THE HOUSES OF NANTUCKET COUNTY: Chris Matthews, dearly beloved!


Part 6—The nightmares of Corporate County:
On Thursday, October 5, 2000, did someone possibly make a phone call from The Houses of Nantucket County?

We’d guess that someone almost certainly did! The key to that judgment involves the peculiar presence of Rush Limbaugh on that day’s Hardball program.

Let’s recall what occurred:

On Tuesday, October 3, 2000, Candidate Bush and Candidate Gore staged their fateful first debate. We’re now entering our second war in Iraq because of what the “press corps” did in response to that event.

For all previous posts in this award-winning series, click here.

Immediately after that debate, a panel of MSNBC pundits said that Candidate Gore had blasted Candidate Bush.

Moderator Brian Williams kept trying to introduce ameliorating frameworks, but his panel wasn’t buying. Gore “dominated the debate,” Chris Matthews said. Everyone else agreed.

On Wednesday, October 4, 2000, Matthews went much farther. Speaking with the late Christopher Hitchens, he said that Gore had “cleaned Bush’s clock.” He basically said the rest of the nation’s pundits were lying when they refused to say so.

Matthews was light-years off-message. Starting in March 1999, he had relentlessly trashed Candidate Gore in the most venal, insulting and fact-challenged ways. We’ll have to assume that this hideous conduct pleased his corporate boss, Jack Welch, who was safely ensconced in The Houses of Nantucket County.

Now, Matthews was light-years off-message. He was insisting that Candidate Gore had cleaned Bush’s clock in their first debate.

We’ll guess that a phone call was made at that point. Limbaugh is the tip-off.

How strange! On Thursday, October 5, 2000, a very peculiar version of Hardball aired. For the entire first half of the program, Matthews’ sole guest was Rush Limbaugh.

In a Nexis search, we find no sign that Limbaugh had ever appeared on Hardball before that. Meanwhile, his highly unusual booking seemed to have blown up rather suddenly, like a storm off the southern Massachusetts coast.

The unusual booking hadn’t been announced on Hardball the day before, or in the days before that. Out of nowhere, there was Limbaugh, seeming to serve as a bit of a minder, helping Matthews understand that Bush had actually done quite well on October 3.

Below, you see truly repellent behavior, of the type Matthews had churned for the prior two years, starting with his massive flip in March 1999:
LIMBAUGH (10/5/00): Who does [Gore] remind you of? He's trying to look like Reagan. Now, all you Gore supporters out there, you've been told for 20 years what a low-down, dirty rotten skunk Ronald Reagan was. Here is your nominee doing his best to make you think that's who he is.

MATTHEWS: I'll tell you one thing—

LIMBAUGH: I would be offended if I were you.

MATTHEWS: He couldn't get through the schools I went to with that kind of face. He would have been punched out so early in life.

LIMBAUGH: Absolutely not, condescending and all that head bobbing and doing all this talking down to people. But Bush didn't attack. He answered a question from Jim Lehrer.

The more familiar Matthews was back! Just like that, Matthews was picturing Gore getting “punched out” on a schoolyard, so offensive was the behavior he had praised for the prior two nights.

Why was Limbaugh on that program? We’ll have to guess that a phone call had come from The Houses of Nantucket County. That would explain an even stranger programming decision—the decision to rebroadcast a long chunk of Matthews’ interview with Limbaugh at 8 PM that night, as Brian Williams and his panel of pundits prepared to watch the vice presidential debate.

By normal standards, the re-airing of that interview was a crazy piece of programming. But it led to a blessed event:

All of a sudden, all the pundits, Matthews included, announced that they had been wrong on Tuesday night, when they tried to figure out why Bush had done so poorly. All the pundits now announced that Bush had actually outperformed Gore!

When this readjustment occurred, we’re going to guess there were smiles all around in The Houses of Nantucket County. And yes—these were such astounding events that we’ll have to assume they were caused by some sort of prime mover.

At this point, let’s be fair. Almost surely, Williams’ pundits would have found a way to backtrack on their initial assessment.

By Thursday, it was plain that Williams’ pundits had gotten out over their skis that Tuesday night. Led by Matthews’ poor impulse control, they had described what they’d actually seen! They failed to realize that pundit reaction would adhere to Hard Pundit Scripts.

