MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell on Thursday brought the specter of bigotry into Representative Peter King's hearings on the threat of radical Islam in America. While interviewing Congressman Dan Lungren of California she awkwardly hinted, "Well, you know, you and I are both white."
The irritated Republican wondered, "What does that mean?" Mitchell lectured, "I'm just asking, get in their heads for a second and try to think about how it is to be a Muslim-American facing these kinds- this kind of testimony today. That's all I want to know."
In an earlier segment, the Andrea Mitchell Reports host casually insisted that the hearings are "a great lesson against the dangers of over-generalizing, of generalizing at all about particular groups."
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Correspondent Kelly O'Donnell appeared with the anchor and offered a similarly condescending tone.
Highlighting the guests that King called to speak about the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, O'Donnell asserted, "We have been hearing from some experts and I use that word with almost quotations around it, because the expert qualifications have been challenged "
O'Donnell found some of King's witnesses to be suspect because they were relating "personal stories."
FoxNews.com described one such witness:
Melvin Bledsoe, whose son allegedly attacked an Army recruiting center in Arkansas, said in written testimony -- which Fox News has seen -- that Americans are ignoring the issue.
"There is a big elephant in the room, but our society continues not to see it. This wrong is caused by political correctness. You can even call it political fear," he said.
Bledsoe plans to describe how his son, Carlos, was radicalized when he went off to college in Nashville, Tenn. In his testimony, he explained how his son's personality changed and how, when he returned home for the holidays in 2005, he told his family he converted to Islam. From that point, he changed his name and eventually traveled to Yemen.
A transcript of the first segment and a partial transcript of the segment one, both of which aired on March 10, follow:
ANDREA MITCHELL: NBC News correspondent Kelly O'Donnell is on the hill. Kelly, what is the outcome of all of this? What have we learned today?
KELLY O'DONNELL: I think we've clearly seen how exposed emotions and raw nerves are on display here for nearly four hours now. It is so unusual to see the validity and the appropriateness of the hearing to be challenged throughout the hearing. And that's the sense you got with that exchange between the Chairman, Peter King and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. We have been hearing from some experts and I use that word with almost quotations around it, because the expert qualifications have been challenged as well, of people who have come forward to say a loved one of theirs was radicalized by groups to do harm to the United States. More personal stories. There's that part of it. There's been a witness who has been talking about the need for more cooperation within the Muslim-American community, to not have political correctness, is the phrase often being used, to hinder cooperation. On the other side, we had really emotional and exceedingly unusual testimony from Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, who spoke with such emotion, as you showed a portion of that at the beginning of the program. He was trying to say, as many others are, that Muslims should be seen as individuals and not scapegoated. And that really shows the sensitivity that's been playing out, making it uncomfortable to watch and uncomfortable for Peter King to carry out during the questioning that's been going on for more than four almost hours.
MITCHELL: And, in fact, some of the criticisms are that leading Muslim-American organizations were not invited to testify. That, according to Sheriff Bacca from Los Angeles and other law enforcement officials, Muslim communities have been extraordinarily helpful in trying to cooperate with Homeland Security, with the FBI. So, those are the pieces that are really missing from this hearing, according to the critics.
O'DONNELL: Well, those have been aired out. And part of the problem is that while you have those examples of cooperation, which are clearly there, you have others saying that there are groups have been an impediment, trying to tease that out during the course has been a big challenge. Whereas there's been this sense that there's an unfairness that they've been battling through the course of the hearing. The upside, if you will, is that the issue itself is getting a lot of attention. It's allowing people to look at this and to see what feelings they have and where they come down on this. It's been one of the most strained hearings that I've watched here because the sensitivities are so great and the underlying issue is so serious with concerns about threats to the United States.
MITCHELL: Well, perhaps it's a great lesson against the dangers of over-generalizing, of generalizing at all about particular groups.
MITCHELL: Well, you know, you and I are both white. Let me just pitch to you-
REP: DAN LUNGREN: Well, what does that mean? What does that mean?
MITCHELL: Well, let me finish my question. Let me finish my question. The minority caucuses, the Asian Pacific caucus, the black caucus, the Hispanic caucus have joined together and issued a statement today after this hearing started, criticizing it. I'm just asking you, from their perspective- and you saw Congressman Ellison, your colleague, breaking down in his testimony today about what happened when that first responder, a Muslim-American young man was criticized after his death on 9/11 as a rescuer and was unfairly criticized as some sort of a radical. I'm just asking, get in their heads for a second and try to think about how it is to be a Muslim-American facing these kinds- this kind of testimony today. That's all I want to know.
LUNGREN: No, no, no, no. We are hearing from Muslim-Americans. Three out of the four people on our panel are Muslim-Americans. In fact, they have said in some ways, they have been intimidated by others from being able to express their point of view. And the second thing I would say is I remember when I was Attorney General of California, we had a hearing in a high school in Los Angeles about youth violence. When it was all over, a young African-American girl, 14 or 15 years of age, came up to me. Didn't say, "Well, you're white." What she said was, "How come you adults never come around until after there is a death?" Because there had been a death on that campus. Our- My question is, why don't we attempt to connect the dots so that we can stop some of the insidiousness of targeting young people in the Muslim community by those who would leave them to jihad? We have to recognize this problem. There are people in that Muslim community, in those Muslim communities around this country who are being targeted. That's what we heard from a father. That's what we heard from an uncle. Don't you think they need to be heard?
MITCHELL [Long pause]: Well, I thank you for your point of view and for this dialogue. I think this is just one of the most emotional and compelling hearings we've seen.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.