MSNBC's Chris Jansing: Is Rick Perry 'Too Far Off Even for the GOP?'

Guest hosting for Chris Matthews on Tuesday, MSNBC's Chris Jansing derided Rick Perry, wondering if the Republican presidential candidate is "too far off even for the GOP?"

Jansing, who normally hosts supposedly straight news coverage for the cable network, attempted to generate controversy over statements Perry made on civil rights. A MSNBC graphic for the segment, mocked, "I have a scheme."

[See video below. MP3 audio here.]

According to Jansing, Perry's problem came in "comparing" the civil rights struggle to cutting corporate tax rates. Here's Perry's full answer:

RICK PERRY: America's gone a long way from the standpoint of civil rights and thank God we have. I mean, we've gone from a country that's made great strides in issues of civil rights. I think we all can be proud of that.

And as we go forward, America needs to be about freedom. It needs to be about freedom from over taxation, freedom from over-litigation, freedom from over-regulation. And Americans, regardless of social and economic background is, they need to know that they can come to America and you got a chance to have any dream come true, because the economic climate is going to be improved.

An indignant Jansing huffed, "So, does Perry really believe African-Americans' struggle for civil rights is comparable to the GOP's fight for lower taxes?"

Talking to Alex Wagner of the liberal Huffington Post, she slammed, "Is this ignorance?...Is this insensitivity?"                    

Piling on the Republican, Jansing marveled, "I mean, when you look at this series of quotes from [Perry's] book, some of which he's backing off on, you have to sit back as a political analyst and say, is he too far off even for the GOP?"

Jansing is supposed to be a straight forward journalist. But, apparently, guest-hosting Hardball turns MSNBC's reporters into just another liberal anchor.

A transcript of the August 23 segment, which aired at 5:50pm EDT, follows:


CHRIS JANSING: We are back and Rick Perry has recently been receiving scrutiny for beliefs expressing his 2010 political manifesto. But a comment about civil rights over this past weekend has managed to overshadow that book completely. Perry was in Rock Hill, South Carolina, this past Saturday. He was asked a question about the significance of the civil rights movement and sit-ins. He gives this winding answer and then ends up comparing the civil rights struggle to Republicans' fight for corporate tax rates. Listen.

MSNBC Graphic: I Have a Scheme

RICK PERRY: America's gone a long way from the standpoint of civil rights and thank God we have. I mean, we've gone from a country that's made great strides in issues of civil rights. I think we all can be proud of that.
               
And as we go forward, America needs to be about freedom. It needs to be about freedom from over taxation, freedom from over-litigation, freedom from over-regulation. And Americans, regardless of social and economic background is, they need to know that they can come to America and you got a chance to have any dream come true, because the economic climate is going to be improved.

JANSING: So, does Perry really believe African-Americans' struggle for civil rights is comparable to the GOP's fight for lower taxes? Joining me now to talk about this is MSNBC political analyst and "Huffington Post" reporter Alex Wagner. Okay. Is this ignorance? He was asked about the Friendship Nine sit- in, so maybe he didn't know what it was, so is it ignorance of the civil rights? Complete insensitivity?

ALEX WAGNER: I think- well, I do think it demonstrates a certain if not profound insensitivity to the struggle that minorities, the black experience in America, especially at this time. I mean, if you look at what's happened to minorities, if you look at the disparity between rich and poor, you know, the numbers from the census show that white Americans make, on average, 20 times more than black families, 18 times more than Hispanic. You know, one of the things Dr. King fought for was social and economic justice. For him to tie, you know, corporate tax rates to the civil rights movement, again, I think demonstrates a profound insensitivity to at least the struggle if not the teachings.

JANSING: And this is just the latest. I mean, when you look at this series of quotes from the book, some of which he's backing off on, you have to sit back as a political analyst and say, is he too far off even for the GOP?

WAGNER: Sure. You know, this is also not the first time Rick Perry has shot his mouth off. We have the stories about him wanting to kneecap Ben Bernanke. Rick Perry marches to the tune as his own -- walks to the beat of his own drum.

I think that there is a real concerned on the part of the establishment GOP that he's not ready for primetime, that he's really got to walk back some of his rhetoric. This certainly doesn't do anything to improve that image, especially, you know, we're about to see the unveiling of the MLK memorial in Washington. And as I said, the country is facing particularly difficult economic- particularly difficult economic climate.

Have we seen any sort of symbol from the Perry camp that this is maybe not something he should have said? No, not as of yet.

JANSING: Yeah. You even have people like Peter King saying "You can't be calling Bernanke a traitor and you can't be questioning whether or not Barack Obama loves America," that type of thing. So, there's a Republican who's saying that. Let me play for you also something that Mitt Romney had to say, because this really I think speaks to the larger sort of GOP theme here. Let me play this for you. We don't have it? All right. So, I'm going to read it. I have to put my glasses on, though.

WAGNER: Go ahead.

JANSING: All right. Romney on corporations at the Iowa state fair -- "Corporations are people, my friend. Of course, they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? People's pockets. Human beings, my friend." Is this a theme that we're going to hear?

WAGNER: Yes, what I don't understand -- I mean, a couple things there, Chris. One is the GOP has shown a resilience. You know, every time someone says, hey, that's not appropriate, Mitt Romney got all sort of blowback for saying corporations are people, too -- and yet it doesn't create pause. There is -- seemingly, they are well to go too far ends of the earth to demagogue these financial issues. And we forget perhaps sometimes that Dr. King's teachings, the civil rights teachings led to the establishment of Johnson's Great Society programs, which was government taking a role to decrease the gap between the haves and the have-nots. That is -- those are the very principles that Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have called into question with their own economic policies. I mean, it is I think hypocrisy on a level that we have not seen yet in American politics.

JANSING: And you got to wonder, does it create an opening for somebody else to get in here?

WAGNER: Right.

JANSING: You know, despite that they may say no, no, no, could Chris Christie get in? Or, you know, we heard Marco Rubio, you know, he was invited to the Reagan Library to speak. So, he's going to be there. You have to wonder if there's an opening for someone who is not Sarah Palin.

WAGNER: Well, sure. I mean, I think that's why you see every week, well, someone else could get it. That's why Paul Ryan has to kind of keep coming back to the stump to say "I am not running for president." I mean, there's a real, I think, hunger for someone who is not a very far right conservative, but who can speak sort to the conservative fiscal principles. And that person is not yet on the stage I think for a lot of Americans.

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