MSNBC's Roberts Attacks GOP Spox Over Voter ID 'Poll Tax,' Then Treats Dem Congressman to Softball Chat

Updated: Roberts defends himself on Twitter (see bottom of post) | In a segment today on MSNBC Live entitled "Who's Got the Ground Game?" and ostensibly about how both the Democrats and Republicans were working hard to get out their voters to the polls on election day and to the early voting stations before hand, MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts set out to attack the GOP for pushing for a "poll tax" with voter ID requirements.

"Did Republicans [put] too much stock in voter suppression issues and not enough in the ground game," Roberts asked Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer, asking if the GOP put too much "emphasis" in GOP-controlled state legislatures.


Spicer hit back that that was "unbelievably insulting," which resulted in Roberts hitting back, "would you say that to the federal [court] panel who said that it puts an unfair burden against the poor basically allotting it to a poll tax?"

"Your basic American right" is to vote, Roberts continued, saying that "it's a tax" to require people to get an ID. The MSNBC anchor also hinted that the Framers of the Constitution would be aghast at requiring an ID to vote. Spicer responded that paying for a government ID is not a poll tax and that at any rate the various states offer free voter IDs to voters who cannot afford the fee for the ID.

Following the segment's conclusion and an intervening commercial break, Roberts introduced Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) in a segment entitled "Protecting the Vote," about Ohio election officials trying to eliminate early voting in the weekend prior to Election Day.

That interview, of course, was a softball chat with Cleaver, with the congressman attacking as "obscene" the move by Buckeye State officials. No Ohio state official nor Ohio Republican Party representative was brought on for a rebuttal, of course.

What's more, Roberts asked Cleaver if he had listened in on the preceding interview with Spicer, asking for a reaction to Spicer's protest that he was offended by Roberts's bias:

Sir, did you hear the interview I just did with Sean Spicer of the RNC? Did you hear that he was offended that I even asked about why they feel it was important to attempt voter suppression, to tackle that in this presidential election? He said offended that I would say something like that.

Cleaver offered his response, "Well, when you step on somebody's toe, they do generally wince, and they will get offended. Why would I get offended if you ask me a question about Ohio and discouraging voters because, you know, I'm not participating in that."

Of course both Cleaver and Roberts know that attacking the GOP for "voter suppression" and pushing a "poll tax" is patently offensive, particularly because it's a not-so-subtle, explosive charge of racism against the GOP. 

Update (12:37 p.m., Oct. 11): Roberts yesterday reacted to a critical tweet of mine, saying, "a poll tax is a poll tax...plain& simple. It was a good conversation. These are judges decisions, not mine."

I reacted by tweeting, "You're misrepresenting the court opinions, though aren't you. Courts didn't say these are poll taxes."

Roberts replied, "I use the TX judicial language -Unfair burden on the poor- I think u r letting ur bias bleed thru."

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters