We've had a chance to examine the transcript of the "Hardball" episode in which Chris Matthews asked a guest about Rudy Giuliani: "Was he a little bit of a fascist?" And we've had our suspicions confirmed: NewsBusters' Mark Finkelstein plucked the comment out of context.
Here's the entire relevant segment:
MATTHEWS: How did he get the pee smell out of that subway?
FORMER REP. SUSAN MOLINARI (R-NY): He stopped -- they -- all of a sudden -- how did he stop the squeegee people from --
MATTHEWS: Well, he got the pee smell out of the phone booths up there. Even phone booths in New York that aren't booths, they're just a place to make a phone call, had that smell around them before -- I think -- having gone to New York enough times, he did clean up that atmosphere in New York.
MOLINARI: You bet he did. He stopped making excuses for people.
MATTHEWS: Well, was he a little bit of a fascist of what? What did he do?
MOLINARI: By making people abide by the law.
MATTHEWS: He made people fear the place.
MOLINARI: He made people fear the law.
MATTHEWS: OK, why do majorities feel that he‘s their enemy?
MOLINARI: I don‘t know. Because what he did was...
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, you do.
MOLINARI: No, I don‘t. Because what he did was restore order. When he reduced crime, where did he reduce crime, in what neighborhoods, Chris? Who was able to walk the streets...
MATTHEWS: I know who suffers from bad crime, people who live in tough neighborhoods, I know that.
MOLINARI: And that was the number one...
MATTHEWS: But that‘s not the feeling you get...
MATTHEWS: That‘s not the feeling you get from minority leaders.
MOLINARI: Rudolph Giuliani was unequivocally a strong supporter of the New York City Police Department. It was a police department that was badly battered in terms of their emotional support that they received from the previous mayor, David Dinkins, and I think that might have something to do with it. But the truth is, that neighborhoods were cleaner, neighborhoods were safer, all of New York City. Go to Times Square today.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, as an out-of-towner, I‘ve got to tell you, it‘s better for me to go when there‘s a city that‘s safer.
Matthews -- in his mode of saying every fool thing that pops into his head -- was defending Giuliani in his own bizarre way. He likes Giuliani's brand of "fascism." Too bad Finkelstein couldn't see fit to note that.
Finkelstein -- still ignoring the context -- follows that post up with a Feb. 6 post bashing Media Matters (full disclosure: my employer) for editing out the "fascist" comment in an item, huffily asking, "How can Media Matters possibly defend its attempted deception?"
Uh, because the item was about Matthews' obssession with "the pee smell"? If Finkelstein can explain how the two are related, he should explain it. We expect to see that about the time he admits that Matthews likes Giuliani.
P.S. We think what Finkelstein's trying to get at is that "fascist" is objectionable no matter the context. But it remains a fact that Matthews used that word in an overall positive context toward Giuliani.
P.P.S.: The MRC's Tim Graham adds in the first comment to Finkelstein's Media Matters post: "I would agree that it's wrong to omit completely an inconvenient truth that dilutes your argument. We hope at MRC to include qualifying comments or facts that make a story more balanced, even if we might not always please liberal critics." Yo, Tim: Ask Mark why he didn't do that with his Giuliani post.
And we'll be looking foward to the next MRC meta-hit piece on Matthews for the misleading statement "Matthews Called Giuliani a 'Fascist'!"