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September 30, 2008

Volume 2, Number 22

MSNBC Debate Night: “Genial” Obama vs. “Troll-like” McCain

MSNBC may have dropped Chris Matthews as “news anchor” of major political news events, but he was a major presence during coverage of Friday’s debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. Immediately following the debate and in a special Hardball that aired at midnight EDT, Matthews insulted John McCain as “troll-like” and insisted the Republican nominee showed “contempt” for Obama by looking at moderator Jim Lehrer instead.

But Obama was sensational, correspondent Andrea Mitchell gushed: “He seemed to be a lot more genial than you might have expected. But, boy, he did show a command of foreign policy in terms of the nuts and bolts of it.” Matthews, however, wasn’t especially pleased with the Democrat’s performance, wishing he had heard a lot more bashing of Republicans: “Why didn’t he talk more about the terrible state of the economy, the jobless rate, unemployment, the degree of deficit we’re in right now, the degree of national debt....He said at the convention, in accepting the nomination, he was going to make John McCain own the failures of the last seven and eight years, and he didn’t do it tonight. He didn’t focus on those failures.”

As for McCain, Matthews was immediately scornful. “He was crunched over, almost grumpy in his physical manner. I think a lot of people will take that body language as contemptuous of his opponent,” Matthews announced moments after the debate concluded.

After midnight, Matthews renewed his partisan spin, disparaging McCain for the imagined slight against Obama: “I’m not sure contempt is an admirable trait when you’re up against an opponent who has every right to be there against you, in fact has equal footing, to treat your opponent with such contempt that not once throughout the evening do you give him the courtesy of looking at him....Is that an inferiority complex? Is that embarrassment? Is that guilt? Or is it contempt?”

Half an hour later, interviewing New York magazine’s John Heilemann, Matthews used language no TV journalist would be permitted to use against Barack Obama: “Let’s start with John McCain. Do you think he was too troll-like tonight? You know, too much of a troll?...Sitting there angrily, grumpily, like a codger?...Is every press conference going to be like that? A troll-like performance, angry at the world?” [Audio/video (0:37): Windows Media (2.34 MB) and MP3 audio (169 kB)]

Does MSNBC really think that they can become fair and balanced merely by letting Matthews express his liberal bombast from a different chair?

For more, see the September 29 CyberAlert:




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