There he goes again: Matthews’ live-mike re­mark cre­ates ruckus

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JEN­NIFER HARPER

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, News­, 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

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