MSNBC’s Witt on Gov. Cuomo’s Hateful Remarks: ‘Even John Boehner’ Has Attacked Tea Party

As if Weekends with Alex Witt weren’t bad enough, viewers were subjected to a weekday with Alex Witt as she guest-hosted the 11 a.m. hour of MSNBC Live on Friday. During a discussion with RNC communication director Sean Spicer, Witt brought up New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent insulting remarks about “extreme conservatives.” The weekend host played a clip of Cuomo’s comments and then tried to turn them into an indictment of the Tea Party.

Witt demanded of Spicer: 



[W]hat is your party's strategy with the Tea Party going forward? I mean, even John Boehner has lashed out at these extremes in his own party.
 

First of all, Cuomo’s remarks were really about more than the Tea Party. The governor referred to “right-to-life” and “pro-assault weapon” conservatives. It is not just Tea Party members who are pro-life and pro-gun. Plenty of Republicans and even independents nationwide believe in the Second Amendment and the sanctity of life. Those are not “extreme conservative” positions to hold.

Second, by putting the focus on the Tea Party and Speaker Boehner’s criticism of it, Witt was essentially excusing Cuomo’s hateful remarks. This was much different from how she treated former Republican governor Mike Huckabee’s milder comments about how the Democratic Party treats women, which were the main focus of the interview with Spicer. Regarding Huckabee, Witt asked, “Sean, why does this keep happening? Why can't Republicans strike the right tone?” And later: “Do you wish you could just sit down with him and say, do not go there like that?”

Spicer astutely pointed out that numerous MSNBC personalities have also put a foot in their mouths with objectionable comments in the past few months:

I mean, look at your own network, frankly, Alex, between Martin Bashir, Alec Baldwin, Melissa Harris-Perry. I mean, this is not something that is something held entirely to the Republican Party. Your own network has problems with communicating itself.
 

Witt, of course, defended her network., firing back:
 

Well, that may be, but I will say that they are always held accountable, they are always asked to answer and they are posed questions and they’re asked to answer what they meant to clarify, to issue apologies, whether the network generated that or they did on their own accord. So, you know, they are taking responsibility, if you want to go after MSNBC.
 

MSNBC and its vile hosts have indeed taken responsibility, although they have been very reluctant to do so in some cases. Following his disgusting slur against Sarah Palin, Bashir apologized on his next show. However, neither MSNBC, NBC, nor parent company Comcast ever apologized, and rather than firing Bashir, MSNBC allowed him to resign after an extended Thanksgiving break. After all, why would they rush to fire Bashir for insulting Sarah Palin? The former Alaska governor is one of the network’s top targets.

Below is a transcript of the segment:



ALEX WITT: Well, joining me now, Republican National Committee communication director Sean Spicer. Hey Sean, good to see you.

SEAN SPICER: Great to see you, Alex. Thanks for having me.

WITT: Let’s – I'm glad you're here, because I have to get to this line from an L.A. Times article that is calling this “man-splaining” from Huckabee, suggesting, "The Republican Party has become so adept at shooting itself in the foot over women's issues that it should probably put a moratorium on discussing them for awhile." Sean, why does this keep happening? Why can't Republicans strike the right tone?

SPICER: Well frankly, I think that neither party has a monopoly on using inappropriate words or phrases. I think the governor was clearly trying to make the point that the way Democrats demean women is not something that we believe in, that we believe in empowering women, and our party stands for fighting for their rights. I don't think, as the chairman said, that the words that he used in attacking the Democrats is something that we would have chosen, but the point still stands.

WITT: All right. Well, in the spirit of what you said with neither party getting it quite right here, Republicans still demand an apology from New York governor Andrew Cuomo over these comments about the Tea Party. Let's take a listen to that.

ANDREW CUOMO: Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay, is that who they are? Because if that's who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York.

WITT: Now Cuomo took a lot of heat for those remarks, and he says he was only referring to political candidates, but what is your party's strategy with the Tea Party going forward? I mean, even John Boehner has lashed out at these extremes in his own party.

SPICER: Well, I don't think it has anything to do with the Tea Party. I think it has to do with random individuals, so I think Governor Cuomo, his comments were completely inappropriate. I think not only the people in New York, but the people in America are probably deeply offended by the fact that he went on to say that people who hold those views are not welcome in New York and I find it odd that both he and the chair of the DNC and the Democrats attacked all the people who came to Washington this week to March for Life, whose theme, by the way –  the theme for this week's March for Life was adoption, and I think that it's sad when you have people like Governor Cuomo, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the rest of the Democrats attacking Republicans, and frankly not just Republicans, but independents and all Americans who want to stand up for human life, who want to stand up for adoption. That's something that is kind of sad and it's also interesting, frankly, as someone who sits in the position that I do, that when they go and say things like that, there is much less of a focus on what they said, whereas we find it tend to happen a lot more on our side. So I would caution, frankly, all of this – all of the rhetoric is probably not helpful in general, but there is a bit of a one-sided battle when it comes to how Republicans are viewed in the media.



WITT: Yeah, but you know what, Sean, I mean, let's face it. You talk about from where you sit. You are communications director there for the RNC, so when you hear something like what Mike Huckabee said, granted, you're saying these are individuals saying things. Mike Huckabee is very high-profile. Do you wish you could just sit down with him and say, do not go there like that? I mean, look at what Reince Priebus even tweeted – ‘I wouldn't have said it like this.’

SPICER: Look, the governor spoke for 15, 20 minutes, most of his speech was actually very eloquent. He talked a lot about how we're going out there, reaching out to folks, how we have to do it. I agree with the chairman that there are a couple words in the way he describes Democrats' actions as not the way we would have probably described them, but, you know, you can probably look through almost every speech and find something that somebody said that probably could have been worded differently. I mean, look at your own network, frankly, Alex, between Martin Bashir, Alec Baldwin, Melissa Harris-Perry. I mean, this is not something that is something held entirely to the Republican Party. Your own network has problems with communicating itself.

WITT: Well, that may be, but I will say that they are always held accountable, they are always asked to answer and they are posed questions and they’re asked to answer what they meant to clarify, to issue apologies, whether the network generated that or they did on their own accord. So, you know, they are taking responsibility, if you want to go after MSNBC. What are you going to do with Mike Huckabee and the rest of them?

SPICER: Well I mean, you mentioned it – you actually opened it, the chairman and myself said, hey, I think the governor was making a point here in how the Democrats treat women. I don't know that we would have used the words that he did, so we do go out there, and I think if you look at the last two years, it's our party, not theirs, that call out the extremists. When you look at something like just happened the other day in Texas, where Wendy Davis down in Texas attacked Greg Abbott for not following her footsteps, a guy who is disabled and can't walk and then her staff laughed about it. That's not something that I find at all appropriate, and yet there seems to be a lack of accountability there. There are official after official on the Democratic side from county officials all the way on up that have said completely inappropriate things, and I think they should be held to a standard. Frankly, all of us should be held to a standard where we have a better tone and dialogue. You mentioned the chairman's comments a few minutes ago during his speech. There's something that I think we as a party believe we have the most effective policies and positions when it comes to what's best for this country, families and individuals. I think we have to do it in a more effective way to bring more people into the party and we’re going to try to lead on that.

WITT: You know what, I can absolutely agree with you. We all need to be held to a higher standard. That is for sure, Sean.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.