looks Arab and I put them in one line. The American people would say that's outrageous.
While Matthews insisted that in 2013 “The IRS scandal is like profiling” he maintained on Wednesday May 22, 2014 that it was not a scandal. Speaking to the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson and former Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE), Matthews cheered “President Obama today, as you saw, addressed a growing scandal that unlike the phony, if you will, scandals like Fast and Furious and Benghazi, has the potential, the real potential, to cause some real political damage.”
The MSNBC host went on to promote Robinson’s recent article entitled “Heads Need to Roll at the VA” and swooned that “I loved the way you said this is a real one, not like the other ones.” The Washington Post columnist reiterated Matthews’ argument and maintained “It’s not like the phony ones. Bad stuff happened, right?”
Despite Matthews’ decision to change his tune on the legitimacy of the IRS scandal, he was not the only MSNBC host who in 2013 held this same viewpoint. On May 16, 2013, Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski lamented that “Unfortunately the information and the guts of the story are there and it's an opportunity.” On May 10, 2013, MSNBC contributors Chris Cilizza and Ruth Marcus, who both write for the Washington Post, were stunned by the “outrageous dumbness” of the IRS.
See relevant transcripts below.
Hardball with Chris Matthews
May 21, 2014
7:13 p.m. Eastern
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Plus, for the first time, President Obama speaks out about the VA scandal and this is no phony IRS or Benghazi nonsense, this is the real deal. And the president is going to have to get on top of it. I hope he does, we'll see. So far, no one’s getting fired, that may be the problem.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball." President Obama today, as you saw, addressed a growing scandal that, unlike the phony if you will, scandals like fast and furious and Benghazi, has the potential, the real potential, to cause some real political damage. Those problems at the Veterans Administration. It's a story that goes to the heart of competence of a huge government bureaucracy charged that veterans died while they waited to be treated. The press conference came today after the president met with VA secretary Eric Shinseki. Many people assumed even hoped he'd accept Shinseki's resignation today.
But the president says he is reserving judgment until the VA inspector's general report is due, I think that's next week, and he expects preliminary results, as I said, within next week. Shinseki, for his part, will make his third trip to Capitol Hill in less than a week when he meets with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin to discuss the scandal, and that's tomorrow. Well, joining me right now, former Democratic Senator from Nebraska and congressional medal of honor recipient Bob Kerrey and also MSNBC Political Analyst and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, whose recent column has headlined this, "Heads need to roll at the VA." Gene, you were great on this, I loved the way you said this is a real one, not like the other ones.
EUGENE ROBINSON: Yeah, it’s not like the phony ones. Bad stuff happened, right? And so we talk about politics on this show. What's the political ramifications, well, this stuff happens in an administration. You find out something is wrong. What you have to do is fix it and you have to be seen fixing it, and I think the president needs to step up. I think heads do need to roll at the VA.