August 25, 2016

Chris Matthews invited Joan Walsh, Andrew Weinstein, former press secretary to Newt Gingrich, and Michael Steele, former director of the RNC onto Hardball to discuss today's heated back-and-forth between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump over Trump's connections to white supremacists and fringe conspiracy theorists.

He began with Michael Steele, but to me, the moment he badgered Michael Weinstein about Grand Wizard of the KKK's endorsement was the truly shameful one, so I'll take these out of order.

Matthews started badgering Weinstein, a former Gingrich press aide and current Clinton endorser.

"Is it fair for Hillary Clinton to show images of the KKK in an ad about Donald Trump," he roared, talking over his guest and bullying him in his usual fashion.

Weinstein answered, "It is 100 percent fair to discuss the ties that the Trump campaign has allowed and the growth that it has encouraged within the alt-right hate movement, because there have been dog whistles from day one of this campaign to those groups on issues large and small. Retweeting hate sites, not disavowing David Duke, to explicitly not repudiating the haters is an issue that should be raised in the campaign? Absolutely,"

Matthews did not enjoy that answer at all. "The KKK has historically been associated with killing and lynching people who are black. Is that a fair comparison?"

"To tie Trump into a murderous outfit. Is that fair? It's your call," he challenged.

"Absolutely," Weinstein insisted, "The KKK has endorsed Donald Trump. The Grand Wizard of the KKK looks at Donald Trump and sees a simpatico character --"

Matthews then interrupted him and demanded to know who that Grand Wizard was. What was his name? He claimed not to know anything about this.

Apparently he has forgotten that David Duke, who enthusiastically endorsed Trump and still rejoices about his candidacy was the former Grand Wizard of the KKK?

"Who's the Grand Wizard today?" Tweety demanded. Weinstein demurred, saying he was glad not to know his name but was aware of the news reports.

What is Matthews' problem? Is he actually denying that Trump's rise and his base is directly attributable to white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and neonazis? Really?

And now, on to Michael Steele, whose last name belies the fact that he's seems to be a shrinking violet when it comes to matters of racism.

"These campaigns have run into a ditch. Who's leading the way into that ditch?," he asked Michael Steele.

Predictably and in classic fashion, Steele offered the usual cable pablum analysis with his answer. "Well, they're holding hands as far as I'm concerned in many respects."


Steele, apparently, has the idea that we should be in quiet rooms whispering about the blatant white supremacist themes of Trump's campaign.

"This is one of my big concerns. When you start throwing around these terms -- bigot, racist, alt-right, all that -- it undermines the national discussion that we still need to have on race," he continued. "When you bring it into the politics in the way it's been brought in, in such a demeaning way, in such a way that makes your skin crawl, it's offensive."

"Again, it's playing that race card in a way that's undermining the body politic and certainly the country," he added.

Oh, be still my fluttering beating heart because someone said the emperor is a white supremacist. We can't have that talk because it's offensive?

He's damn right it's offensive. It's been offensive for nearly a year now. Does Michael Steele imagine that it was offensive for Trump to suggest that every African-American in this country lives a life that sucks? Does he think it's offensive when he paints all Muslims as terrorists? Does he imagine that it's offensive to tell Mexican-Americans that he's going to build a wall because their relatives in Mexico are rapists and murderers?

Yes, it's offensive, and those examples are just the tip of the iceberg. It's offensive and it's been mainstreamed by Trump and our "bothsides" media. Charlie Pierce:

But one of the very real responsibilities for this nightmare of a campaign lies not with a candidate that normalized hate groups but with an elite political media that, by adhering to rules that did not apply, normalized that candidate. Donald Trump has hurled wild, vicious (and largely unsubstantiated) charges every since he first stood up behind a podium as a candidate. This is nothing new. So now, his wild, vicious (and largely unsubstantiated) charges are being hurled in a campaign context in which they have become the way people run for president, at least in 2016. And they're being hurled at a person for whom much of the elite political media has had a barely concealed grudge for 25 years.

I'm sorry that Michael Steele has the vapors, but it's past time someone spoke the truth about Trump. It's absurd for him to argue that Hillary Clinton shouldn't bring it out into the open. Utterly and totally absurd.

This was one of the most shameful moments I've witnessed on MSNBC in a long time. Joan Walsh and Weinstein did their best to counter Matthews' ridiculous skepticism about Trump's racism, but they shouldn't have had to. Ever. This is not in dispute.

Donald Trump is a white supremacist and has been for a very long time. He is endorsed and beloved by white supremacists, racists, bigots, neoNazis, conspiracy theorists, and the fringe elements of our society.

Michael Steele needs to deal with that reality, as does Chris Matthews.

Update: You can watch the entire segment here.

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