By Thursday, the scripts were absolutely clear and everyone was voicing them. Candidate Bush had “exceeded expectations.”

Let Jonathan Alter say it:
ALTER (10/5/00): Well, you know, I called it for Bush. I just think that he had a very low standard to meet, and he met it.
According to Alter, Candidate Bush had had “a very low standard to meet” that night. The Texan had met that “very low standard,” and therefore had won the debate!

Judged by any normal criterion, this was a puzzling assessment. Who had decided that Bush should be judged by this “very low standard?”

For a detailed answer to that question, see this post from 2006. But as of Thursday, October 5, 2000, the nation’s pundits were all working from the same scripts:

Candidate Gore may have won the debate “on points,” they said. But because Bush faced a “very low bar,” he had “exceeded expectations!” On that basis, Bush had either “held his own” or he’d actually won the debate!

These peculiar, tightly-scripted claims were being made all over the press corps. On Wednesday night, Matthews had aggressively derided these claims. Essentially, he said his fellow pundits weren’t being honest about that first debate.

(On CNN’s Inside Politics, Tucker Carlson and Margaret Carlson offered the same assessment. Because Tucker Carlson is a conservative, his assessment was striking. “It’s interesting,” he said on October 4. “I mean, there is this sense in which Bush is benefitting from something, and I’m not sure what it is...I think a lot of people—they don’t necessarily break down along ideological lines—believe that, you know, maybe Bush didn’t do as good a job as he might have. And yet, the coverage does not reflect that at all. It’s interesting.” The coverage does not reflect that at all! In fact, Bush was benefitting from the press corps’ two-year War Against Candidate Gore. The Carlsons were quite suggestive this day, but neither one was prepared to state that blindingly obvious point.)

By Thursday morning, October 5, the pundit corps’ prevailing scripts were blindingly obvious. Inevitably, people like Barnicle, Goodwin, Noonan and Matthews would have looked for ways to scramble back in line with these uniform scripts.

That said, Limbaugh’s sudden appearance on Hardball strikes us as a fairly obvious “tell.” Even more peculiar was the re-airing of Matthews’ interview with Limbaugh in the hour before that evening’s VP debate.

Had a phone call come from Nantucket County? It’s hard to find another explanation for these extremely peculiar programming events.

Just for the record, that first debate between Bush and Gore changed the course of world history. Gore entered the debate ahead in the national polls. And good God! In all five overnight surveys, viewers said he had won the debate, by an average margin of ten points.

But how strange! The “press corps” went to work at that point. They battered Candidate Gore for his supposedly condescending behavior, which voters didn’t seem to have noticed during the actual debate. They invented new “lies” by Candidate Gore. They insisted that Candidate Bush had “exceeded expectations,” thus winning the debate!

Within a few days, Gore—the initial winner of the debate—had fallen behind in the national polls. He spent the remainder of the campaign pulling himself back to even.

Given President Bush’s disastrous conduct in office, this would seem to establish an obvious point. The press corps’ coverage of that first debate is perhaps the most consequential piece of press corps behavior in modern American history.

But how odd! To this day, you have never seen these astounding events reported, discussed or analyzed within the career press corps. You’ve never seen Matthews’ amazing flips discussed by other pundits.

Matthews’ current flip is ongoing. We refer to his flip about Hillary Clinton, whom he savaged as “Evita Person” and “Nurse Ratched” from 1999 right through Campaign 2008.

Today, Matthews is Hillary Clinton’s most sycophantic supporter. We’ve never seen anyone say a word about this remarkable flip which, of course, keeps Matthews in line with current corporate policy at MSNBC.

Matthews’ most significant flip is the one he engineered in March 1999. All through 1998, right into February 1999, he had vouched for the character of Al Gore, who he even described as his friend.

And then, just like that, Matthews suddenly flipped! For two straight years, he trashed Candidate Gore in the ugliest ways, a stance which put him in line with Nantucket’s own Jack Welch, his then-current corporate owner.

Admit it! You’ve never seen anyone in the “press corps” ask why that flip occurred! You’ve never seen it mentioned!

