Chris Matthews Throws a Curveball

Dark since 2005, The Marvin Kitman Show returns today with this special about an iconic true original. Let me know what you think.
–The Executive Producer

I have always been a great admirer of Chris Matthews, a national institution since “Hardball with Chris Matthews” debuted on MSNBC in 1997. Although many think of him as a self-serving, blowhard, commie opinionator, I believe he is a relatively honest, passionate, smart about politics, right of center blue-collar liberal with a number of idiosyncrasies.

He may be the first news anchorman/host on human growth enhancement supplements, or whatever they called steroids at the turn of the century. (Whatever it is, Chris Hayes today may use the same trainer.)

A graduate of the Evelyn Woods Speed Talking School, Chris had a crouching tiger style of interviewing. He always looked like he was ready to leap out of his chair and wrestle the story to the ground.

He had guests, of course, but sometimes seemed totally unaware of them. In the early days, when he had three or four guests around the table, nobody in the control room seemed to say to him in his ear, “We’re 45 minutes into the show now, Chris, you think there is any chance of mentioning those folks in the other chairs?” The guests always seemed to be looking at each other, their eyes asking, “Did you get to say anything? Or is it just I? Have I offended him?”

He also had the habit of asking the same question five or six times. Even though the guest may have answered it.

Well, he is thorough, his enemies had to admit.

His questions were some of the longest since the invention of TV journalism by Vladimir Zworykin in 1927. Panelists had been known to fall asleep, before he concluded with his trademark, “Your thoughts?’

Among his other achievements was being the leader in the amount of saliva emitted during a news show. When he got wound up on a subject, guests would do well to wear a raincoat. Especially noticeable on HD today when he gets excited, which is almost all the time.

Basically, he scares the hell out of me, and I am not even in the studio.

Nevertheless, I really like this ebullient, fast-talking, motormouth. He is so refreshing after escaping from Wolf Blitzkrieg on CNN or those folks at Fox News, who seem as fair and balanced as journalist Josef Goebbels covering Adolf Hitler.

While I may poke fun at him from time to time, to me Chris Matthews is like a fresh bottle of soda pop, as they say in his native Pennsylvania, which never goes flat, hours after you pull the cork (noticeable especially during election night coverage).

IMO, he still is the best place for politics.

And after all these years, he can still surprise. The other night (June 2, 2014), I was startled by one of his long-question-and- briefer-answer segments.

He was doing a report about the Yahoo wing of the Republican Party’s reactions to the latest revelations from scientists about the existence of climate change. One member of the GOP science establishment explained he was not worried. “Climate can change every day.”

Then Chris ran a tape of Sen. Marco Rubio, a leading candidate for the National Idiot of the Year Award, discussing global warming. I didn’t write down what he had to say, but basically he made Alfred E. Neuman sound like Albert Einstein.

As the evidence on the screen continued rolling, Chris was saying sotto voce about the Yahooniks. “Why don’t they trust the science? You go to a doctor, you don’t question his expertise. Why not these scientists?”

The “Hardball” segment guests seemed to be supporting Rubio’s learned position, and Chris was mumbling, “Guests come on this show they should be required to get a shot of sodium pentothal (the truth serum).”

It was a throwaway a line on the way to a commercial break, but a light bulb went on over my head.

What a great idea. Truth serum always seems to work in spy movies.

An added production technique that would enlighten viewers –like the microphone and camera-- it would certainly reduce the need for the amount of coverage given, say, to the Bridgegate Scandal. Since Gov. Christie testified he knew nothing about the Fort Lee lane closures at a TV press conference in Trenton in January, we have sat through nearly six months of basically answering the same question without resolution. With five investigations on going, whether the governor was telling the truth could last as long as the case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in “Bleak House” (55 years when the Dickens book was published).

Of course, the use of amobarbital or any of the other chemical compounds that can be used as truth serum would create other problems for speeding up investigative journalism. Politicians would find even less need to appear on the Matthews show, already a toxic zone for those politicians who thought Larry King threw hardballs. The Republican National Committee might issue a directive, citing the 40th First Lady’s rule, “Say no… to Drugs.”

Then there is the problem of defining what is truth? Truth is relative, finer minds tell me. “I am speaking the truth as I see it,” Rupert Murdoch once said.

While they are looking at the camera and lying, some successful politicians have developed the uncanny ability to convince themselves when lying they are actually telling the truth.

This strange behavior is a condition called extreme prevarication. “A disturbance not found in psychiatric manuals,” explained forensic anthropologist Gloria Levitas, “but which seems to be prevalent among the governing classes. This virulent disease allows one to wander the corridors of power, ensuring the amassing of money, and is the first step on the road to the presidency.”

There is no known cure.


Marvin Kitman
Executive Producer
June 6, 2014

Marvin Kitman was the media critic at Newsday. His column, “The Marvin Kitman Show,” began on Dec. 7, 1969, a day that still lives in infamy, according to network executives. On April 1, 2005, he stepped down from his position of power. As he explained, “Newsday gave me a tryout, and after 35 years we decided it wasn’t working out.” He is the author of nine books.