Wow - talk about playing Hardball. Tonight Chris Matthews absolutely went off on guest Crystal McCreary Anthony, host of BET-J's "My Two Cents", demanding that she provide sources for her statement that Barack Obama had taken some heat today for anti-Semitic comments sourced to a surrogate. Well, she didn't exactly say it quite so succinctly. She talked about "senior Barack Obama advisors" who "were making some anti-Israel comments" and raised the question of "does Barack Obama have issues with Jewish people, does his campaign."
Exaggeration? Yes. Inelegant? Yes. Incorrect? Not really, insofar as Obama advisor General Tony McPeak has come under fire this week from Jewish groups for perceived anti-Israel comments blaming influential U.S. Jews for hindering a Middle East peace plan, and considering that yesterday new information surfaced about anti-Israel articles published in the newsletter of Trinity United Church of Christ, where Jeremiah Wright is pastor and Obama is a longtime parishioner. This was news that ran today and yesterday across mainstream news sources — including MSNBC.
So one would have thought that Matthews and other guests Chrystia Freeland of the FT and WaPo's Dana Milbank would have known what she was getting at. Instead, Matthews leapt on Anthony's comments, demanding that she source them, taking a flustered (and obviously less than prepared Anthony by surprise):
MATTHEWS: Who's pushing that?
ANTHONY: The blogophere.
MATTHEWS: No, but who's pushing it?
ANTHONY: Um, well, is it the Republicans pushing it?
MATTHEWS: You tell me. You just told us about it, you just put it on the television.
ANTHONY: People who have serious issues with Jeremiah Wright's comments that he made....
MATTHEWS: It didn't come from the Sandman, it didn't come from Jesus, it didn't come from anybody good, it came from someone meaning to do him harm - who was it?
MATTHEWS: I like to know the source of these when you throw them on the air like this, Crystal - you're new to this show, don't put something on the air unless you give me a source for it - where did this come from?
Anthony agreed with Matthews and volunteered that she was sure she'd seen it in the New York Daily News, saying "it's out there, though. It won't be very difficult to find."
She's right — it's not difficult to find, it just takes a quickie Google, and she's also right that right-wing sources have definitely been on this. I am guessing that Milbank and Freeland knew what she was getting at, and probably Matthews' "Hardball" producers did too. Matthews probably should have been aware of breaking campaign news that day. We're thinking his response was a little extreme, especially his warning to her exactly what was expected of a guest on his show. Watch the video below and let us know your thoughts in comments .
Update: After reading through the comments, I just wanted to clarify that I didn't consider this issue to be so much about Obama as what I found to be odd about Matthews' response, because I watch a lot of Hardball and I have never seen him press someone for sources like that on a matter that was in the headlines that day. That said, when allegations of anti-Semitism are involved, everyone is (and ought to be) very, very careful, and as I mentioned above, Anthony misstated the matter and could not elaborate with facts when pressed to do so. Answering "the blogosphere" isn't acceptable as a response, though of course it's easy because somewhere in the blogosphere someone is always pushing something! What I found odd though was the fact that neither of the other guests jumped in to clarify (though Freeland tried to break in at one point) and that Matthews evinced no recognition of what she was referring to (and it was also sort of random when he noted that the comments didn't come from 'the Sandman, Jesus or anyone good' -- an odd sort of normative judgment to make. Also, he interrupted her answering his question when he said that). So that is what I found odd. But I do want to make clear that I agree that guests on these shows need to come in prepared and know what they're talking about. I suspect that Anthony will never, ever make that mistake again.
All Sorts Of Background:
Obama's "Jewish Problem" (?) [Marc Ambinder - The Atlantic]
No, Marc, Obama Does Have A Jewish Problem [Hotline Blogometer]*
OBAMA: Not Kosher? [Hotline Blogometer]*
Top Obama adviser: NYC, Miami Jews 'the problem' [WorldNet Daily]
Obama: I disagree with aide who blamed 'NY, Miami' for failed peace talks [Ha'aretz]
Clinton Camp Circulates Article that Accuses McPeak of Being Anti-Semitic [NPR]
Hillary's Team Crosses The Line [Salon]
*Note that these are round-ups - in this case, round-ups of conservative opinion on the topic.