That was easily Matthews’ most consequential flip. But the greatest flip of all occurred on October 5, 2000.

That flip was astounding, comical, ludicrous, utterly heinous. We’re now in our second war in Iraq because of the concomitant conduct by the larger press corps.

All the press corps’ biggest players were involved in that heinous misconduct. In great detail, we’ve chronicled that heinous conduct for fifteen years—and you’ve never seen a single “journalist” refer to the work we’ve done or ask why that conduct occurred.

In his new incarnation, Matthews continues to rake in the millions. Horrifically, you can see the new batch of millionaires telling us how they adore him:
MADDOW (10/14/13): My beloved colleague and pal, Chris Matthews, has just published the best-timed book ever about the real legacy of Ronald Reagan’s approach to governance, specifically his contentious but civil working relationship with the legendary Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.

Joining us for an interview with the host of MSNBC’s Hardball, author of the new book Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked, Mr. Chris Matthews. It is great to have you here tonight! Congratulations on the success of this book!
Her beloved colleague! A “progressive” can go no lower.

In fairness, Maddow may have been taking her script from her own corporate boss. He made these remarks one night later, Politico’s Patrick Gavin reporting:
GAVIN (10/16/13): If you take MSNBC President Phil Griffin at his word, “Hardball” host Chris Matthews is the cable network’s top employee.

“Everything he does, especially as he gets older and succeeds, is really impressive,” Griffin told a crowd at Washington, D.C.’s P.J. Clarke’s restaurant Tuesday night gathered to celebrate Matthews new book, “Tip and the Gipper: When politics worked.”

...“We call him a national treasure at MSNBC. If you’ve ever seen Chris at an airport, you know what that means. Everyone comes up to him.”

Griffin didn’t stop there with the praise.

“We asked everybody who’s on air at MSNBC to tell us what was the most impressive thing about your first day at MSNBC. By far the leading person to be talked about—by over a third of the persons—was joining a network with Chris Matthews. He’s beloved at MSNBC and around politics.”
Beloved again! In those ridiculous comments, mixed with the history we have presented, you see the unvarnished, bone-deep corruption which is inevitable with multimillion-dollar corporate “journalism.”

In our current award-winning series, we’re exploring the obvious problems with any such “journalistic” system. What can go wrong when “journalists” try to reach The Houses of Journalist County?

How can things go wrong? Let us count the two ways:

The work of these journalists may get sappy and soft, as we’ll note in Week Four of this series. Their work will perhaps steer away from issues affecting the interests of plutocrats.

And uh-oh! When a broadcaster wants to reach The Houses of Journalist County, he may get a phone call from his boss on Nantucket.

Rush Limbaugh may suddenly be on his show, serving as his minder. Fourteen years later, he may find his country in its second war in Iraq.

On the brighter side, the “journalist” may also find himself ensconced in The Houses of Nantucket County! He may find that he is “beloved!”

At the very least, other “journalists” will be willing to say that on the air! At home, we liberals will gulp every word, just exactly as we did in the wars of Campaign 2000.

On October 5, 2000, did a phone call possibly come from The Houses of Nantucket County?

You can bet your sweet ascot it did! On the brighter side, nobody cares!

Coming in our award-winning Week Four: The Lifestyles of Journalist County!


  1. "At home, we liberals will gulp every word, just exactly as we did in the wars of Campaign 2000.

    On October 5, 2000, did a phone call possibly come from The Houses of Nantucket County?

    You can bet your sweet ascot it did!"

    No paraphrasing necessary.

    1. What's your point?

    2. Are you saying this is a ludicrous statement? On what basis? Somerby has documented his assertion that Matthews changed his views. What do you think caused that change? Limbaugh's superior logic? Somerby has supplied the quid and the pro quo and you want to claim it is coincidence?

    3. Somerby didn't believe cash and gifts totalling over $100 K motivated Governor ultrasound to arrange meetings with Virginia officials and his benefactor.

      But you believe Somerby when he says "liberals" gulped down every word of crazy Chris Matthews's bullshit and that changed history.

      I won't bet my ascot a "possible" phone call actually happened. I will bet somebody around here gulps down bull.

