Chris Matthews tears into RNC head Reince Priebus on MSNBC, accusing GOP of race baiting
TAMPA -- No matter how early, Chris Matthews has no problem getting fired up when he steps in front of a camera.
The MSNBC anchor and Hardball host proved that this morning, tearing into Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus during a roundtable discussion on the channel's Morning Joe program, accusing the party of tolerating race baiting in tactics in the way candidate Mitt Romney has talked about Barack Obama.
A crowd of about 100 people had packed into Howl at the Moon restaurant in Channelside on this rainy morning, surprising the crew who had expected tales of high winds and rain from Tropical Storm Isaac to keep spectators away.
Instead, they cheered as Matthews lit into Priebus with semi-retired NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski looking on, saying that Romney's recent joke that no one has ever asked about his birth certificate was a direct reference to so-called "birther" theories that Obama somehow was not an American citizen. (at right, Matthews with the Morning Joe hosts and other guests for the "what did we learn today" closing segment)
While Brzezinski suggested Romney was just an "awkward joker," Matthews wasn't buying it. "It just seems funny that the only joke he ever told in his life was about Obama's birth certificate," he said.
After the segment ended, Matthews kept fuming, insisting GOP attack about Obama being a "food stamp" president or saying he wants to implement a "European-style" health care system, is just another, covert way of presenting Obama as somehow not American.
"That's the card...they're playing the (race) card," the host insisted, after a brief exchange with Priebus as he left the restaurant, off camera. "If you think that birth certificate thing is funny, you're deaf."
Priebus, visiting the Tampa Bay Times workspace inside the Tampa Convention Center later criticized Matthews for serving as a surrogate for the Obama campaign. "He was intent on grabbing the flag as the biggest jerk in the room," the chair added. "If he had more than 10 viewers, I would care."
MSNBC, like many other news outlets here were adjusting to two news stories on Monday: Tropical Storm Isaac and the RNC, which had canceled events for today, but still had politicians and analysts speak in front of cameras. Set outside the zone immediately around the Tampa Bay Times Forum where credentials are required to access, MSNBC's Channelside location is welcoming the public to stop by and watch their morning shows broadcast.
Today, Morning Joe had a packed house despite the rain, bringing over Meet the Press host David Gregory, Brokaw, GOP strategist Mike Murphy and many others for the show's salon-style discussions of politics.
But few guests made as much noise as Matthews, who expressed no qualms about challenging the GOP on a liberal-friendly cable TV newschannel from the heart of its convention.
"Our primary goal is to let the Republicans make their pitch and analyze it," he said. "They don't seem willing to promote their platform; I think I'd like to promote their platform. Let everybody know what's in there."