MSNBC Panel Tries to Memory Hole Dem Anti-Semitism in Denouncing Trump’s Comments

Responding to the President’s latest self-inflicted error Tuesday by questioning the loyalty of Jewish voters to their faith, MSNBC’s Hardball all but memory holed the whole reason the kerfuffle arose to begin with, which was the blatant anti-Semitism from Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). 

Considering how Hardball had even addressed the topic last week, it made Tuesday’s nonsense all the more lazy.

Matthews began with the opening tag “Trump’s religious test” and then paraphrased Trump’s comments as he saw fit: “President Trump delivered a stunning message to Jewish people, if you vote for Democrats, you’re stupid or, as he says it, disloyal. He didn’t spell it exactly, but that’s the extreme he’s gone to to fire up partisan division around Congressman Rashida Tlaib.”

He summarized the past week’s events as merely Tlaib being “banned from taking a trip to Israel before being granted permission to visit her grandmother on the West Bank and after declining to make the trip, Tlaib delivered an emotional press conference yesterday criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and denounced Israel’s restrictions.”

So nothing about Tlaib’s radical views about Israel and her people or the itinerary or anything else. Matthews also made the President out to be the real anti-Semite by playing clips from April 2019 and December 2015 of Trump addressing Jewish Republicans when, as this space has repeatedly mentioned, is a fool’s errand on the media’s part.

Alas, facts be damned with Matthews because there was a narrative to push with one side being far worse on the basis of who’s President. After introducing his panel, Matthews declared that “this sounds like Ed Koch in the bad old days of New York City with real tribal warfare of fire.”

Following comments from Jewish-American Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-PA), Matthews complained to MSNBC presidential historian Jon Meacham:

Meacham offered a perfectly respectful answer about America being a place of religious tolerance and how the country in part came to be due to religious intolerance in Europe. But don’t worry as Meacham made sure to remind us later that he’s a lefty.

Playing the role of faux Republican was Matthews favorite and former RNC chairman Michael Steele, who said nothing about Omar and Tlaib to instead focus exclusively on the President’s wrongdoing:

Los Angeles Times White House correspondent Eli Stokols chimed in to complain that Trump’s hoisted the so-called “Squad” on America as a representation of the Democratic Party instead of “Joe Biden or some of the people running for president.”

It’s a big story in the context of a President saying something that maybe unwittingly is anti-Semitic and…this is the Trump presidency, so it’s hard to gauge what is a big story because everyone has seen him make so many stereotypical statements that are offensive to a lot groups.” And so he’s going to couch that in, look, I’m standing up against anti-Semitism because he’s ostensibly upset over Representative Omar’s anti-Semitism, doesn’t even seem to realize that he’s attacking her in a way that is just as anti-Semitic. He’s effectively doing the same thing, trafficking in the same sort of trope he’s supposed to be upset about and he’s saying look at this. So it just it confuses everything and it just makes everything incredibly tribal, but he’s almost trying to protect himself from the charge that he’s — he’s stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment by saying, “look, I’m just standing up against anti-Semitism.”

Before moving onto other topics, Matthews circled the drain on Trump’s penchant for — well — bizarre tangents, such as the conspiracy theory insinuating that Ted Cruz’s father had a role in the Kennedy assassination. 

In response, Meacham defended the liberal media’s fixation on every Trump tweet or utterance that’s deemed controversial by any sizable portion of the media and/or public versus other matters (click “expand”):

He believes in the kind of chaos theory that if we’re talking about this, he can point out, “oh, my God,” what are we now, the lamestream media, whatever we are today. “They’re talking about this. They’re negative” and then it gets lost in this kind of — to Eli’s point, it gets lost in this mad chaos of the — of the Trump era. And, you know, I struggle with this all the time and I think you do too. At some point, you have to decide, do you always call him out on things and if you always call him out, are you somehow enabling? Are we part of this abusive drama in the country right now, and the answer is we have to because the only way to see our way through this, it seems to me, is to continue to bear witness and to say this is not who we should be. To some extent it is who we are, you know, this is a long debate. You know, people say this isn’t who we are. Well, it kind of is, as you know, the country is not perfect. We — the goal has always been a more perfect union…[W]hat the President’s doing is instead of figuring out what sets us apart, he’s tearing us apart.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on August 20, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
August 20, 2019
7:00 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Trump’s religious test, let’s play hardball. [HARDBALL OPENING CREDITS] Good evening, I’m Chris Matthews in Washington. President Trump delivered a stunning message to Jewish people, if you vote for Democrats, you’re stupid or, as he says it, disloyal. He didn’t spell it exactly, but that’s the extreme he’s gone to to fire up partisan division around Congressman Rashida Tlaib. Last week, the Michigan Democrat was banned from taking a trip to Israel before being granted permission to visit her grandmother on the West Bank. And after declining to make the trip, Tlaib delivered an emotional press conference yesterday criticizing Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and denounced Israel’s restrictions. It prompted a new round of attacks from the President, who tweeted today: “Sorry, I don’t buy Rep. Tlaib’s tears. I have watched her violence, craziness and, most importantly, WORDS, for far too long. Now tears? She hates Israel and all Jewish people. She is an anti-Semite. She and her 3 friends are the new face of the Democrat Party. Live with it!” That’s Trump talking. Trump then resumed his attack this afternoon, offering this message to any voters who cast ballots for any Democrats. 

