Tea Party Leader Battles Chris Matthews, Defends Michele Bachmann: 'You Fear the Tea Party'

January 27th, 2011 11:44 AM

For the second day in a row, MSNBC's Chris Matthews mercilessly attacked Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) while repeatedly referring to her as a "balloon head."

Knowing what he was going to be up against, Texas Tea Party leader Phillip Dennis came prepared for the "Hardball" host's hostility, and at the end of a lengthy segment, marvelously summed up exactly why Matthews and others in the media attack this movement and all of its members saying, "You fear the Tea Party" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Well, let’s take a look at what she said in Iowa to that -- to that tax-cutting group here. (INAUDIBLE) off the cuff. I don’t know where it came from. Here’s (ph) about history. I think she doesn’t understand where the Republican Party came from, which was founded to stop the expansion of slavery into the territories. She acted as if, last night -- this past weekend there wasn’t any slavery to get rid of. It had already been gotten rid of. We didn’t need a Lincoln, didn’t need a Civil War, didn’t need 600,000 people dead. I don’t get her history. Let’s listen to her in her own words.

That's how Matthews set up the clip. See if you can find Bachmann actually saying we "didn’t need a Lincoln, didn’t need a Civil War, didn’t need 600,000 people dead" to end slavery:


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began. We know that was an evil and it was a scourge and a blot and a stain upon our history. But we also know the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forebears, who worked tirelessly, men like John Quincy Adams who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.


MATTHEWS: Phillip Dennis, what do you make of that view of history? I don’t know what to make of it, because we all grew up to grade school history. We know that slavery continued right through until we had the Civil War and we had the Emancipation Proclamation.

And we went through all the hell to get to the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, which our country was torn in half by. She said it was all solved well before that. We didn’t need a Republican Party.

I don’t get it. I call her a balloon head for a reason. She has absolutely no grasp or knowledge of American history. And I mean it. She’s proving it.

Your thoughts?

Did Bachmann say slavery didn't continue through the Civil War? Did she say there was no Emancipation Proclamation or 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments?

No. She said there were Founding Fathers that acted tirelessly to end slavery:

PHILLIP DENNIS, TEXAS TEA PARTY: Well, first of all, that sounds like extremely harsh political rhetoric in this era of now getting along. And I -- first of all, if you remember from your history --

MATTHEWS: Well, how would you characterize -- how would you characterize her knowledge of American history?

DENNIS: Well, I can tell you this.

I remember from my history from North Carolina State is that Edward Rutledge, who was the governor of South Carolina, was against the first draft of the -- the Constitution -- or the Declaration of Independence, which contained language that banned slavery.

And he fought against Jefferson. He fought against Adams, as well as he fought against Benjamin Franklin. And he encouraged all of the Southern states to vote against the declaration. So those -- those Northern founding fathers acquiesced, and for the better going of having the country, a free country of the United States of America.

So in a lot of ways, I think she misspoke, but she was technically in some way right. But the founding fathers --


MATTHEWS: No, she wasn’t. No, you’re wrong.


MATTHEWS: No, she did not eradicate -- the founding fathers did not eradicate slavery. If you believe that, say it again.


DENNIS: No, I don’t believe that’s true.


DENNIS: We know that slavery was not eradicated until after the Civil War, but we do know the Northern founding fathers were against slavery.


Indeed. If Matthews would study the history of the first Continental Congress and the creation of the Declaration of Independence, he would find that document originally had a clause to abolish slavery, and that a southern contingent led by South Carolina's Edward Rutledge bound together to block passage of the Declaration until it was removed.

With no other recourse, the northern contingent led by John Adams of Massachusetts, realizing their dream of independence would end if they didn't acquiesce, eventually acceded and the clause was removed.

As Bachmann noted in her four sentences about this issue Saturday, Adams' son John Quincy Adams did indeed work tirelessly to end slavery.

