Matthews Rips Guest For Ignorance of History, Then Claims Cole Attack Happened Under Bush

A Hardball epic . . .

Message to Chris Matthews: when ripping a guest for his lack of historical knowledge, try to avoid making a history mistake of your own in the same segment.

It happened on this afternoon's Hardball. After lambasting a guest for not knowing his Neville Chamberlain history, Matthews surmised that the attack on the USS Cole in October, 2000 happened under . . . President Bush.

View video here.

In to discuss President Bush's comments before the Knesset condemning the potential appeasement of Iran were Air America's Mark Green and conservative radio talk show host Kevin James.

In joining the president in criticizing the potential appeasement of Iran, James invoked Neville Chamberlain's notorious appeasement of Adolf Hitler. Matthews repeatedly attempted to force James to state just what it was that Chamberlain had done. "What did he do?" Matthews demanded over and again, shouting the question angrily on one occasion. It eventually became clear that James had, shall we say, a petite lacuna in his knowledge on that particular point. Matthews, sensing this, ridiculed his guest at length:

  • You are BSing me.
  • This is pathetic! [more than once]
  • You don't know what you're talking about [also more than once.]
  • We're talking with people with blank slates in terms of history.
  • Kevin, when you're going to make a direct historic reference, get it straight.
  • You don't understand what appeasement is, don't use the word.
  • I think we just had the sideshow.

Matthews ire was in measure understandable. James should have had his ducks in a row and known, as Matthews eventually explained to him, that Chamberlain didn't merely talk with Hitler, but signed the Munich Agreement, ceding the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany.

However . . . Matthews stuck his foot in it in responding to James' argument about President Clinton's ineffectual responses to terrorism leading to 9-11.

KEVIN JAMES: What happened to us in 9-11 is because all Bill Clinton did for years was talk while we were attacked, over and over and over again. Alright? We were attacked in '93, we were attacked in the Cole, we were attacked with our foreign embassies. And what happened? We ended up with 9-11.

MARK GREEN: Read Richard Clarke's book. Because for nine months [less than eight, actually], the president on 9-11 was not Clinton, it was Bush. And they did nothing despite all the entreaties of the Clinton people.

JAMES: Watch Pathway to 9-11, Mark. Watch Pathway to 9-11.

That's when Matthews [4 min. 50 secs. into the clip] went astray.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Wasn't the USS Cole under Bush? I mean, I don‘t know what we‘re talking about here—the first Bush.

Note: this is the second time in less than a week that we've noted an MSM people-in-glass-houses moment. On April 10, after mocking a Sparks, NV street department employee for spelling "scool" on the pavement, the GMA crew committed two math errors in the same half-hour.

Update: The lefty blog Think Progress is revelling in James' predicament, but fails to mention Matthews blooper. [Think Progress subsequently cited NewsBusters and mentioned Matthews's gaffe.]

Update II: fairness compels me to admit that I had misspelled Hitler's first name as "Adolph" rather than "Adolf." Thanks to reader Steve for bringing to my attention.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.