MSNBC's Rachel Maddow struck back on Thursday against the charge by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that she is "demonizing" him "on the basis of emotion" over his attempts to block an extension of unemployment benefits.
In defending himself against his critics on Wednesday, Coburn had singled out Maddow, saying, "Look at Rachel Maddow. She comes at me on the basis of emotion. She demonizes me. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want conservatives to win on the basis of emotion. If we lower ourselves to the level they operate on, we hurt ourselves and our arguments."
One typical reaction to Coburn's remarks came from blogger Julie Gulden at Daily Kos, who wrote, "Can anyone here tell when Rachel has been emotional? I've seen her frustrated with the Acorn reporting, yet she remained calm, cool and concise. Have you ever seen her get red in the face and blubber incoherently? Is this just Republican speak for 'she's a woman'?"
Maddow, however, was more than capable of defending herself. As Jake Simpson noted in his blog at the Atlantic, "Evidently, Coburn missed the memo that attacking Maddow can lead to serious repercussions. ... The normally reserved Maddow turned pugilistic, mocking Coburn's claim that she attacked him on a emotional level. With her voice 'catching' and her eyes 'tearing up,' Maddow turned in an emotional performance worthy of a satire."
"I become so blindingly enraged," Maddow said on Wednesday, "and then hysterically upset and then inconsolably morose and then hyperactively giddy and then happy and then mad and then happy again that I couldn't make sense of any of the facts I was gathering. .... But I promise tomorrow I will gather myself and offer a full analysis of today's Tom Coburn news."
By Thursday, however, Maddow had shifted gears from simply parodying "female" hysteria and had marshaled her facts to portray Coburn as the real hysteric.
She began by disputing Coburn's claim that extending unemployment benefits is merely a matter of pity. "Paying unemployment benefits isn't just a 'nice' thing to do," she explained calmly. "It's one of the single most economically stimulative things that government can spend money on. ... Keeping unemployment benefits going is a no-brainer."
Maddow then turned to portraying Coburn as a hypocrite who "has objected to the Senate passing an extension of unemployment benefits ... on the ostensibly principled basis that these benefits are not explicitly paid for. ... Which is neat, and which would be totally principled, were it not for Senator Coburn's history of voting for plenty of things that aren't paid for."
"Senator Coburn has now gone -- out of the blue -- after me," Maddow continued, "gone after the way that I have talked about him and these problems on this show." She quoted Coburn's attack, then commented sweetly, "Maybe he does have a point. ... I am notoriously histrionic. And he is so calm, so cool, so tranquil."
Maddow immediately contradicted that statement with a series of clips of Coburn attempting to stir up hysterical fears over health care reform and even "urging people to pray that a fellow senator might die, or at least be incapacitated, ahead of the health reform vote last December." She also showed Coburn chocking up and fighting back tears when decrying "mindless partisanship" at the confirmation hearings for Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005
"Senator, I understand you are an emotional guy," Maddow concluded sympathetically. "I don't begrudge you that. ... But I think you might be projecting here. I don't feel at all emotional about you. ... It's not personal. ... I am reporting on your record -- and this is what that feels like."
This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast April 8, 2010.