Even the liberally-biased Wikipedia admits this:

Adams was elected a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts after leaving office, the only president ever to do so, serving for the last 17 years of his life with far greater success than he had achieved in the presidency. Animated by his growing revulsion against slavery, Adams became a leading opponent of the Slave Power and argued that if a civil war ever broke out the president could abolish slavery by using his war powers, a correct prediction of Abraham Lincoln's use of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

Wikipedia went even further concerning Adams' fight against slavery:

Late in life, especially after his election to the House, he was noted especially as most prominent national leader opposing slavery. The turning point came with the debate on the Missouri Compromise in 1820 when he broke with his friend John C. Calhoun, who became the most outspoken national leader in favor of slavery. They became bitter enemies. Adams vilified slavery as a terrible evil and preached total abolition, while Calhoun countered that the right to own slaves had to be protected from interference from the federal government to keep the nation alive. Adams said slavery contradicted the principles of republicanism, while Calhoun said that slavery was essential to American democracy, for it made all white men equal. Both men pulled away from nationalism, and started to consider dissolution of the Union as a way of resolving the slavery imbroglio. Adams predicted that if the South formed a new nation, it would be torn apart by an extremely violent slave insurrection. If the two nations went to war, Adams predicted the president of the United States would use his war powers to abolish slavery. The two men became ideological leaders of the North and the South. In the House Adams became a champion of free speech, demanding that petitions against slavery be heard despite a "gag rule" that said they could not be heard.

In 1841, Adams had the case of a lifetime, representing the defendants in United States v. The Amistad Africans in the Supreme Court of the United States. He successfully argued that the Africans, who had seized control of a Spanish ship on which they were being transported illegally as slaves, should not be extradited or deported to Cuba (a Spanish colony where slavery was legal) but should be considered free. Under President Martin Van Buren, the government argued the Africans should be deported for having mutinied and killed officers on the ship. Adams won their freedom, with the chance to stay in the United States or return to Africa. Adams made the argument because the U.S. had prohibited the international slave trade, although it allowed internal slavery. He never billed for his services in the Amistad case. The speech was directed not only at the justices of this Supreme Court hearing the case, but also to the broad national audience he instructed in the evils of slavery.

Adams repeatedly spoke out against the "Slave Power", that is the organized political power of the slave owners who dominated all the southern states and their representation in Congress. He vehemently attacked the annexation of Texas (1845) and the Mexican War (1846-48) as part of a "conspiracy" to extend slavery.

As Adams died in February 1848, and the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and issued on January 1, 1863, Bachmann wasn't as far off with her statements as Matthews and the rest of the liberal media have charged. But that wasn't going to stop the attacks: 

MATTHEWS: Well, what is she talking about?


MATTHEWS: Gentleman, sir, sir, why do you cover for this ignorance?

DENNIS: I’m not covering for it at all.


MATTHEWS: This is profound ignorance. Don’t hedge here. Do you believe she knows what she’s talking about or not, yes or no? Does she know what she’s talking about?


DENNIS: Chris, take a breath.


MATTHEWS: Does she know what she’s talking about?

DENNIS: Chris -- Chris, take a breath. I don’t know --


MATTHEWS: No, no, don’t play that little rhetorical game.

Does she know what she’s talking about?

DENNIS: I don’t know if she knows what she’s talking about anymore than Hank Johnson --


MATTHEWS: Well, do you want me to play it again?


DENNIS: -- that Guam was an island floating island around about to sink if we put a military base on there. People say stupid things all the time.


MATTHEWS: Well, I think we keep hearing it from her.

Actually, it's not that we keep hearing it from her. It's that folks like Matthews continue to play that brief, four-sentence clip from Bachmann's fourteen-minute speech on Saturday to defame her much as they do with many female conservatives.

Matthews' attacks on Palin are almost legendary, as is his continued focus on Sharron Angle's "second amendment remedies" comment. This has clearly become a pattern with the "Hardball" host and much of the liberal media.

What they do is find a brief quote from a conservative they don't like and then pound on it for weeks if not days or months until viewers, readers, and listeners hate that person as much as they do. They'll then gloat when polls unsurprisingly find the objects of their disaffection have high negative ratings.

With Bachmann considering a run for the White House, it appears to be her turn to be the Left's whipping girl:

MATTHEWS: Phillip Dennis, last night, I watched her speech. I watched it today. She skipped the entire financial crisis of 2008, 2009, all the hell we went there, the markets going crazy, people like -- everybody in the Bush administration doing their best to kill it, to save our economy, kill that crisis.

We had the auto industry in trouble. We had the banks in trouble. She never mentions that. She just says, Barack Obama raised the unemployment rate.

Do you think that is fair? Is that real history?


DENNIS: Well, there’s no doubt about it, is that the Bush -- and when the Republicans had power the last time, that they totally made a mess out of things.


