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Chris Matthews Claims Hardball 'A Great Positive Thing for American Civilization'

Putting a question to MSNBC's Chris Matthews at the end of a President's Day panel discussion at Ford's Theater on Monday, I challenged him about the American people growing cynical of media coverage, the left-wing Harball host responded by proclaiming that his own program was "a great positive thing for American civilization." The largely liberal audience applauded the notion. [Listen to the audio]

Matthews suggested his comment was somewhat tongue-in-cheek: "What do you expect me to say? That's what I do every day." However, moments earlier he asserted: "I think what I do every night and the people that watch me appreciate it....I try to bring an entertainment factor into it....I think at the end of my hours every night they know a lot more about American politics than when they begin, and they enjoy it more."

Immediately following my question, Matthews made reference to a question from my Media Research Center colleague Scott Whitlock: "Well, I'm not a media critic, there was one here earlier." Whitlock offered Matthews the opportunity to expand on or apologize for outrageous anti-Catholic comments the liberal commentator made earlier in the evening.

In addition to claiming he was "not a media critic," Matthews claimed: "I basically don't criticize other people." Besides the mountain of evidence to the contrary, earlier in the discussion, Matthews took a shot at Fox News parent company NewsCorp and CEO Rupert Murdoch.

Historian and author Harold Holzer had discussed the fact that New York Times founder Henry J. Raymond was a top Republican Party official and ally of Abraham Lincoln, wondering if anyone could "imagine" such a thing happening today. Matthews retorted: "I can imagine it. It's called Rupert Murdoch."

After praising the virtue of his own show, Matthews admitted that "there's a lot of noise" in the media and then offered some suggestions on where to go for news and information:

...there's also tremendous selections out there. You can listen to NPR every night for an hour, you can – I mean you can listen to All Things Considered, you can listen to Morning Edition, you can listen to the [Jim] Lehrer [PBS News] hour. You can listen to the really good, I think, network news broadcasts. You can select, during the day, other ways to get the news. You can listen to CNN or watch – you can get this – we have a couple of great newspapers in this country, you have the [New York] Times and the [Wall Street] Journal – news sections of the Journal – especially the Saturday Journal is fabulous for culture. We have – if you can't put together your own potpourri of news and information everyday, you've got a problem.

The media "potpourri" Matthews seems to indulge in has quite a liberal odor.

Here is a transcript of my February 20 exchange with Matthews:

8:30PM ET

KYLE DRENNEN: Mr. Matthews, earlier in the discussion you talked about the problem of people losing faith in public institutions, becoming cynical. There are many people who would be critical of the media and see – becoming cynical of media coverage in America today. How would you respond?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, I'm not a media critic, there was one here earlier.

[CROWD LAUGHS]

MATTHEWS: I basically don't criticize other people – I think what I do every night and the people that watch me appreciate it. I love politics, I love the system, I love the country, obviously. I love the way we go about it, I try to bring an entertainment factor into it. People don't have to watch. I think at the end of my hours every night they know a lot more about American politics than when they begin, and they enjoy it more. And I think my viewers all vote, I don't know why. They all read the newspaper, because you can't keep up with this if you don't read the paper. You can't keep up with Hardball without reading the paper. And – and I think it's a great positive thing for American civilization.

[CROWD LAUGHS AND APPLAUDS]

MATTHEWS: What do you expect me to say? That's what I do every day.

MODERATOR: He's putting three children through college.

MATTHEWS: No, that is all a byproduct of what I love to do. I would do this in parties if I met you and I'd argue basically what I do on television if you – if I bumped into you on the street. So-

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: And I can attest to that.

[CROWD LAUGHS]

MATTHEWS: But you're right, there's a lot of noise, and I think there's a lot of noise, but there's also tremendous selections out there. You can listen to NPR every night for an hour, you can – I mean you can listen to All Things Considered, you can listen to Morning Edition, you can listen to the [Jim] Lehrer [PBS News] hour. You can listen to the really good, I think, network news broadcasts. You can select, during the day, other ways to get the news. You can listen to CNN or watch – you can get this – we have a couple of great newspapers in this country, you have the [New York] Times and the [Wall Street] Journal – news sections of the Journal – especially the Saturday Journal is fabulous for culture. We have – if you can't put together your own potpourri of news and information everyday, you've got a problem.

HAROLD HOLZER [AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN]: If it was ever thus, when this guy [Abraham Lincoln] was carried out of that box, he had on his person five newspaper clippings praising him. After living through a time when he blamed the media for all his problems.

-- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.