MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews on Thursday connected Don Imus's firing in the wake of the "nappy-headed hos" remark to Rush Limbaugh, hinting that the conservative commentator could face similar problems for referring to "sluts" who "must be paid to have sex." (MSNBC, of course, is no stranger to contorversial comments. One anchor on the network recently compared Rick Santorum to mass murderer Joseph Stalin.)
Matthews played a clip of Limbaugh's comments, made after college student Sandra Fluke testified before Congress on the issue of birth control. The anchor linked the two radio hosts: "You know, this cost Don Imus a lot of career, you know? A lot of career, this kind of talk. Calling people sluts, whores. This kind of stuff." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Matthews brought on Democratic strategist Steve McMahon to trash the host. McMahon derided Limbaugh as sounding "like a vile, disgusting pervert who had come completely unglued on the radio."
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele piled on: "And I think in this instance, I think a lot of people have a problem with [the comments]... And I think in this particular case, that line has been crossed."
A partial transcript of the March 1 segment can be found below:
RUSH LIMBAUGH: What does it say about the college co-ed, Susan [sic] Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and, essentially, says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: You know, this cost Don Imus a lot of career, you know? A lot of career, this kind of talk. Calling people sluts, whores. This kind of stuff. I just wonder about this guy who you guys all bow before as the great as the great Alexa Hente [sp?], the one who approves or disapproves your crop of thinking every year. Are you going to take him on or are you out there all alone?
MICHAEL STEELE: Well, you know, I've already gotten in trouble on that front point- that front porch. And remember, you know, I tried to put in context when asked as chairman, you know, what does Rush Limbaugh mean to the party? Well, he means a lot of different things to people. And I think in this instance, I think a lot of people have a problem with it. I mean, I''m sure his lawyers are having a conversation with him about the fact this young woman may have something to say about what he called her on national radio. Now, you put it in the context of hyperbole and entertainment and, you know, free speech, but there are lines. And when you're having a national political discussion, you know, the political parties have to be sure that they clearly distinguish where they are and where the entertainment picks up. And I think in this particular case, that line has been crossed. I don't think Republicans are standing here saying we agree with Rush on this because I think it's above the pail. It's not part of advancing the public discourse right now. The name calling and all of that. So I have to put it in the category of entertainment, because anything else becomes a problem.
MATTHEWS: I'm waiting to see one Republican elected official go after this guy. Steve?
STEVE MCMAHON: Michael, listen. Listen, love you, man. But he sounded today like a vile, disgusting pervert who had come completely unglued on the radio. You know, I cannot believe what he said. I cannot believe that he'll get away with it and I cannot believe that it won't cost him millions of dollars in a slander suit that if this woman is smart she will bring tomorrow morning. It was outrageous and I can't believe, frankly, he hasn't apologized yet. There's nothing entertaining about disparaging misogyny. And that's exactly what it was. And it was appalling. It was disgusting