Phil Singer: If Chris Matthews Is Running For Senate, He Shouldn't Be On Air

01/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Via Michael Calderone comes the news that Phil Singer, who served as Hillary Clinton's deputy communications director during her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, is up in arms over Chris Matthews, who appears to have one foot in MSNBC and the other, possibly the tingly one, pointed in the direction of a Pennsylvania Senate run against Arlen Specter. Singer's been known to levy his objections at MSNBC without mercy, but really, he sort of has a point! That point being: "If Chris Matthews is seriously considering a run for Arlen Specter's Senate seat, he shouldn't be on the air right now."

Singer expands:

One of the reasons millions of people rely on NBC as a news source is that it's objective and driven by a fidelity to covering the news. So when one of the network's most visible anchors is reported to be exploring a run for elected office, the network has an obligation to remove that person from its airwaves. At the very least, it must disclose any and all deliberations and actions being taken by that person to explore a run.

Of course, one could split hairs: as the host of Hardball, Matthews is probably more of an opinion-meister/pundit wrangler than he is an "anchor" in the Brian Williams/Katie Couric mode. And one could extend the same sort of criticism to, say, Mike Huckabee, who could redevelop designs on another presidential run and use his eponymous cable news show as a platform to subtly advance those ambitions. (And let's throw in the potential multi-platform threat of Sarah Palin becoming the Oprah of Wasilla.)

Nevertheless, Matthews has been coy to the point of misleading as to his intentions. According to reports, Matthews is sending trial balloons aloft. Generally, it's the formation of an exploratory committee that signals the official intent to run for office, but Singer, having repped Clinton, is probably well aware of how much ripple can be created by prolonging the toe-in-the-water stage.

Singer enumerates some specific objections, of which this one strikes me as the most consequential:

How does NBC make coverage decisions involving the people in the PA primary? If the bookers turn down a Specter pitch to be on "Meet the Press," the network (fairly or unfairly) will be vulnerable to charges that it is protecting one of its own. If Specter gets on NBC's air, the other Democrats thinking about a run will rightly say they want equal time. And then there's the fact that Matthews himself is on the air for large chunks of the day.

Of course, another question of Singer's stood out to me as well: "How could he do an interview with Ed Rendell?" Maybe Singer should take a peek at some of Matthews' interviews with Rendell from over the past year! They are highlighted by a lot of gooey ass-kissing and unending mythologizing of Matthews' working-class cred. While there's no conclusive proof in any of these exchanges that he's serious about making a run for the Senate, it sure seems like he's desperate for Pennsylvania's affection.

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