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think any Jewish people [sic] that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty. Alright. Thank you very much, everybody. 

MATTHEWS: Well, as The Washington Post points out, now “critics on both sides of the aisle immediately pointed out that Trump’s use of the word ‘disloyalty’ is anti-Semitic tropes accusing Jews of dual” loyalty or “allegiance.” This isn’t the first time the President has spoken to Jewish voters in just this way. Speaking to a group of Jewish Republicans earlier this year, Trump referred to Benjamin Netanyahu has your prime minister, even though he was talking to Republicans, actually talking to Republican Americans. Let’s watch. 

TRUMP [on 04/06/19]: I stood with your prime minister at the White House to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. 

MATTHEWS: American Republicans, of course. When he was a candidate in 2015, Trump also told a Jewish audience that he — he didn’t want their money. 

TRUMP [on 12/03/15]: I know why you’re not going to support me, and you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. 

MATTHEWS: [INTRODUCES PANEL] Congresswoman, it’s great to have you on tonight, but not for this reason, obviously. Duel loyalty, craziness, religious tests, I mean, I’ve never heard — I mean, this sounds like Ed Koch in the bad old days of New York City with real tribal warfare of fire. Here’s the President saying Jewish voters, who vote about 70 percent generally vote Democrat stop doing that because that would be disloyal to what, being Jewish? Your thoughts. 

CONGRESSWOMAN SUSAN WILD (D-PA): Well, that’s exactly the question, disloyal to whom or to what? As a Democratic Jewish member of Congress, I am personally offended and I think most Jews in this country would be. We separate our faith and our politics for the most part, and to suggest that they are one in the same I find to be offensive. 

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Jonathan, my friend Jonathan Meacham because this is history at work here. Often I find it happen the older I get, I find history crashing into present time. This is awful stuff. This tells people, you must vote by identity, by religion, you must vote a certain way, your partisanship, your politics must be by your cultural background, blah blah blah, it’s a religious test. He saying [sic] you must vote a certain way. You vote for me, someone on the Democratic left in Michigan, you may not agree with Israeli government politics. 

JON MEACHAM: Yeah, the first liberty of American life was religious liberty. It’s one of our great contributions to western culture. Madison and Jefferson, before they got to the Constitution in the early republic were arguing that as Jefferson once put it, it doesn’t matter whether my neighbor worships one god or 10 gods or 20 gods, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my neck, and that insight that, in fact, we could have liberty of conscience and create a republic was uniquely American, partly because of the terrible experience, and this is in the 18th century. We haven’t even gotten to the 20th century horrors about this. The insight was that the old world had been riven with dispute, and chaos and bloodshed over religious struggles, and the great project of America, however poorly realized in the beginning, the great project of America was that if you assented to the idea of the country that we’re all created equal, therefore you could be an American. It didn’t matter where you came from, it didn’t matter if you worshipped at all. 

MATTHEWS: You know, Michael, Trump did this to me one time. He takes your religious background and he shoves it at you. He says, well, how can you be pro-choice? Well, a lot of Catholics are pro-choice. We have our own beliefs about life and we accept them in the teaching authority of our church, but when it comes to the constitution we accept it. Life is complicated. Trump thinks everybody does everything according to their identity. You’re not allowed to have a opinion. 

MICHAEL STEELE: Well, I mean, that’s largely — 

WILD: Exactly.

STEELE: — that’s largely how he sees the world and this is another play in it. All I can say from this comment is abhorrent and disrespecting as it is, we need to just settle in cause this just the warm up of what will be a series of narratives created by the President around particular interest groups. You know, when you sit down and say this about the Jewish community, then what about — what about African Americans, what about Hispanics, you know, how they vote. 

MATTHEWS: Well, he wants you to vote against them. 

STEELE: He wants you — right — he wants you to vote against them.

MATTHEWS: I mean, that’s the game he’s playing. 

STEELE: But the Jewish vote should be voting Republican, and so this, I think, is something in stark contrast to what we saw in 2016 I think is going to be more personal and a little bit more in-depth. It’s going to cut to your point, Chris, it’s going to cut a little closer to the bone for a lot of Americans when they have their religion shoved in their face and a litmus test of how they vote based on that religion. 

