Chris Matthews's unhinged, fuming performance on Monday's Morning Joe is a good reason why members of the GOP avoid MSNBC. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus aggressively battled the liberal cable anchor after the host unloaded on Mitt Romney for playing the "race card." [Must see video below the jump. MP3 audio here.]
Asserting that just mentioning welfare is racist, Matthews spewed, "When you start talking about work requirements, you know what game you're playing and everybody knows what game you're playing. It's a race card. " Priebus fired back at the Hardball host, dismissing, "We've gotten to a place in politics that any moment of levity is totally frowned upon by guys like you just so that you can push your brand."
Asked point blank by anchor Joe Scarborough if Romney was playing the "race card" by joking about being born in Michigan, Matthews retorted, "Yeah. And I think This work requirement plays right into it."
The presumptive Republican nominee recently ran an ad attacking Obama's changes to welfare work requirements. This, too, is apparently racist.
As though he had found definitive proof, Matthews scoffed, "Of course it is! Welfare. Food stamps. Absolutely."
Former Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw chimed in to make clear, "Listen, I disagree with Chris." He added, "I think it was a demonstration of [Romney's] awkward sense of humor."
Even liberal Mika Brzezinski found this too much. She attributed Romney's attempt at humor as simply "because he's an awkward joker."
A transcript of the August 27 segment, which aired at 8:22am EDT, follows:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: That cheap shot about "I don't have a problem with my birth certificate" was awful and it is an embarrassment to your party to play that card. This stuff about getting rid of the work requirement for welfare is dishonest. Everyone has pointed out it's dishonest and you are playing that little ethnic card there. And you can you play your games and giggle about it but the fact is your side is playing that card. When you start talking about work requirements, you know what game you're playing and everybody knows what game you're playing. It's a race card. And this thing about- If your name's Romney, yeah, you were well born. You went to prep school! Yeah, brag about it. This guy has an African name and he has got has to live with it. Look who has gone further in their life! Just a moment. Just a minute- Who was born on third base?
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Wait, wait, wait.
MATTHEWS: This absurdity! Making fun of the guy's birth certificate issue when it was never a real issue except from the right-wing.
SCARBOROUGH: You think- you think that Romney's playing the race card? No, I'm asking you.
MATTHEWS: When he said- yeah. There's no doubt he did with his birth certificate.
SCARBOROUGH: No doubt. Wow.
MATTHEWS: No doubt. Why would he bring it up? Why would he say I have no problem with my birth certificate. What's that supposed to mean?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Because he's an awkward joker.
SCARBOROUGH: Because he misfired badly on a joke.
MATTHEWS: Why would he do it?
SCARBOROUGH: I'm just asking you. Do you think that Mitt Romney is playing the race card?
MATTHEWS: On that one, yeah.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you really?
MATTHEWS: Yeah. And I think this work requirement plays right into it.
SCARBOROUGH: That's the race card, too, huh?
MATTHEWS: Of course it is! Welfare. Food stamps. Absolutely. And you can chuckle, Mr. Chairman, because you have to flak this issue.
BRZEZINSKI: No, no, no. You have to let him respond.
REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, you got your monologue in, so congratulations.
MATTHEWS: It's a point of view.
PRIEBUS: You're loaded up- You got your -- you're loaded up, you got it out. The fact of the matter is that he's from Michigan. He was born in Michigan. He's making the point that I was born in Michigan. And you know what? We've gotten to a place in politics that any moment of levity is totally frowned upon by guys like you just so that you can push your brand. You know what? Good for you. It is a moment of levity. Everybody gets it.
MATTHEWS: What was the joke?
PRIEBUS: Barack Obama came out of the correspondence dinner with his own joke, as you remember, playing the Hulk Hogan song, "I'm a real American."
MATTHEWS: What's the joke in the fact he has a birth certificate? I don't get it.
PRIEBUS: Every person, myself, starting in February of last year, as soon as I became chairman of the RNC, Mitt Romney continuously has said this president was born in this country. It's a non-starter. It's a dumb issue. It's a distraction. Forget about it.
MATTHEWS: It just seems funny the first joke he's ever told in his life is about Obama's birth certificate.
TOM BROKAW: Listen, I disagree with Chris on this.
PRIEBUS: Everyone here disagrees with Chris!
BROKAW: Are you speaking for everyone here?
BROKAW: I think it was a demonstration of his awkward sense of humor. But I do think, in fairness, that all during the Republican debates and the primaries that there was a lot of stuff aimed at the President that was not refuted by leaders of the party.
PRIEBUS: I refuted it every single time. I betcha 20 times on tv.
BROKAW: I'm not talking about the birther thing, but as far as he's a Muslim, he's a socialist, he's not American. John Sununu had to apologize for saying he doesn't know what it's like to be an American. That was a pretty tough attack. Now, I think it comes the other way, by the way, from the Democrats to the Republicans as well.