    4. As I recall, he said the Governor didn't do much except arrange meetings and introductions for the sums that were donated.

      I'm willing to believe it might have been some other mode of communication besides an actual phone call, but I have no doubt the message was transmitted to Matthews in some manner.

      If you don't think there was any word from the top, what do you think accounts for Matthews change in behavior? Something did -- what? (Or are you just here to attack Somerby?)

    5. Well, "arranging meetings and introductions" sure seemed like a lot to the jury, I guess.

      But then again, what does a jury who heard all the evidence know as opposed to the omniscient Somerby who pulled all his information from where he sits.

    6. I don't think the size of the favor mattered to the jury, just whether they occurred or not. The size of the favors did matter to Somerby.

    7. I'm not sure what change of behavior is noted here.

      Type both quotes supplied by Somerby and tell me what is different between Matthews of October 5 and Matthews of October 3-4.

      Better yet, post all of us a link from any other source than Somerby about the Limbaugh appearance on Hardball on October 5, 2000.

    8. Are you saying that Limbaugh did not appear on Hardball on Oct 5 2000?

      I know from my own experience -- I was there -- that the interpretation of Gore's performance in that debate changed from the immediate reactions to the later interpretation of it. I recall being outraged because I saw the debate and Gore clearly won it, no question about that. The later crap about Gore's sighing was manufactured as an attack on him.

      I don't have to google anything. I lived it, as did Somerby.

    9. It seems 9:25 PM has an interesting point, 9:48 AM. I don't see much in what Somerby quotes Matthews saying in response to Limbaugh that is clearly an alteration of previous comments about Gore winning the debate.

      I don't read him (9:25) saying Rush did not appear. I see that as a challenge to provide a link to it. It sparked my curiosity. I can't find any reference to the appearance of Rushbo on Harball that day anywhere.

      Perhaps you tried as well and could not either. Which may be why your response is really not responsive. Making a general argument about press reaction to the debates is one thing, but this post is supposed to be about Matthews.

    10. The shift is exemplified by a focus on Gore's body language. They can't plausibly go back and argue that Bush out-talked Gore or was a better debater, but by focusing on Gore's stiffness, his supposed sighs and disrespect for Bush, they can hand the debate over to Bush. Note that they tried at first to give it to Bush by lowering expectations and claiming Bush had a cold. Matthews led the way in claiming that Gore smirked and had the kind of expression that would get him beat up on the playground. He went from admitting that Gore won the debate to joining others in tearing Gore down, despite his better performance.

      I don't know where Somerby got the Limbaugh appearance. It isn't on Youtube but I do not have the time to go through Hardball archives (if they exist) or go back through NBC video to find the Williams replaying of Rush's appearance and I do not have access to Nexis (which is most likely where Somerby found it). I did see some oblique references to it on left sites, including DKos and Brock (before Media Matters). Getting hung up on such a small point is foolish because it cannot discredit the larger one that Matthews repeatedly trashed Gore thereafter -- that is well established and is all over the internet.

      This is KZ's favorite tactic. Pick some very small aspect of what is said, post some complaint about its veracity, and sit back and assume ALL of what Somerby has said is now refuted. This is a tiresome game that wastes a great deal of time because the larger points are not and cannot be undermined by trivial nitpicks. If you seriously want to know where to find the appearance, send an email to Somerby and ask him.

  2. The lack of pundit integrity is just sad. I can understand how pundits could be convinced to follow the company line on a complex issue like climate change or fiscal policy. These are specialized areas that pundits can't figure out for themselves. But, for pundits to reject their own opinions regarding a debate that they actually watched nad understood is really something.

    1. Integrity is hard to find in any walk of life, not just in millionaire pundits.

    2. I disagree. Studies show that most people are honest and have integrity and malfeasance occurs about 5% of the time in most walks of life. I think access to large sums of money can affect integrity and may produce different levels of malfeasance -- money and power corrupt.

  3. OMB (Great Novel from the OTB)

    It would work better if BOB were right about the polls, though.

    1. Oh, and before we get called a troll, douchebar, or told to "Go Away", we'll include this:

      BOB is as bad with polls as he is with Poles.

