‘Chutzpa king’ Chris Matthews wrongly accuses Reagan of making up ‘welfare queen’ story

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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In an effort to attack Mitt Romney’s new TV ad about changes to welfare requirements, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews went after President Ronald Reagan on “Hardball” Tuesday night (watch this video starting at the 4:15 mark) — accusing the former president of making up bogus examples of abuses, and furtively implying he a racist.

During the segment, Matthews said Reagan was “a good man in some ways — some ways,” but then proceeded to mock Reagan’s reference to “welfare queens who collected checks under multiple aliases.”

“You know, that’s something from Human Events,” Matthews harrumphed. “I don’t know where he got it from — but that’s something you can pick up in the malarkey …”

“… It works brilliantly if your target audience is working whites,” he added.

But as the original manuscript for Reagan biographer Craig Shirley’s book about the 1980 campaign, “Rendezvous with Destiny,” shows — not only did the Washington Post document that Reagan was right — but so did the New York Times:

Chicago’s justice system was cracking down on people such as Reagan’s famed “welfare queen” Linda Taylor who was finally convicted of using multiple aliases and bilking the taxpayers out of thousands of dollars. (New York Times, March 19, 1977) Reagan had made much of the woman in the 1976 campaign as an example of the “waste, fraud and abuse” that the federal and state welfare agencies engaged in. It was much disputed at the time over exactly how much she stole. Human Events, Reagan’s favorite weekly newspaper, claimed one thing and some in the media claimed another about the amount of her excesses. The Washington Post account verified the conservatives’ charges about the woman, stating that she’d stolen over $150,000, had 26 aliases, three Social Security numbers, 30 different addresses around the city and “owned a portfolio of stocks and bonds under various names and a garage full of autos including a Cadillac, Lincoln and a Chevy wagon.” She incidentally had several dead husbands and had just returned from a trip to Hawaii, presumably to avoid the last bit of the winter of 1977. All of her ill-gotten goods were courtesy of the US taxpayer. “Prosecutors say there is no category of public aid—welfare payments, rent subsidies, medical reimbursements, food stamps, transportations allowances, child-care expenses, survivors’ benefits –that Taylor had neglected to apply” for. The Post re-dubbed her, “The Chutzpa Queen.” (Washington post, march 13, 1977 page 3)

(Emphasis mine.)

Reached for comment, Shirley told me: ““I hope God will forgive me, but I like Chris, although he is dead wrong about Reagan and Welfare Queens and Reagan and Tip O’Neill.”

Matt K. Lewis