DENNIS: Like I said, they voted like -- they spent money like a bunch of Democrats the last time, and they got us to where we are now.

But nothing was going to put us in the shape to where -- when -- we see right now with President Obama, Pelosi and Reid, when they were in there. They spent money like never before. It’s absolutely nuts.

And you know something? I would take both of you a lot more seriously if you had ever criticized a liberal for saying stupid things. And I would love to hear -- did you call Hank Johnson a bubble head or a balloon head when he said that Guam was an island that would sink if we put a military base on it?

No, you didn’t even talk about.

MATTHEWS: Well, I don’t even think I have heard about it. Who is Hank Johnson?

DENNIS: He’s the congressman from Atlanta that replaced Cynthia McKinney.


MATTHEWS: I think we did it in the "Sideshow," sir. I will check the records. I don’t remember all the things, but we do try to cover all the bases.

DENNIS: Please do.

MATTHEWS: Phillip Dennis, you’re a good man. You know I’m right. You know, on this one, you’re wrong. And you got --


DENNIS: Chris, you are so wrong.

MATTHEWS: You got to start holding elections in the Tea Party.

DENNIS: You are so wrong.

MATTHEWS: You got to start organizing elections.

You get these people like Palin and Bachmann up there out front. I think it’s social promotion, like in some bad public schools. I think they’re getting ahead.

DENNIS: Chris, you -- you fear the Tea Party. You and the Democrats and the Republicans all the fear the Tea Party, because you know we’re right.


CAPEHART: Not after last night’s performance.


DENNIS: Well, I believe, after last night’s State of the Union, you are exactly right.

I don’t know what State of the Union you guys were watching, but all I heard was more stimulus, more spending on green nonexistent jobs that are going to put us further into debt. How much more money do you want to borrow or print, guys? Come on.

MATTHEWS: OK. Good point. I like it. You should have been doing it last night.

Phillip Dennis, who speaks with the volume and excitement --

DENNIS: Put me on.

MATTHEWS: Well, you’re on!

DENNIS: All right.

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, we talked about that guy Hank Johnson. I can’t even remember him, but we had him on.

Actually, they didn't have Johnson on. According to LexisNexis, the only mention of the Georgia Congressman was on April 1, 2010, shortly after he made his idiotic remarks about Guam:

MATTHEWS: Next, we have got priceless video of Georgia Congressman Hank Wilson (sic) at a House Armed Services hearing last week. He`s here questioning U.S. Admiral Robert Willard about plans to station 8,000 Marines and their families on the Western Pacific island of Guam.

Now, here`s the congressman`s concern. The influx could cause the island of Guam to capsize.

Listen to this member of Congress talk now.


REP. HANK JOHNSON (D), GEORGIA: Well, this is an island that, at its widest level, is what, 12 miles from shore to shore?

ADMIRAL ROBERT WILLARD, PACIFIC FLEET COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY: I don`t have the exact dimensions. But, to your point, sir, I think Guam is a small island.

JOHNSON: Yes, my -- my fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.

WILLARD: We don`t anticipate that.



MATTHEWS: So, what does a person make of that exchange? The congressman went on by the way, quite a while, asking about the size of the island, before making that incredible statement. He could have looked up those facts.

But then he says he`s worried, the congressman is worried that the island might turn over, like it`s a raft or something. And this guy`s representing people in Congress. I don`t know what to make of this one.

Well, if this had been a Republican - especially a Republican woman affiliated with the Tea Party! - Matthews probably would have: called her a balloon head; played this clip over and over for days nay weeks; done everything possible to discredit her and her beliefs, and; even gone so far as to end a segment about her referring to "Looney Tunes" while said music played.

If you think I'm taking this too far, that's exactly how Wednesday's segment about Bachmann ended:

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Phillip Dennis, sir, you’re always welcome here on HARDBALL to express your beliefs and also to cover for some of your weaker allies.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Jonathan Capehart, thanks for exposing ignorance --


MATTHEWS: -- and the balloon head.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the Looney Tunes -- there they are -- it’s all Looney Tunes to me.

As Dennis correctly observed, this wasn't how Congressman Johnson was treated. Far from it, according to LexisNexis, Matthews never mentioned him or his absurd theory about Guam again.

It appears only Republicans - especially if they're women associated with the Tea Party - get that kind of treatment on "Hardball."