Chris Matthews Claims Tea Party is 'McCarthyite,' Sees Federal Government as an 'Occupying Force'

Chris Matthews definitely took a "hard look" at the Tea Party, on Wednesday's "Morning Joe," in anticipation of tonight's MSNBC documentary "The Rise of the New Right." Tying the whole Tea Party movement together, the MSNBC "Hardball" host defined it as "McCarthyite," possessing a "fundamental questioning of authority," and viewing the federal government as an occupying force.

"It believes that this government is verging on tyranny," Matthews complained, pointing to the movement's use of the Revolutionary War-era Gadsden flag -- "Don't Tread on Me" -- in an ominous light.

When asked by Joe Scarborough if he would link members of the Michigan Militia featured in tonight's documentary (seemingly characterized in the preceding video clip as a radical fringe group), to Tea Party members who have campaigned for Scott Brown and Marco Rubio, Matthews answered that the various groups are all part of one movement.

"I'm tying the whole movement together," he asserted. "Because what you hear is that they all fly the same flag."

Matthews said that the use of the Gadsden flag by Tea Partiers "scared" him. "They are basically looking at the federal government now as an occupying force, basically a foreign occupying force, a tyranny," he said. "And that justifies a lot of bad behavior, I would say."

"What you hear, Joe, is the fundamental questioning of authority," Matthews claimed. He also alleged that the movement is pointing to the Second Amendment to justify armed force against the federal government "when the time comes."

Not wanting to be left out of the fun, advertising executive Donny Deutsch, chairman of Deutsch, Inc., threw the race card onto the table.

"Chris, along those lines, would the Tea Party be having the same verve if this was not an African-American President?"

But Matthews wouldn't bite. "I don't know," he said. "You make those kinds of charges, you get into trouble. I have no idea."

However, Matthews did accuse the movement of being "McCarthyite," referencing accusations by Dick Armey and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) of Democrats and administration members of being un-American.    

The transcript of the interview, which aired on June 16, at 7:45 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
WILLIE GEIST: Chris, as far as you can tell, what is the new right? And how influential is it?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, it believes that this government is verging on tyranny. The federal government of the United States, which was honestly elected, is more like a British occupying force of colonial days. They look at it as illegitimate. Many of them believe that Barack Obama is not an American. They believe they need their Second Amendment rights–as Sharon Angle said the other day–to perhaps carry out remedies when they think that Congress is going too far. Very strong on Second Amendment as a way of fighting the federal government, when the time comes; very concerned about the legitimacy of Barack Obama as whether he is an American or not. And, in fact, if you listen to Dick Armey, they wonder whether anybody in the administration has any pro-American attitudes. And Michelle Bachmann would go right through the Democrats in Congress, and have the media investigate them for anti-American attitudes. It's very much McCarthy-ite, it gets back to the days of questioning other people's loyalties, and it questions the President's very legitimacy. And what scared me, if you want to get scared, was the use of the flag from the American Revolution–the Great Gadsden flag from South Carolina, with the coiled rattlesnake. They are basically looking at the federal government now as an occupying force, basically a foreign occupying force, a tyranny. And that justifies a lot of bad behavior, I would say.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Chris, though, you're not connecting, though, Tea Party members that Mike interviewed in Massachusetts that helped Scott Brown get elected, or Tea Party members that may be supporting Marco Rubio in Florida, or Tea Party members who are supporting other conservative candidates across America–you're not tying them with members of the Michigan Militia, are you?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yes, I am. I'm tying the whole movement together. Because what you hear is that they all fly the same flag. Certainly there are people that straggle along and show up at meetings of any political party, whether it's mainstream or French. People show up and join. I'm not talking about the joiners. I'm talking about the leadership people themselves. Listen to Sharon Angle. Listen to Rand Paul. Listen to their basic questioning of federal authority. It's very fundamental, and their absolute focus on the Second Amendment over and over again–that guy in that militia uniform with his fatigues on said that he speaks very much the same language as the Tea Party people. He says it. If you listen to people like Michelle Bachmann, they question the legitimacy of the government, they question whether it's a tyranny or not. You got to hear the words tonight, Joe. These people–wait till you hear Dick Armey talking about "There's nobody in this administration who is pro-American." I mean they're saying it. I'm not saying it.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: I'll be watching. I know that the guy in the camouflage said that the Tea Party people tell him that they're not connected. But are you connecting–let me be more specific. This is fascinating. Are you connecting Rand Paul with these Michigan Militia members that run around with guns, that–

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You know, I think you have to see the absolute resonance of the sound. What you hear, Joe, is the fundamental questioning of authority. You have people who believe that the federal government–look. Joe, I know you saw those Congress people waving the Gadsden flag off the balcony of the Capitol on the House side. They were waving that revolutionary flag. They were the ones inciting those people to look upon the federal government as a tyranny, as perhaps illegitimate. They're the ones using the language of revolution. It's not us. In fact, the documentary, all through it, you hear a very similar voice: this government is not legitimate. 32 percent of the Republican Party now believes that Barack Obama is not an American. And that's the latest CBS Poll. These are not things that are arguable, Joe, these are facts.

DONNY DEUTSCH, Chairman, Deutsch, Inc.: Chris, along those lines, would the Tea Party be having the same verve if this was not an African-American President?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I don't know. I think–I don't know. That's something you got to get into people's souls, and you make those kind of charges, you get into trouble. I have no idea. I do think that–

DONNY DEUTSCH: I'm not making charges. I'm asking a question. I just want (Garbled)

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think the fact that so many of the people are–Orelly Tates is out there with the birther movement, which has very much been part of this, saying that the guy's not an American, that he should be out of office because he was born in Kenya. Challenging that–Alan Keyes, those kinds of people. All those voices are out there on the Right. 
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014