Chris Matthews Spews: Rick Perry Would Have Opposed Integration, Takes Back 'Bull Connor' Line

One day after trashing Rick Perry as "Bull Connor with a smile," MSNBC's Chris Matthews took the statement back. But he also trashed the Republican presidential candidate, saying he probably would have opposed racial integration of schools.

The Hardball anchor played a clip of Barack Obama touting bipartisan acts from the late Dwight D. Eisenhower. Matthews brought up Eisenhower's role in desegregating public schools and spewed, "Do you think Rick Perry would be for that? Do you think he'd be cheering for Ike today if he brought the troops in to desegregate the schools in Little Rock? I don't think so!" See video below. MP3 audio here.

He exclaimed, "They'd be seceding if Eisenhower was president!"

On Tuesday, Matthews compared Perry to Bull Connor, Alabama's segregationist Commissioner of Public Safety. (Democrat Connor turned attack dogs and fire hoses on civil rights protesters in the '60s.)

Matthews actually addressed this comment on Wednesday, admitting, "I compared him to Bull Connor with a smile yesterday. Maybe that was too far, but I'm still learning about this guy."

Talking to GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak, the host added, "He talks about secession. He talks about states rights. He's got all the idiom, Matt, of the guys who hate civil rights."

At that point, Matthews refused to apologize: "So, I am suspicious. Maybe I should take back the Bull Connor, but not yet."

Finally, 44 minutes into the program, he recanted, "I think I overstated it by saying that this guy Rick Perry is Bull Connor with, with a smile. But, I'll tell you- and I'll take that back. I really think I gotta be careful learning this guy."

Transcripts of the exchanges can be found below:


08/17/11
5:13

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let's go to Congress here. He spoke about needing to work with Congress, of course, the Congress is split between Republicans and Democrats, to create jobs. And that requires a working relationship, as in previous administrations, not the partisanship happening today. This is the way he's still talking about compromise. Let's listen.

BARACK OBAMA: There are some things we can help on, but frankly we can do more if we got Congress's cooperation. Those are proposals that historically have had support from Republicans and Democrats. Dwight Eisenhower build the interstate highway system. Last time I checked he was a popular Republican. This is what I mean about politics getting in the way. You can't bring an attitude that says I would rather see my opponent lose than America win. You can't have that attitude.

MATTHEWS: I don't know.

OBAMA: Well, here's my view of it. I think he's got to stop- I know he wants to be harry Truman and run against the do-nothing Congress, but he needs a specific, vivid popular plan to complain they're not doing anything about.

MATTHEWS: I'm with you.

FINEMAN: To just have an abstract, sort of philosophical view about the uncooperative Congress doesn't cut it. You have got to have something specific and say we dare you to stop it. We dare you to stop it. We dare you to stop it. And he can be sharper on Ike. You know, you made the point, Chris, while we were listening to that, Dwight Eisenhower couldn't exist in the current Republican Party, where Rick Perry is saying, our job, my job if I'm President, is to reduce the federal government to insignificance. He couldn't get from Lubbock to Dallas, you know, without the federal government. He couldn't. Someone's got to tell him there's an interstate highway system.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: By the way, Eisenhower was the one who brought federal troops into Little Rock. Do you think Rick Perry would be for that? Do you think he'd be cheering for Ike today if he brought the troops in to desegregate the schools in Little Rock? I don't think so!
                                       
JARED BERNSTEIN (Former Biden adviser): I think Reagan would be kicked out of the party today. Reagan put revenues on the table.

MATTHEWS: They'd be seceding if Eisenhower was president!        

5:19

MATTHEWS: We're trying to figure him out. I compared him to Bull Connor with a smile yesterday. Maybe that was too far, but I'm still learning about this guy. He didn't like the basis of the Civil Rights Act of '64. He didn't like the public accommodations being based on the Interstate Commerce Clause. He questions- Says we shouldn't have the Voting Rights anymore. Act- He says we shouldn't have- He talks about succession. He talks about states rights. He's got all the idiom, Matt, of the guys who hate civil rights. So, I am suspicious. Maybe I should take back the Bull Connor, but not yet.
                                       
5:44

MATTHEWS: Well, I gotta be careful. I think I overstated it by saying that this guy Rick Perry is Bull Connor with, with a smile. But, I'll tell you- and I'll take that back. I really think I gotta be careful learning this guy.

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