While lambasting Sarah Palin for using violent imagery with her now infamous crosshairs election strategy map as well as her "Don't Retreat - RELOAD" Twitter posting, MSNBC's Chris Matthews used an expression concerning the former Alaska governor that could easily be misconstrued as a threat.
As he chatted with Cynthia Tucker and Richard Wolffe on "Hardball," the host said, "If she doesn't get off of this and stop trying to have somebody else skate her off of it like Glenn Beck or this person Mansour, she is going to be erased as a potential candidate" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Here's somebody who is sort of an associate of Sarah Palin, Rebecca Mansour, Mansour, she’s a conservative radio talk show host when she says this to Tammy Bruce, talk show host, on Saturday. This is the kind of defense we're getting. Let's listen.
REBECCA MANSOOR: We never, ever, ever, ever intended it to be gun sights. It was simply crosshairs like you’d see on maps.
TAMMY BRUCE: Well, it’s surveyor’s, it’s a surveyor’s symbol, Rebecca...
MANSOUR: Surveyor’s symbol. And I just can’t wait to say this, Tammy, if I can…
MANSOUR: You know, this graphic was done, it was done not even in-house. We had a professional who does, political graphic artist, you know, consultant do this for us. So we saw it really quickly and we said that’s fine. That’s great. And we had never imagined or occurred to us that anybody would interpret it as violence because it’s not.
MATTHEWS: Okay, this is idiotic. This is, everybody knows what a gun sight looks like. Everybody knows that Sarah Palin is very familiar with the imagery of a gun sight. She’s out there doing it on television with a big telescopic lens with a gun, gun sight. She, the language was bull's eye. The language was clearly lock and reload and everything. And now to come out and say that it's something to do with surveying details is nonsense. She is not answering. I will say this again. If she doesn't get off of this and stop trying to have somebody else skate her off of it like Glenn Beck or this person Mansour, she is going to be erased as a potential candidate. You cannot run like this. We can disagree.
Readers are advised that as Matthews was saying this, a "Sarah Palin's Alaska" clip was being shown of the former governor about to shoot a caribou. Rather ominously, just as the host said "erased as a potential candidate," the picture on the screen was the caribou in Palin's gun sight.
You want to talk about violent imagery?
Maybe Matthews wasn't aware that the word "erase," amongst other things, means kill.
Slang . to murder: The gang had to erase him before he informed on them.
Maybe Matthews also was unaware that the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler wrote a short story called "The Pencil" wherein receiving that writing instrument in the mail was a warning that you were about to be erased by the mob.
Now, to be sure, that's not what Matthews meant. But it seems tremendously hypocritical of him to be for the second day in a row carping and whining about Palin's SarahPAC map and her reload tweet whilst using a term about her that itself has a violent meaning, especially coincident with showing an image of a caribou in a gun sight's crosshairs.
If words do matter, and folks like Matthews want the rhetoric to be toned down, then they should be more careful not to be making statements that can be misinterpreted by deranged people like Jared Lee Loughner.
This seems especially important given that no matter how hard Palin tried to explain what she meant by "reload," folks like Matthews didn't care.
Here's the former governor speaking on the subject at March's Tea Party Express gathering in Searchlight, Nevada:
SARAH PALIN: Now, when I talk about "It’s not a time to retreat, it’s a time to reload," what I’m talking about – now media, try to get this right, okay? That’s not inciting violence. What’s that, that is doing is trying to inspire people to get involved in their local elections and these upcoming federal elections. It’s telling people that their arms are their votes. It’s not inciting violence. It’s telling people, “Don’t ever let anybody tell you to sit down and shut up Americans. You stand up and you stand tall.”
Pretty good explanation, right?
So was the one John McCain gave to NBC's Ann Curry two days earlier:
ANN CURRY: You're also working, Senator, for re-election. And I understand that Sarah Palin will be joining you in Arizona as you campaign tomorrow. And as we just saw from Kelly O'Donnell's report, she has used some pretty incendiary language. She Tweeted in response to the health care vote, "Commonsense, conservative and lovers of America don't retreat, instead reload." And on her Facebook page she also posted a map highlighting weak Democratic districts that conservatives should target with a crosshair symbol. Considering these threats, these concerns, that we've been hearing about regarding violence, do you think, do you now recommend that your party use less incendiary language and will you say that to her tomorrow?
JOHN MCCAIN: Ann, I have seen the rhetoric of targeted districts as long as I've been in politics. Please. This is - any threat of violence is terrible. But to say that there is a targeted district or that we reload or go back in to the fight again, please. That's just language.
CURRY: Those are not my words, those are her words!
MCCAIN: Oh those, those are fine. We, they're used all the time. Those words have been used throughout my political career.
CURRY: But should they be perhaps used less.
MCCAIN: There are targeted districts.
CURRY: Sorry for interrupting Senator.
MCCAIN: There are targeted districts and there are areas that we call battleground states. And so, please. That, that rhetoric and kind of language is just part of the political lexicon. It is in no place for threats or violence or anything else. But to say someone is in a battle ground state, is not originated today.
CURRY: Senator, with all due respect and, and I, I heard what you had to say.
MCCAIN: With all due respect, that's, that's, with all due respect that's simply...
CURRY: No let me just simply, let me just inject this one question sir.
CURRY: The question is, given even if, even if what you're saying is, is accepted by everyone that this is a language of campaigning, this is the language of politics. Given, however, the sensitivity regarding this particular bill, should this still be the language of this day, given how much we are hearing about hundreds of calls regarding threats, about vandalism, about the gas line of a congressman's brother's home being cut. Sir, this is, these are very dangerous times. Is this the language that we should be hearing today?
MCCAIN: The language that we should be using today is the language that we are using. We condemn violence. We, we condemn threats of violence. If anyone does that, and violates the law, they will be persecuted to the full extent of the law and that there is no place for it. But to somehow say that someone's in a battleground state is somehow offensive simply, I'm sorry.
CURRY: Well I think it's the "reload" and the, and the crosshairs, I think, that's caused a lot of people to be concerned, Senator.
MCCAIN: Well maybe it has and we condemn any violence, any threats of violence. But I've heard all of that language throughout my political career. But we have to do everything we can to make sure the American people know that there's no place for that in America but what has just been done, against the overwhelming opposition of the American people, sleazy deals done in an unprecedented fashion, of course has people angry. That anger should be, should be channeled into voter registration and go continue the, the struggle that we're in to regain America and stop mortgaging our children's futures.
Now, almost ten months later, no matter how this was explained by Palin and her former running mate, people like Matthews are continuing to not only misinterpret her meaning, but also claim that what she said and did is inciting violence.
If they're right, then Matthews' comment about Palin being erased - with the image of a caribou in a gun sight's crosshairs on the screen - is equally inflammatory.
If the Left wants conservatives to be careful with their metaphors, they had better practice what they preach or keep their hypocritical concerns to themselves.