There he goes again: Matthews’ live-mike remark creates ruckus
The “Oh, God” moment created as much buzz around the nation as President Obama’s oratory, Michelle Obama’s right to bare arms or the impending arrival of the First Dog.
As Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal strode on camera to deliver the Republican response to Mr. Obama’s speech before Congress on Feb. 24, he warranted formal introductions on every network save one. MSNBC offered a little extra. “Here’s Governor Jindal,” said anchorman-commentator Keith Olbermann.
“Oh, God,” came a muffled voice as Mr. Jindal appeared, followed by chortling — the mystery mutterer later identified as fellow newsman Chris Matthews.
The two words launched close to 1,000 news stories and blogs parsing both the implications of media bias and the gleeful entertainment value. Close to 30,000 viewers played the MSNBC clip on YouTube by midafternoon the next day.
The nimble network quickly issued Mr. Matthews’ own explanation for his aside.
“I was taken aback by that peculiar stagecraft, the walking from somewhere in the back of this narrow hall, this winding staircase looming there, the odd antebellum look of the scene. Was this some mimicking of a president walking along the state floor to the East Room?” the political commentator asked.
MSNBC spokeswoman Alana Russo said that Mr. Jindal was in- vited to appear on “Hardball” with Mr. Matthews, but declined.
The newsman has an outspoken history, though. His comment that Mr. Obama sent a “thrill up my leg” — made more than a year ago during the 2008 presidential campaign — has had a long shelf life. Just a few choice syllables can attract attention, however.
“It was just one more example of Matthews’ political agenda coming through at inappropriate moments. Being appalled by Jindal certainly matches Matthews’ record of disgust with conservatives,” said Brent Baker of the Media Research Center.
The group’s companion Web site, Newsbusters.com, surveyed close to 3,000 people online to reveal that 83 percent found the “Oh, God” remark to be not only unacceptable, but blasphemous.
“Well, it’s hard to compare to the ‘thrill’ moment,” said Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post, which also offered a Matthews survey.
“I think that both ‘thrill up the leg’ and last night’s ‘Oh, God’ are both a sort of evidence of Matthews lacking an internal editor,” Mr. Linkins continued. “Technically, had the r ight switch been flipped at the right time, and his mike cut off, Matthews’ remark would not have been heard. He clearly thought it was a private remark. But ‘thrill.’ Now that was a fully public offering.”
While scores of erudite analyses of Mr. Obama’s speech appeared Feb. 25, the press also remained fixated on Obama culture. Comments about first lady Michelle Obama’s sleeveless dress and well-toned arms were hailed as yet another source of “change” in the White House.
The April arrival of a Portuguese water dog in the White House — revealed by Mrs. Obama in a People magazine “exclusive” published Feb. 27 — ended weeks of speculation about the canine’s selection.
“It talks to the base while not upsetting the moderates. Even the far right could support the choice,” quipped Jimmy Orr of the Christian Science Monitor.
Not tingly over Jindal: Chris Matthews