Chris Matthews Slams John McCain for ‘Contempt’ Towards Obama

During late night coverage of Friday's presidential debate between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, “Hardball” host Chris Matthews attacked the Republican for showing both “contempt” and an “inferiority complex” towards his Democratic opponent. The MSNBC host asked liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, “What do you make of what I take as contempt? And I’m not sure contempt is an admirable trait when you’re up against an opponent who has every right to be there against you, in fact has equal footing.”

Before Robinson could answer, Matthews revised the question, asking if this indicated some sort of “inferiority complex” on McCain’s part: “He never looked at his opponent. What is that about? Is that an inferiority complex? Is that embarrassment? Is that guilt? Or is it contempt? What is it? It’s something.” Robinson eagerly agreed, asserting that “this is part of John McCain’s style that he, he has to make an opponent into an enemy” and adding that the GOP candidate “almost has to demonize the enemy in order to get into that, that, that fighting stance.”

About five minutes later, Matthews returned to the topic. He interviewed Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering and complained, “Congressman, it may be a small point to some, but anyone who has ever engaged in debating knows that you must address your opponent. If you’re an attorney, a prosecutor, you must point to the defendant. You must do it. You can’t ignore them physically. John McCain did not look at his opponent tonight. How do you explain that?” Pickering responded by claiming McCain simply was focusing on the questions and the substance. Fixating on the subject, Matthews followed up and fretted, “Every time a question came up, they were told to talk to each other, have a debate between each other. Why couldn’t John McCain do that? Why did he choose not to do that?”

A transcript of the exchanges, which occurred around 12:20am on September 27, follows:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask Gene, why, before I lose you tonight: What do you make of what I take as contempt? And I’m not sure contempt is an admirable trait when you’re up against an opponent who has every right to be there against you, in fact has equal footing. He won the nomination of the other party, to treat your opponent with such contempt that not once throughout the evening do you give him the courtesy of looking at him? He was supposed to, as part of the format of this debate, five minutes with each exchange, to exchange a discussion with his opponent, to share thoughts, to challenge the opponent. He never looked at his opponent. What is that about? Is that an inferiority complex? Is that embarrassment? Is that guilt? Or is it contempt? What is it? It’s something.

EUGENE ROBINSON (Washington Post): Well, you know, look- It’s up to- Only John McCain knows whether it’s genuine contempt. Here’s my theory, is that, is that this is part of John McCain’s style that he, he has to make an opponent into an enemy, you know, in his mind, to kind of, you know, to kind of get up for this. He personalizes conflict as we all know and tends to put himself at the center of it. And, and, you know, it’s a window into his style. He almost has to demonize the enemy in order to get into that, that, that fighting stance.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

ROBINSON: You know, I think it came right through the screen. It looked like contempt and anger and that usually does not play well in these debates.

12:25am

MATTHEWS TO CONGRESSMAN CHIP PICKERING: Congressman, it may be a small point to some, but anyone who has ever engaged in debating knows that you must address your opponent. If you’re an attorney, a prosecutor, you must point to the defendant. You must do it. You can’t ignore them physically. John McCain did not look at his opponent tonight. How do you explain that?

MATTHEWS TO CONGRESSMAN CHIP PICKERING: Well, what do you make about the format? The format was supposed to be five minutes on each topic. Every time a question came up, they were told to talk to each other, have a debate between each other. Why couldn’t John McCain do that? Why did he choose not to do that?

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org