Thursday, April 14, 2005

Conservatives Insist Matthews is a "Liberal." So Why Did He Distort Facts To Support GOP? (Part II)

Conservatives insist that Chris Matthews is a liberal. After all, he used to work for Tip O'Neill.

But would a liberal knowingly distort the facts to make a point that favors Republicans?

On the April 10 edition of the syndicated Chris Matthews Show, that's exactly what happened. A graphic on the screen showed Catholic support for three presidents -- Kennedy, Reagan and Bush -- to which Matthews said:

MATTHEWS: Republicans in America are shoring up the faithful into a phalanx of political power -- real power -- and it's working. Take a look at Catholics. They backed John F. Kennedy, of course, by huge margins. But Ronald Reagan got almost half of the Catholic vote in 1980, and George W. Bush got a majority, 52 percent, last year.

If there were only three presidential elections since 1960, maybe Matthews' argument would make sense. Reagan received 49% of the Catholic vote in 1980 and Bush received 52% of the Catholic vote in 2004 -- both amounts nearly doubling the percentage of the Catholic vote Richard Nixon received back in 1960, when he ran against a Catholic, John F. Kennedy.

But of course, there have been more than three presidential elections since 1960, and if Matthews had actually shown viewers the results of each of those elections, it would be clear that Republicans aren't gaining Catholic support.

Take a look at the elections from 1980 to 2004:

1980: Reagan receives 49% of the Catholic vote (plurality in a three-man race).
1984: Reagan receives 54% of the Catholic vote.
1988: George H.W. Bush receives 52% of the Catholic vote.
1992: Bill Clinton receives 45% of the Catholic vote (plurality in a three-man race).
1996: Clinton receives 52% of the Catholic vote.
2000: Al Gore receives 50% of the Catholic vote.
2004: George W. Bush receives 52% of the Catholic vote.

In other words, in each case, Catholics favored the candidate who received the most popular votes -- the winner in each case but 2000. And, in truth, this trend goes back to 1972, with Catholics favoring Nixon that year, and Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Hardly the trend that Matthews suggested.

***

Why distort the facts?

Here's a theory. I'm guessing that Matthews, an Irish Catholic, was a fan of the Kennedys in the 1960s. He was just shy of 18 when JFK was assassinated, and just a year out of Holy Cross when brother Bobby was gunned down. And yes, he did work for Democrats from 1971 to 1987, including four years as a Carter speechwriter and six years as a top aide to O'Neill.

But at some point, Matthews began to drift right. It might have been because, like his boss O'Neill, he was fond of Reagan, and respected "The Gipper," both as a man and as a politician. In recent years, Matthews has almost exclusively praised Reagan. It was pretty clear that Matthews didn't respect Clinton, at least the latter years of his presidency, and he certainly has made his distaste of Hillary Clinton clear.

Isn't it possible that Matthews has gradually moved right of center over the past 15-20 years? And, given his regular criticism of the uninspiring candidacies of Gore and John Kerry -- he has found himself more and more allying himself with Republicans?

Maybe this rightward tilt has affected his ability to separate his own personal beliefs from simple factual analysis.

How else can one explain Matthews' incorrectly declaring that Republicans have been "shoring up" the Catholic vote? Honestly, viewers can only draw one of three conclusions -- either Matthews is:

-- Putting wishful thinking ahead of the facts.
-- Accepting GOP spin as fact.
-- Too stupid to do basic research before opening his mouth.

With any of the three, it's clear that Matthews is anything but a liberal broadcaster.

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