    2. Not sure what you're talking about. Most of the major polls showed a huge swing from a Gore lead to a Bush lead in the 10 days after 10/5 -- in some cases as much as 16 points. And all because the post-debate polls showed Gore had won handily!

      So I guess you actually should be called a troll or a douchebar, since you were apparently banking on nobody doing due diligence on your non-link citation and thought you could get away with a false statement.

    3. KZ thinks that posting a specious link will convince lazy readers that his gripe against Somerby has support. When you follow his links there is usually no there there.

    4. No, we think our link to, a site which is a compilation of all polling in 2000, proves two things.

      1) BOB is misleading with numbers to fit his meme again.

      2) BOBfans refuse to accept the truth when it is handed to them on a platter. What surprises me is Mr. legend.

      The link is to a website which simply reports the polls of other reputable pollsters. It shows what it shows.

      It shows BOB's meme is entirely dependent upon putting one's faith in Gallup. But even Gallup doesn't support BOB completely.

      Gallup, whose tracking polls in 2000 were published in USA Today, was the only pollster which showed swings which BOB and urban legend have attached themselves to. And in citing Gallup, BOB cannot say it took Gore the whole campaign to catch up. The Gallup swing from a big Gore lead to a big Bush lead took place shortly after the debate. Gore led by 11 on October 4 and trailed by 8 on October 7.
      Sixteen point swing alright, urban legend. Seventeen actually.

      By October 11 Gallup had the Bush lead disappear and Gore back in front by a point. Then they reported a mysterious Bush surge to a 10 point lead just a week later, on October 18. That rough margin lasted three days until October 21, then almost overnight, by October 23 the Bush double digit lead was gone and Gore was again up by 1 point. Then, just as mysteriously, Bush was again up by 13 just three days later, on October 26. Gore cut that lead in half the next day and in half again by the day after that.

      IF you believe Gallup in 2000.

      Unfortunately in 2000 there were not as many published reports of daily tracking polls as there are now. But those which existed do not support BOB's meme or reinforce Gallup. Tarrance/Lake, whose polls were for's Battleground survey, showed Bush narrowly ahead both before and after the debate. Zogby, which polled for MSNBC, had the race tied at the beginning of their tracking on September 28 but Gore in front by 6 just four days later on the eve of the debate. It took six days for that Gore lead to evaporate into a one point Bush lead. On October 7, when Gallup reported Bush ahead by 8, their widest post debate margin, Zogby had Gore up by 2. On October 23, when Gallup had Bush erase a one point deficit to go up by 13 points in just three days, Zogby showed Gore going from 2 points behind to 2 points ahead.

      Polls is polls as they say. Yard signs is yard signs. Bumperstickers is bumperstickers. None of them's actual voters casting real ballots which get counted.

      None of them are TV pundit watchers for that matter, gulping down every word. It takes a BOBfan to do that.

    5. You state that the Gallup poll shows exactly what Somerby claimed. A big swing right after the debate. The rest of this is irrelevant nonsense meant to confuse the issue. So what if Zogby isn't exactly the same as Gallup -- the effect was pretty much the same. Gore's lead decreased. Are you aware that Zogby is a conservative and that there were ongoing criticisms of Zogby's methods at the time? Does it matter to you at all that some polls are considered more reliable than others? No, you say "polls is polls".

      You don't care about looking closely at anything unless it gives you an excuse to attack Somerby. Because that is all a troll is really interested in.

    6. BOB wrote:

      Just for the record, that first debate between Bush and Gore changed the course of world history. Gore entered the debate ahead in the national polls. And good God! In all five overnight surveys, viewers said he had won the debate, by an average margin of ten points.

      But how strange! .....Within a few days, Gore—the initial winner of the debate—had fallen behind in the national polls. He spent the remainder of the campaign pulling himself back to even."

      It was BOB who used the plural "polls."

      In fairness to BOB we showed the one poll which had results consistent with his meme. We showed the two other major tracking polls. They showed different results.

      "Are you aware that Zogby"...yadayadayada..."Does it matter to you that some polls are considered more reliable than others?"

      Apparently it matters not to you. Zogby actually had Gore winning in the end. Gallup, Tarrance/Lake, and ABC (whose tracking began after the debate) all had Bush ahead.

