Media Blog

Matthews vs. Williams

Chris Matthews interviewed Brian Williams on Friday’s “Hardball” and discussed Williams’ Thursday night performance.  The majority of the interview focused on Matthews trying to get Williams to pick a winner.  Williams, however, did his best to maintain his objectivity.  First excerpt:

[…MATTHEWS]  NBC’s Brian Williams moderated the debate.  He joins us now from New York.  Brian, your take, your hype, your belief on who won last night?
BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  You’ll never get me to say anything close.  As you know, I tried to politely say no to appearing on your broadcast last night.  I got out of that hall.  I did not subject myself to any button-holing, lobbying, any of the advance hype yesterday afternoon.  I had to keep my head in the game, went into that hall after doing the top half of “Nightly News,” and exited that hall last night without talking to anybody.
So as I look at it, my job was to kind of just be the conduit, the viewers’ representative, ask the questions and then get out of the way and listen to the answers.  I find it fascinating today to hear the analysis.  Everybody has a different opinion.
It’s so early, Chris, the question I like is, Was the Democratic nominee part of that group on stage last night?  And does this have any value beyond just seeing how quick people are on their feet?  The rules were tough.  I thought all the candidates did well, and we should say that up front.  But the rules were—made it kind of moderator-centric, and that’s something that didn’t throw me, but just one-minute responses and 30 on redirect was tough.

Undeterred, Matthews continued along this line of questioning later on in the interview:

MATTHEWS:  Because the question answered itself, in its genius, upon itself.  Let me ask you, did you look in the eyes as you were asking the questions?  You must have felt a certain feel as you directed a question because the way you did it, you called upon one of the candidates and then you directed the question toward them.  Did you ever see fear in the eyes from the incoming that you were addressing there?
WILLIAMS:  The attempt to get Brian to handicap last evening continues, if you’re just joining us.

I would hope that answering questions from Brian Williams didn’t elicit looks of fear in the eyes of the next Commander in Chief.  Williams, however, wouldn’t budge:

MATTHEWS:  No!  I just want to know whether you felt the power of the guy with the gun, if you will, as you directed it toward these perhaps nervous candidates.
WILLIAMS:  There’s an expression…
(CROSSTALK)
WILLIAMS:  There’s an in South Carolina, What happens on the debate stage…
MATTHEWS:  OK.
WILLIAMS:  … stays on the debate stage.  No, what I did see—and I was forced to look down a lot, when politeness would indicate making eye contact, because there were quotes I needed to get exactly right.

Matthews never could get Williams to handicap the candidates.  For me, this was a very odd exchange.  Here you had Brian Williams doing everything he could to not give his personal opinion of the debate contrasted with Chris Matthews who’s job it is to take sides.  With Matthews moderating the upcoming GOP debate, I wonder if he’ll be able to maintain the same post debate objectivity that Williams did.  From the questioning of Williams, it seems to me that Matthews doesn’t think there’s an issue with the moderator taking sides. 

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