MATTHEWS: Eli, your thoughts about this. I think it’s a front page top of the story — top of the fold story tonight and tomorrow morning. It’s a big story. Trump using religion politically. Your thoughts.

ELI STOKOLS: Well, it’s a big story in the context of a President saying something that maybe unwittingly is anti-Semitic and — yeah, but I mean —

MATTHEWS: You mean your? Your prime minister? 

STOKOLS: — but, you know, it’s also — this is the Trump presidency, so it’s hard to gauge what is a big story because everyone has seen him make so many stereotypical statements that are offensive to a lot groups and he’ll say afterwards, “well, you know, like loosen up, this is how people talk.” I don’t know what’s a big story anymore and what isn’t and I say that as somebody who covers this administration every day, but I do think that it’s clear what Michael is talking about. This is a guy who wants people to look at the Democratic Party and see these four very progressive women of color, he wants people to see them, he wants them to see them as militant. He doesn’t want them to see Joe Biden or some of the people running for president, and so he’s going to couch that in, look, I’m standing up against anti-Semitism because he’s ostensibly upset over Representative Omar’s anti-Semitism, doesn’t even seem to realize that he’s attacking her in a way that is just as anti-Semitic. He’s effectively doing the same thing, trafficking in the same sort of trope he’s supposed to be upset about —

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

STOKOLS: — and he’s saying look at this. So it just it confuses everything and it just makes everything incredibly tribal, but he’s almost trying to protect himself from the charge that he’s — he’s stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment by saying, “look, I’m just standing up against anti-Semitism.”

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, it’s so great to have you on because every time you have a meeting in Allentown or wherever — New Tripoli, anywhere you’re up to — my brother lives up there, you’ve got to deal with the myriad of American backgrounds. I mean, even in a place up there, there’s all kinds of backgrounds in the room when you meet, you’ve to bring them together.

WILD: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: It’s called politics in America, unite people. This guy seems to be looking for the wedges,

WILD: Right.

MATTHEWS: Looking, I mean, let’s get the Jews over here, let’s get the people who don’t like what the people said these people are upset about. Let’s everybody fighting over four people on the Democratic left and let’s make that the fight because he can’t fight anywhere near the middle lines, your thoughts. 

WILD: Right and you know, Chris, you mentioned the voters that I meet, and among them a number of American Jews, and what I have found is, first and foremost, American Jews are American and like all voters, they have a wide variety of issues they care tremendously about. Whether it’s health care, education, jobs, making sure that their retirement is secure. These are the issues that unite people across the country, and our President has no business trying to divide people based upon their religion or politicizing people’s religion and trying to tell them that they have to vote in one way if they are of a certain religion and the other thing I want to say is being Jewish is very much a cultural issue. It’s not just about religion and the President seems to fail to understand that. It is about understanding the deep important issues that affect all people in the world, but particularly in this case, in the United States. 

MATTHEWS: Why do conspiracies seem to find a home with this President, Jon? I think it’s like market volatility. As long as you got the people all thinking, who shot this? You know, Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with killing Kennedy. Get it all up in the air, completely crazy, everybody afraid of everybody else. Everybody suspecting the other ethnic groups or religious groups or racial groups. Everybody is ready, and Trump feels in that crazy 52-card pickup world he wants to live in, he wins. Explain, Jon, cause he does think he can win with craziness around him. 

MEACHAM: Well, he did, and so that’s why. 

MATTHEWS: You’re right. That’s a good point. 

MEACHAM: That’s why he continues to think — I don’t think it’s much more complicated. He believes in the kind of chaos theory that if we’re talking about this, he can point out, “oh, my God,” what are we now, the lamestream media, whatever we are today. “They’re talking about this. They’re negative” and then it gets lost in this kind of — to Eli’s point, it gets lost in this mad chaos of the — of the Trump era. And, you know, I struggle with this all the time and I think you do too. At some point, you have to decide, do you always call him out on things and if you always call him out, are you somehow enabling? Are we part of this abusive drama in the country right now, and the answer is we have to because the only way to see our way through this, it seems to me, is to continue to bear witness and to say this is not who we should be. To some extent it is who we are, you know, this is a long debate. You know, people say this isn’t who we are. Well, it kind of is, as you know, the country is not perfect. We — the goal has always been a more perfect union, but our greatest leaders and, you know, President Kennedy went to Houston as a candidate, and talked about this. Jefferson, in the beginning, said his statute for religious liberty was meant, as he put it to comprehend within the mantle of his protection, the Jew, the gentile, the Hindu, the Muhammadan, and the infidel of every denomination. He just listed it all out and he said you have to have the freedom to do what you want to do here. That’s what sets us apart and what the President’s doing is instead of figuring out what sets us apart, he’s tearing us apart.

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