Over the years, we have chronicled MSNBC’s lack of journalistic standards. The worst offender, Keith Olbermann, is now gone, not because of his crazed leftism or frequently embarrassing errors, but because he was an insubordinate employee. Of those who remain at MSNBC, Chris Matthews is among the worst. In another era, his reckless disregard for truth and unprofessional conduct would have brought his career as a journalist to a speedy end. At MSNBC, these qualities are apparently valued, as Matthews has been rewarded with a multimillion dollar contract.
On October 30, Matthews and his guest, Democratic Congressman Ed Markey, were in the midst of fantasizing about the relationship between Hurricane Sandy and global warming when they went off on a rant against Charles and David Koch. Here it is, with my comments interspersed:
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: OK. We don’t have any high ground to go to in this where we have 6 billion people living on this planet. There’s no other planet to go to if the atmosphere begins to be destructive of our living here. But politics is about every two years, every four years.
How do you run a political argument that has to be paid off within the next couple years? You have to win the argument. Who is willing to vote for somebody who is willing to do something about climate change?
In recent years hurricanes have been infrequent by historical standards. There is zero evidence that human activity has anything to do with the frequency or severity of hurricanes, and even scientists who believe in anthropogenic global warming ridicule those like Markey and Matthews who try to draw such a connection.
CONGRESSMAN ED MARKEY (D-MASSACHUSETTS): Well, this frames the election for next Tuesday very well. It’s Mother Nature versus the Koch brothers.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Who are the Koch brothers? Explain.
MARKEY: The Koch brothers are the single largest funders of this — of Republican —
MATTHEWS: Oil and gas.
MARKEY: The oil and gas industry, the coal industry.
Koch Industries doesn’t produce either crude oil or coal. It refines oil, but has only a minimal connection with the coal industry.
They are funding Mitt Romney and the Republicans across this country. They want Romney in because here’s what Romney is promising: one, he’s going to do away with the tax breaks for wind energy but keep it for oil.
The Koch brothers have consistently opposed all subsidies and all forms of corporate welfare. The brothers’ views are no secret and should be well-known to Matthews, as they have expressed their opposition to all forms of corporate favoritism in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere. I have first-hand knowledge of their sincerity in this regard. I was invited to speak on the subject of corporate cronyism at the Koch brothers’ seminar in January. I didn’t talk about good cronyism vs. bad cronyism, or our cronies vs. their cronies; I attacked corporate cronyism across the board. You can see a summary of my presentation, with the slides I used, here.
He is going to do away with the fuel economy standards that increase the efficiency of the vehicles we drive up to 55 miles —
MARKEY: — per gallon backing out 6 billion metric tons of CO2. That’s what Obama wants to do, back out 3 million barrels of oil per day from the Persian Gulf, all the oil we import.
MARKEY: The Koch brothers want Romney, and Romney has promised, to roll back those fuel economy incentives. It endangers the planet. And it’s going to endanger young men and women who have to go to the Middle East to import the oil from there rather than backing it (ph)
This is hopelessly confused. The Koch brothers, like many of millions of Americans, agree with President Obama’s position–when he is campaigning, not governing–that we should develop American energy resources so we don’t have to rely on oil from the Middle East and elsewhere. To my knowledge they have taken no position on fuel economy standards. For what it is worth, Romney’s view that the recent Obama administration regulations calling for average fleet fuel economy of 55 mpg is extreme, is correct.
MATTHEWS: Well, Professor Oppenheimer, back in the ‘60s, we called such people pigs. Pigs. No, really, they don’t care about the planet, they don’t care about the destruction of war. All they want is what they got, their stuff. And they want more of it.
Is that what we’re facing here, just greed? I’m not talking about the guy working in the coalmine. That’s hard work. I’m talking about people who won’t listen to you, won’t listen to science because they want more stuff.
This kind of lunacy is a staple of MSNBC. There is no such thing as legitimate policy disagreement; those who don’t toe the far-left line are “pigs.” At MSNBC, smear and invective have replaced argument, not to mention straight news reporting.
MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Listen, Chris, I’m not into name-calling here.
MATTHEWS: Well, I am.
OPPENHEIMER: Fine, that’s your job, not mine.
And here, if you find that exchange hard to believe, is the video:
This is where the story gets interesting. Koch Industries’ general counsel, Mark Holden, complained to Phil Griffin, MSNBC’s president. He pointed out that Matthews’ smears were inaccurate as well crude and vulgar. Griffin agreed that Matthews had “crossed a line” and apologized for his behavior, saying that it wouldn’t happen again. He admitted that the network has had problems with Matthews before. However, when Griffin followed up with Matthews, Matthews agreed that what he did was inappropriate, but he flatly refused to apologize for his unprofessional conduct. The network has now declined to retract or correct Matthews’ false statements, terming them a matter of opinion.
So we have the spectacle of MSNBC apologizing in private for its reporter’s smears and falsehoods, while refusing to acknowledge his misconduct publicly. Instead, Griffin invited one or both of the Koch brothers to come on the air and respond to Matthews’ attack–to explain, I suppose, that they aren’t really “pigs.” That would be a ratings coup for MSNBC, but it obviously isn’t going to happen. So it’s just another day in the life of one of America’s most dishonest news outlets.