MSNBC’s Chris Matthews isn’t always the most diplomatic guy, and on Wednesday night he showed that to be true when he paid President Obama what he probably thought was a compliment.
Praising the president’s ability to inspire on stage, and arguing Obama had made serious strides in overcoming racial and political tensions in the US, Matthews said:
You know, I was trying to think about who he was tonight. And, um, it’s interesting. He is post-racial by all appearances. You know, I forgot he was black tonight for an hour. You know, he’s gone a long way to become a leader of this country and passed so much history in just a year or two.
MSNBC’s top two anchors, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, had nothing to say about Matthew’s comments, although the Countdown host did appear to be taken by surprise.
This video is from MSNBC, broadcast Jan. 27, 2010.
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Later on, Matthews “clarified” his comments and said he was “proud” he said it. That he was happy there was no “ethnic fighting” during Obama’s State of the Union address.
MATTHEWS: And can I say one more point?
MATTHEWS: I think something that I`d mentioned earlier tonight. And I`m very proud I did it and I hope I can say it the right way. You know, this country has been — and I grew up in a country that was driven apart by race right until the `60s. You couldn`t have a black member of the United States Cabinet. There are no black Cabinet members in the Kennedy administration.
It has been such a big part of our life in big cities, this sort of ethnic debate, ethnic fighting. And then to see the president of the United States who`s African-American, I was thinking tonight, this isn`t even an issue tonight.
How far we`ve come in just a year where it wasn`t a campaign issue in some parts of the country. It was talked about as something that would hurt him. And it wasn`t in the room tonight. You can feel it wasn`t there tonight. And that takes leadership on his part to get us beyond these divisions.
Really, national leadership. And I felt it wonderfully then I saw it almost like an epiphany. And I hope it`s true, I hope what I saw is true, that we`ve gotten beyond it. At least — well, in the presidential level, I think. It`s still going to be out there in American life, but I think he`s done something wonderful.
I think he`s taken us beyond black and white in our politics wonderfully so in just a year. I think.
Wonkette mocks, “It’s fine, really. If we were Boomers, we would forget that people were black sometimes too.”
The Daily News reports, ‘Chris Matthews forgot he was black’ was high on Google’s list of hot Web searches Thursday morning. This isn’t the first time Matthews has made an unusual remark that set tongues wagging. Covering the Potomac primaries for MSNBC, Matthews said he ‘felt this thrill going up my leg’ listening to Obama speak.”
A Fox News article was quick to quote conservatives slamming Matthews.
“For his idiotic racist comment last night, will Chris Matthews be flogged and pilloried like Imus was?” tweeted “Shoehead.”
“When I 1st heard what Chris Matthews said I thought maybe Pres Obama just looked extremely light-skinned 4 some reason,” tweeted “QueenMelmendi.”
Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog organization, said the remarks reveal a prejudice on Matthews’ part.
“What Chris Matthews is saying is that he doesn’t believe African-Americans are capable of giving speeches like that.”
He said Matthews’ remarks “show the absolute contradiction in the liberal argument on color. They purport to want a color-blind society, but are absolutely fixated on doing just the opposite. [Matthews] can’t see Barack Obama as being qualified, because he’s Barack Obama. He sees him through a lens of being black.”