      So, we'll answer your question now. Yes, it matters.

      We are more likely to believe there was a phone call from Nantucket than we are to believe there were acutally three
      double digit swings in the electorate in the final month of campaign 2000. And we aren't very likely to believe the first proposition. You, however, sound to us like one who can gulp it all down whole and spit it out undigested.

    7. So you are making a big fuss because he said polls instead of poll? When we refer to people voting, we say they go to the polls, even though they will only vote once, in a single polling place.

      Poll results are a fact -- you don't get to decide whether to believe facts or not -- they exist in their own right. Those double digit swings you refer to (assuming you reported them correctly) are facts. They are the actual results of those polls. Whether they mirror swings in the underlying public reactions to the candidates or not depends on their sampling. Since the election was not held at the time of any of those polls, we'll never know their accuracy, but the double digit swings in the poll results are actual facts, not opinions, whether you like them or not.

      I believe that someone passed the word to Matthews to stick to the approved script. I don't know whether it was a phone call or a conversation with the boss or a hint from a coworker -- he clearly got the message and got back in line. THAT is a fact too because it is right there in the shows he presented night after night.

      I don't believe Matthews came to Jesus and decided to love Hillary. I believe someone with clout told him she's no longer the enemy at MSNBC. I cannot know who or why but again, his behavior toward her is an obvious FACT.

      What I gulp down or spit out is my own business, you slimy toad of a troll.

    8. "Poll results are a fact!"

      (We'll skip explaining margins of errors and confidence intervals)

      "You don't get to decide whether to believe facts or not."

      ( We'll skip explaining what you get to believe when a cause of erroneously asserted facts is identified)

      If somebody reports two plus two is five the fact they reported it is a fact. It doesn't mean four became five because BOB thought the press treated four unfairly.

      My gulping friend, nobody showed the swings that Gallup did and fourteen years of BOB's blog is based on the premise that the press caused swings in the polls which only Gallup reported happening. You and BOB believe the improbable polls taken by Gallup. We'll note nobody else reported such swings.

      Oh, and there is one other problem with BOB's decade and a half crusade to show how the press elected Bush. Bush didn't win THE election. He lost THE election.

      Your country has a system where the loser of the election can get to become President. The press had nothing to do with that.

    9. We're supposed to believe that Gallup polls are untrustworthy because you don't like Somerby.

      As has been stated repeatedly, if the election were not made closer by the actions of the press, it could not have been stolen by Bush. A wider margin at the polls would have changed history. The press contributed to that situation.

      When you say "your country" are you excluding yourself? Are you not commenting from the USA? Are you a foreign troll?

  4. What I want to know is, why cannot the one genuine expert on the media and the 2000 election, one of most debated elections in American history, get a book on published on the truly stunning information he has collected? There will be no conversation forced until that happens. Being able only to reference a low-circulation blog will not do the trick. Keeping it under wraps is a form of complicity.

    1. 1. It isn't finished, 2. It would be hard to convince a publisher that enough people would buy it, 3. He has no credentials as a historian or political scientist that would get it accepted by an academic press, 4. He may have lost interest in the project himself, as the author, independent of reaction to it -- not everyone has enough time in his or her personal life to complete a book.

      You sound like you are being sarcastic, but this information is important and it is a service that Somerby keeps presenting it to new readers here. Most books sell only a few thousand copies, which is roughly the number of readers of this blog. I doubt finishing his book would be better than continuing this blog, especially since this format permits him to link past events to current events, which a book would not do.

  5. I'm reading John Dean's new book, which reminds us in graphic detail of the whole Nixon Crew. On of the most vivid recollections I take out of the era The Daily Howler writes about here was Chris Matthews having on Gordon Liddy to bash Clinton, and then tell him what a wonderful person and great American he was. This may just be a stone's throw from The Newshour having Bucannon on to suck up all the air in a discussion of Nixon, who's known sins are now so putrid it's a lot to ask anyone to confront them even from a distance.
    We might remind The Daily Howler that another great Matthews enabler in Bill Maher, how has even managed to have his clock cleaned by the idiot a few times.