Chris Matthews: Tea Party In Miss. Used 'Jim Crow-Era Law' to Intimidate Black Voters

On the June 24 edition of Hardball With Chris Matthews, the MSNBC anchor invited Adam Brandon of the Tea Party organization FreedomWorks onto the show in an attempt to portray the Tea Party as targeting black voters in the Republican Mississippi primary run-off. Matthews claimed McDaniel’s supporters were citing a “Jim Crow-era law from 1942" to try to stifle votes by African-American voters for Sen. Thad Cochran (R).

Of course the law in question is not racist in construction, but is rather intended to prevent Democrats or Republicans from utilizing crossover strategic voting in another party’s primary. It is obviously unenforceable due to the secrecy of the ballot. However Matthews went out of the way to characterize how the Tea Party is abusing this law as a way to stop Black Democrats from voting, stating that “Mississippi's attorney general” is on edge, and “fears racial profiling...and intimidation tactics might be used to suppress the black vote.” [See video below. Click here for MP3 audio]

Later in the segment, the left-wing host spent the balance of the interview with Brandon trying to trick him into saying that the poll watchers and “lawyers on the ground” were there to target and accuse black voters who may or may not be breaking the Mississippi law. Matthews hounded Brandon as to “How...you enforce a law like that” and would not accept his answer that Tea Party “election observers” are “just watching,” while “lawyers on the ground” look for foul play on a case-by-case basis.

Matthews wouldn’t let up, and even insulted the intelligence of the Tea Party members:

Tea Party guys don't point to experts. They know, got sense, that if an African-American person thinks they are betting off with Cochran than they are with a McDaniel, how do you stop them?

According to Matthews, Tea Party members don’t bother with “experts,” and would rather start berating any black voter who enters the polling center.

When Brandon refuted Matthews claims that FreedomWorks was “running people around challenging voters,” the host cut back to NBC reporter Kasie Hunt, rudely saying, “back to objective reporting from you. You are objective.”

Apparently to Matthews, any member of the Tea Party who does not admit to his racism is not being “objective.”

See transcript below:

MSNBC
Hardball With Chris Matthews
June 24, 2014
7:31 p.m. Eastern
20 seconds


CHRIS MATTHEWS: Up next, that Republican primary runoff down in Mississippi tonight is getting wild. The Cochran campaign is the incumbent for five terms is reaching out to African-American voters to vote Republican. And now the Tea Party has dug up an old Jim Crow-era law using it to challenge black voters from actually voting Republican in the primary. That’s ahead. You're watching Hardball, the place for politics.

7:37 p.m. Eastern        
4 minutes and 17 seconds


MATTHEWS: Well, Tea Party activists are countering with a so-called voter integrity project sending poll watchers to precinct locations to monitor the process and potentially challenge individual voters. They are citing a Jim Crow-era law from 1942 that states, quote, “No person shall be eligible to participate in a primary election unless he intends to support the nominations made in the primary in which he participates.” In other words, if you are voting Republican in the primary you better plan to vote Republican in the general. Anyway, the McDaniel supporters are saying that any Democrat who votes for Cochran in the primary must, by law, intend to vote for the Republican in November. Any Republican. But the Tea Party effort has got Mississippi's attorney general on edge he fears racial profiling, he says, and intimidation tactics might be used to suppress the black vote. Joining us right now is Adam Brandon from FreedomWorks, one of the Tea Party groups with poll watchers in Mississippi. And also, Kasie Hunt who is a reporter from NBC News whose with us from McDaniel headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi. Quickly, Kasie, the situation as we understand it up here--where it's as hot, I think, as down there today I think, maybe not–is that you have people working for Cochran trying to get black voters to switch over and vote Republican and you have people in the Tea Party crowd backing McDaniel saying you better not, there is an old 1942 law which is still on the books which says you shouldn't be voting in a primary if you don't intend to vote for the winner of that primary. Who is winning that fight?

KASIE HUNT: You know actually, they are trying to flip that argument onto the McDaniel campaign. The Cochran campaign is suggesting that because McDaniel said yesterday that he's not sure whether he'll support Cochran if Cochran wins the nomination. McDaniel himself might be ineligible. They are having a little bit of back and forth about that. But regardless, it's pretty clear that the Cochran campaign’s mission over the last three weeks has been to expand the electorate. And there are early signs that it might be working. As reports have trickled in over the course of the day about turnout, there are signs that African-American turnout might be up and that could suggest that Senator Cochran might be in a better position than many people expected. They’ve poured a million plus dollars into the ground game here over the course of the last three weeks. It's a shift from the TV strategy that they were employing throughout the rest of the primary. So, at this stage people on ground at Cochran headquarters are cautiously optimistic. And that's a much different tone from where they were when I was here three weeks ago.

MATTHEWS: So what do you think of Cochran's last ditch effort to bring in black voters who are Democrats, 99% or 98% to vote in the primary. Is that fair, Kosher, if you will?

BRANDON: I mean, he hasn't talked to the community in 41 years. So, alking to them in the last 24 hours, I'm not really sure it’s going to work that well for him.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it's legitimate?

BRANDON: If you're in a Republican primary and you need Democrats to get you over the finish line, you're in trouble.

MATTHEWS: Is it legal?

BRANDON: Sure it’s legal. Our issue, the one that FreedomWorks, that we looked into, if you voted in the Democratic primary, you are not allowed to come back and vote in the Republican primary.

MATTHEWS: How do you enforce a law like that?

BRANDON: Well, for the most part, what our election observers are doing, they’re just watching.

MATTHEWS: But how do you enforce a law like that? How do you know what a person's intent is. Look,. I don't mind the spirit of the law. Which is I don’t think I like much strategic voting, is what it’s called. Voting in the other primary to screw them up. But, how do you stop people from doing what they are allowed to do.

BRANDON: Well that’s the lawyers--That's why we have lawyers on the ground.

MATTHEWS: But you got to tell me. You guys think it’s wrong that–that, that laws should be enforced. I shouldn't vote in the primary unless you plan to vote for the nominee. But how do you enforce that?

BRANDON: Well that’s why you have lawyers on the ground.

MATTHEWS: Don't say--you're a Tea Party guy. Tea Party guys don't point to experts. They know, got sense, that if an African-American person thinks they are betting off with Cochran than they are with a McDaniel, how do you stop them?

BRANDON: Well, there is also this assumption --

MATTHEWS: You are not answering the question.

BRANDON: There is this assumption that the only Democrats in Mississippi are black. There’s  also white Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Well, can you answer my question. How do you stop a person from voting in the primary against your candidate and then going ahead and voting for Childers in the general..

BRANDON: If it is legitimate vote, go ahead and cast it. The reason we have folks down there --

MATTHEWS: So why are you running people around challenging voters then?

BRANDON: Well, we're not. Have you heard anything about that to

MATTHEWS: I heard FreedomWorks is involved with people down there.

BRANDON: We are involved, we’re waiting and ready if there is a problem, we’re ready to go.

MATTHEWS: Kasie, back to objective reporting from you. You are objective.

Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.