MSNBC's Chris Matthews Lets Biden Falsely Claim He's Never Criticized the Tea Party

October 26th, 2016 11:00 PM

Joe Biden appeared on MSNBC's Hardball on Tuesday, and claimed that "You never heard me criticize the tea party." Millions of people with decent memories and the ability to hear know that this is not true. Those with longer memories know that Biden's strident criticisms of the Tea Party movement, its members and its political candidates and officeholders go back over six years.

Center-right outlets are having a field day with Biden's bogus claim, as they should be. Meanwhile, the establishment press is predictably virtually ignoring what Biden said. One person who has mostly escaped criticism thus far is Chris Matthews, Hardball's host. Matthews didn't challenge Biden's obviously untrue statement, even though he discussed the Vice President's fiery rhetoric five years ago when he made a speech at a union picnic in Cincinnati. At the time and in the context of other events that day, Matthews and his guest clearly believed that Biden was targeting the Tea Party.

Here's the Tuesday Hardball clip (HT Washington Free Beacon):

Transcript (bolds are mine throughout this post):

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Trump comes along and for example, you never heard me criticize the Tea Party. And the reason I didn't, there's a lot of people who are scared and beat up and what happens?

They lost a lot in what happened during the Bush administration ...

For fuller context, here's the transcript of the first half of a longer video found at Real Clear Politics:

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Trump comes along and for example, you never heard me criticize the Tea Party. And the reason I didn't, there's a lot of people who are scared and beat up and what happens?

They lost a lot in what happened during the Bush administration and the Great Recession. And they're angry. And so there's two ways to deal with it. And people go out and you find a scapegoat. And it had to become the government.


BIDEN: I remember we were running in 2008, a woman standing up on a sign on a chair at a corner with about 100 other people saying "Don't take my Medicare!"

MATTHEWS: I agree.

BIDEN: Government out of my life.

MATTHEWS: Isn't that funny?

BIDEN: And...

MATTHEWS: They think government is not a -- is not the people that created...


MATTHEWS: -- Medicare.

BIDEN: So -- so I think -- look, when you appear -- when you're appealing to people's fears and anxieties, you can, you can make some gains. But the end of the day, I think, you're going to find, I'll make you a bet that in the state of Pennsylvania, a significant number of those non-college educated white women and men vote Democratic before this is over.

In 2008, the best guess as to what "Don't take my Medicare" meant is that this woman was in a Medicare Advantage plan, something which was already known to be a target of then-candidate Obama if he were to become President. So her message probably wasn't "Get the government out of my life." It was likely, "Don't screw up the health care system any more than you already have, and don't take away our choices."

As to appealing to people's fears and anxieties, Biden's an expert at that. I seem to remember someone telling a Virginia audience that his Republican opponents were "going to put y'all back in chains." Oh, that was Joe Biden, in 2012.

Matthews should have known, and I would argue does know, that Biden's claim about having "never criticized the Tea Party" was rubbish.

On the September 6, 2011 edition of Hardball, after a fiery series of Labor Day speeches the previous day by Biden in Cincinnati, as well as James Hoffa Jr. and President Barack Obama in Detroit, Matthews discussed those speeches with hard-leftist David Corn and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele:

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at, here's Vice President Biden. His language is much better. Here he is calling upon labor unions to stand up and fight in an neither language. Here he is. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP; YouTube clip of "barbarians" statement is here; full speech is here)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a fight to the heart and soul of the labor union. It's a fight literally for our right to exist. Don't misunderstand what this is.

Don't misunderstand -- not a joke. Not a joke. Not an applause line. You are the only folks keeping the barbarians in the gates. You are the only nongovernmental power, the only nongovernmental power. The other side has declared war on labor's house and it's about time we stand up.


MATTHEWS: Well, there he is. Joe Biden, regular guy. Can he do it? David Corn, can he take the labor movement along with the people like James Hoffa and turn on the passion that we're seeing from the right?

CORN: Well, you know, I think it's OK to call them barbarians.

In context, it's clear that Corn understood that Biden was referring to Tea Party supporters and the politicians they had elected, and that Matthews also understood that to be the case. Yet there he was five years later on Tuesday, letting Biden lie about something covered for several minutes on his own show five years earlier.

Biden has criticized the Tea Party on at least a half-dozen other occasions:

  • On August 1, 2011: "Biden likened tea partiers to 'terrorists,'" "agreeing with a line of argument made by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) at a two-hour, closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting." Biden denied this at the time, but in a 2015 interview with Fox News's Chris Wallace, he admitted that "In 2012, I also said the Tea Party 'acted like terrorists.'"
  • In October 2014, "in a closed-door meeting with black clergy in South Carolina," he called the tea party "crazy."
  • In July 2010 ("Biden criticizes Tea Party, says voters shouldn't be 'generically angry'"), Biden said, "I'm not questioning their integrity. I'm questioning their judgment."
  • In June 2013, he ridiculed Virginia's "Republican statewide ticket as extreme captives of tea party ideology."
  • In Nevada in October 2010, he said that "It’s not good to see the Republican Party taken over by the Tea Party."
  • In October 2014 in Iowa, he said, “If we don’t stop the march of the Tea Party now, those majority Republicans in the House and Senate who know better are never going to have the courage to stand up and vote the right way."

The idea that Chris Matthews knows none of this history — and can't remember what was discussed on his own program at length in 2011 — is absurd. That he let Biden make his claim without challenge demonstrates how totally in the tank he is for Democratic Party politicians and liberal causes.

Cross-posted at