If sticking your foot in your mouth was an Olympic sport, MSNBC blowhard Chris Matthews would surely be a gold medalist.
During last night's State of the Union address, the Hardball host lavished effusive praise on President Obama's performance, saying "I forgot he was black tonight for an hour." Of course, Matthews was called on the carpet for that comment in the blogosphere. He later "clarified" his statement on the The Rachel Maddow Show, pointing out that he meant Obama has been able to transcend race."I think he's taken us beyond black and white in our politics, wonderfully so, in just a year," Matthews said.
I don't know what's more troubling, the insulting nature of his first statement or the naive nature of the second one.
Matthews' original comment was extraordinarily poorly thought out. It also reminds me of people who say nasty things about minority groups but convince themselves that they're not racially insensitive because they know one or two "good" members of a particular group or groups. Comic Chris Rock illustrated this point brilliantly a few years ago when he said: "People say Colin Powell speaks so well. What'd they expect him to say? 'Ahmma drop me a bomb'?"
Matthews' apology was also strange. Anyone who reads the comments sections on DailyFinance articles will realize that racial divisions are alive and well. Obama's election may have helped alleviate these divisions in our society, but to argue that he has "taken us beyond black and white in our politics" is silly.
Master of Apology
To be clear, I don't think Matthews is a racist. He's a professional gas bag, who on more than one occasion has said some incredibly thoughtless things. Last month, he "deeply" apologized to Obama for saying the president was visiting the "enemy" at West Point. Remember this gem about Hillary Clinton: "The reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around." Again, Matthews later apologized following an uproar.
MSNBC and its corporate masters General Electric (GE) count on viewers being outraged by Matthews and Keith Olbermann, who was recently greeted with scathing criticism by Comedy Central's Jon Stewart for over-the-top attacks on newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. Olbermann even sheepishly asked Stewart if he could come on The Daily Show. Unbelievable.
What progressives like myself often fail to appreciate is that when their political allies such as Matthews, Olbermann and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid say racially insensitive things, it's just as bad as when the frothing-at-the-mouth conservatives at Fox News and elsewhere do it. Stupidity is stupidity, and there seems to be an inexhaustible supply of it on cable news.
It's unfortunately, but all you have to do is tune into cable shows to see what crazy things these talking heads will say next. As the media business becomes more competitive and the political arena becomes more toxic, these cable-TV hosts will say more outrageous things just to get attention. Why? Because the ratings say they're giving the people what they want, which is sad commentary on the state of America's union.
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