MSNBC’s Tamron Hall: Is Birtherism the Definition of Conservatism?

MSNBC’s Tamron Hall on Monday interrogated a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate and tried to associate conservatism with believing in a bizarre conspiracy theory. Talking to Patrick Hughes of Illinois, she challenged, "For example, one of the questions was, do you think the President was born in the United States? Is that your definition of conservative or is it in the perimeter of a conservative?" [Audio available here.]

Hall prefaced this "birther" query by oddly asserting, "When you say conservative, I know you know that much has been made of this conservative litmus test to be a true conservative in this country." Of course, it was Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) who advocated making this an issue.

According to The Hill, he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that Democrats should say, "Ask them, 'Do you believe Barack Obama [is a] citizen of the United States?'" It looks as though Hall was more than willing to repeat Democratic talking points.

Hughes, however, wasn’t having any of it. He quickly knocked down the birther association: "No. I mean, my definition of a conservative is Reagan conservatism, limited government, low taxes, economic freedom and the traditional social values that we've had in our country since its inception and a strong national defense...The birther movement is not something I would ever subscribe to and I don’t think conservatism and that type of movement should be paired together."

At the end of the segment, Hall took a shot at conservative Alan Keyes, who ran against Barack Obama for the Senate seat in 2006: "Well, it will be interesting because it sure is a very vast difference when the Republicans had Alan Keyes [chuckles]....So, we've come a long way from that, for sure."

A transcript of the February 1 segment, which aired at 11:20am EST, follows:

TAMRON HALL: While suburban Chicago Congressman Mark Kirk is expected to win the Republican nomination for the seat, or at least he's leading in the polls I should say, his strongest challenge is coming from real estate developer Patrick Hughes, who joins us now. Thank you so much Mr. Hughes for joining us.

PATRICK HUGHES: Hi, Tamron. How are you?

HALL: I'm very good. You know, many reports out there say, the President is not happy with what's happening. Why do you believe you that you and Congressman Kirk and Republican Party have been able to make inroads with this seat?

HUGHES: Well, you know, what happened in Massachusetts, Tamron, obviously was very big. It showed that a Republican could win in what is, ostensibly, a blue state. Now, I think unlike Congressman Kirk, I'm a conservative. And Scott brown was a conservative outsider from Washington. And I think as a conservative outsider, I can do the same thing Scott Brown did here in Illinois and so we're battling for the next couple of days and getting the grassroots out to win the primary and then the general come November.

HALL: When you say conservative, I know you know that much has been made of this conservative litmus test to be a true conservative in this country. For example, one of the questions was, do you think the President was born in the United States? Is that your definition of conservative or is it in the perimeter of a conservative?

HUGHES: No. I mean, my definition of a conservative is Reagan conservatism, limited government, low taxes, economic freedom and the traditional social values that we've had in our country since its inception and a strong national defense. These are the American values that are conservative values. The birther movement is not something I would ever subscribe to and I don’t think conservatism and that type of movement should be paired together.

HALL: And you believe that the momentum out of Massachusetts- and, again, you're in a tight race with Mark Kirk and shows you are pretty far behind. How do you think you can make up the difference and then eventually go on to meet the Democratic challenger? And they have got their own problems with their primary, certainly.

HUGHES: Yeah, they certainly do. I'm catching up on the Congressman every single day. That poll is a little bit old. We have internal polls that show that we're closing. I have tremendous grassroots, Tamron, not just in Illinois but across the country. I have phone banks in Texas to Florida and Massachusetts and Connecticut. So, we have got a lot of people out there pounding the pavement for us, getting our message out and we think we're going to be successful and catch Congressman Kirk on Tuesday. And then the Democrats in our state and independents in our state are tired of the bill of good that Democratic legislators and the governor have sold them. We're at 11 percent unemployment. We need to stop that. We need reform. We need a new message and a new leader and I'm hoping to provide that for the people of Illinois.

HALL: Well, it will be interesting because it sure is a very vast difference when the Republicans had Alan Keyes as their candidate who ran against Barack Obama for the seat. So, we've come a long way from that, for sure. Thank you very much, Patrick.

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