Tangling with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on air today, MSNBC host Chris Matthews accused the Romney campaign of playing the race card in this election.
“You’ve been suggesting that somehow Obama’s been running a negative campaign, Obama, and your guy’s been running a positive campaign. That’s not accurate,” Matthews said. “In fact, if they both stopped all the negative, I’m not sure who would win. But they’re both the negative. That cheap shot about ‘I don’t have a problem with my birth certificate’ was awful. It is an embarrassment to your party to play that card.”
He contended that charging Obama with getting rid of work requirements for welfare was “dishonest” — and racist.
“And you are playing that little ethnic card there. You can you play your games and giggle about it, but the fact is your side is playing that card,” Matthews contended. “You start talking about work requirements, you know what game you’re playing and everybody knows what game you’re playing. It’s a race card. And this thing about a — yeah, if you’re name’s ‘Romney,’ yeah, you were well born, you went to prep school, yeah, brag about it. And this guy has an African name and he’s gotta live with it.”
While other panelists suggested that Mitt Romney was making an attempt at a joke with Friday’s remark that “no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate,” Matthews said Romney was “absolutely” playing the race card with it.
“The fact of the matter is, is that he’s from Michigan. He was born in Michigan. He’s making the point that, ‘I was born in Michigan.’ And you know what, we’ve gotten to a place in politics that any moment of levity is totally frowned upon by guys like you just so that you can, you know, push your brand. You know what? Good for you. It’s a moment of levity. Everybody gets it,” Priebus retorted.
“Barack Obama came out at the correspondents dinner with his own joke, as you remember…. Every person, myself, starting in February of last year, as soon as I became chairman of the RNC, Mitt Romney continuously has said this president was born in this country. It’s a non-starter. It’s a dumb issue. It’s a distraction. Forget about it.”
“It just seems funny the first joke he’s ever told in his life is about Obama’s birth certificate,” Matthews fired back.
Tom Brokaw chimed in to say that he thought the Romney quip was “a demonstration of his awkward sense of humor.”
“But I do think, in fairness, that all during the Republican debates and the primaries that there was a lot of stuff aimed at the president that was not refuted by leaders of the party,” the former NBC host said. “I’m not talking about the birthing thing as much as I am about he’s a Muslim, he’s a socialist, he’s not American. John Sununu had to apologize for saying he doesn’t know what it’s like to be an American. That was a pretty tough attack.”
Priebus said he’d refuted the birther allegations “I betcha 20 times on TV.”
“But I think Obama’s policies have created a sense that for whatever reason, he’s looking to guidance as far as health care is concerned, as far as our spending is concerned, as far as the stimulus packages are concerned, he’s looking to Europe for guidance,” the chairman continued.
As Matthews pressed him on why ObamaCare is un-American, Priebus said, “I’m not going to get into a shouting match with Chris, so you guys can move on.”
“Because you’re losing, that’s why,” Matthews snapped. “… About Obama being a foreigner is the thing your party’s been pushing. Sununu pushed it, everybody pushes it in your party.”
Earlier in the exchange, Matthews compared Romney to a bug exterminator.
“And I think, it’s like your guy’s like the Orkin man in the commercials. He’s this good looking guy. He says, ‘Call me up, I’ll be right over, I’m more than willing to fix your problems,'” Matthews said. “I think your guy’s the Orkin man.”
Talking to reporters in Tampa this afternoon, Priebus dismissed the Morning Joe segment.
“I don’t really care,” he said. “If more than 10 people actually watched his show, I would actually care, but they don’t, so, whatever.”