In an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Monday from the Republican National Convention, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took on host Chris Matthews, who accused the Republican Party of playing the “race card” throughout the day on MSNBC.
Gingrich turned the tables on Matthews, asking: “Why do you assume ‘food stamp’ refers to black? What kind of racist thinking do you have? Why are you being a racist, because you assume he’s referring to black?”
In a testy exchange, Matthews asked Gingrich why his party was using what he deemed coded racist dog whistles.
“I find your assumption so absurd that it’s hard to answer your question,” Gingrich responded. “Let me take the birther thing for a second — what Mitt Romney did the other day, people say, ‘You ought to relax, you ought to be a little bit lighter’. So he tells a joke. Now, it tends to be a joke that serves him in a totally different way that you’re calculating. It reminds everybody in Michigan that he was born in Michigan.”
But Matthews wouldn’t back down from his premise.
“You know, it’s amazing how — you know how African-Americans generally, at least people who have emailed me in the last couple of hours, how they react to this?” Matthews said. “Do you understand they have a reaction? They think this is racial talk. That this whole thing about welfare cheats is relentless stuff.”
Gingrich said those readers had probably been influenced by Matthews and noted a previous segment with former RNC chairman Michael Steele, a black man who faced questions from Matthews and The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman over his inability to recognize the racial implications of certain topics.
“I think there are a lot of people in America who listen to people like you who tell them all day how racist — you just had a panel with a guy who was black who was telling the two guys who were white they were nuts,” Gingrich said. “Two guys who are white [are telling him] ‘why are you not more sensitive to being black?’ I think Michael Steele knows he’s black. I don’t think it’s a great shock to him.”