Matthews Wonders If GOP Will Play Race Card

Over the weekend on NBC’s syndicated "The Chris Matthews Show," Matthews and his media panel predicted the House would fall to the Democrats, prompting Matthews to wonder what sort of "scare tactic" Republicans would employ in the upcoming midterms. Matthews asked Time’s Michael Duffy if the Republicans were "gonna bring in the ethnic factor?"

Then later in the program Matthews honored the media’s Katrina coverage by highlighting this exaggerated report from an NBC cameraman: "Dead people around the walls of the Convention Center laying in the middle of the street."

Matthews and the panel began the show discussing the inevitability of the Democrats retaking Congress and what Republicans would stoop to, to prevent the takeover which led to this exchange between Matthews and Duffy:

Matthews: "But are they gonna bring in the ethnic factor? In the dirty old days, like five or 10 years ago, we had a situation like that and the Republicans were warning, most of these ranking members, these about to chairmen, are African-Americans. They go after [John] Conyers, who is a bit far out, politically. But they'll use the ethnic factor, or won't they? It's a tough question, isn't it?"

Michael Duffy, Time magazine: "Late. Late. There's a, Lee Atwater used to say this: ‘You can play a race card late, and only once.' But I think in an election that's gonna be close, and they have chambers up for grabs, you said the good old days were, the bad old days were over? I don't think so."

At the top of the show Matthews teased his final commentary on the one year anniversary of Katrina proclaiming: "My thoughts on the Katrina anniversary. How reporters made their bones while a president lost his cred." Yet Matthews honored those reporters by highlighting this credibility-challenged report from an NBC colleague:

Matthews: "Some images are so powerful, so searing, that they'll be forever burned in our memories. The horror of 9/11 was one of them. That a symbol of American reach could be so easily destroyed reminded us of how vulnerable we are to a world full of suidal hate.

The horror of Hurricane Katrina, families struggling to survive, reminded us of something very different: The lines of race and class that divide us remain stark and clear. If 9/11 pulled us together, Katrina showed us very much apart. Until something snapped, collapsing the distance that normally separates the television ‘us' from the television ‘them.' The reporters, the men and women who waded through the floodwaters to tell the stories of those left behind, went beyond just the facts; they gave voice to the outrage. Brian Williams of NBC, Jean Meserve and Anderson Cooper of CNN, Shepard Smith of FOX News, they all told us what we needed to hear. But it was someone normally behind the scenes, an NBC cameraman, Tony Zumbado, who said it best."

Tony Zumbado: "You would never, never imagine what you saw in the Convention Center in New Orleans. The sanitation was unbelievable. The stench in there, it was unbelievable. Dead people around the walls of the Convention Center laying in the middle of the street."

Matthews: "And so Americans came together in their outrage, outrage at the suffering of those families trapped in the Ninth Ward and elsewhere in the Gulf Coast. And outrage at a government that failed right when we needed it most. The images we saw on screen were more than just images. They were an indictment of the indifference and the gross negligence of those charged to protect us. It's not about journalists expressing political opinions, it's about showing up, getting the story, and telling it to the public."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.