On MSNBC’s 10th anniversary Hardball broadcast, Amy Goodman slams network for firing Phil Donahue for his antiwar views.
Transcript follows below – The conversation about Donahue is halfway down.
Hardball with Chris Matthews for July 31, 7 p.m.
Amy Goodman on Hardball
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: We’re back with Amy Goodman, there she is of Democracy Now radio and television and WPHT, radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, who’s based in the city of brotherly love. He’s come to the Big Apple tonight. I want to ask you both. Is there a—let me go to Amy. When you’re on the radio, is there a lot—where is there more interest? Is it in the Middle East between Israel and Hezbollah or is it between the United States and who we’re fighting over there?
AMY GOODMAN, DEMOCRACY NOW RADIO: I mean, I think it’s all together. And the kind of people that we’re hearing from are people like an Israeli Air Force captain who is saying that Israeli soldiers should refuse to participate in this. There are a lot of Israeli peace voices that are out there that are not being heard. People like Mafa Goldvaser (ph), whose son is one of the two soldiers who was kidnapped by Hezbollah and she’s calling for peace. She’s saying war is not the answer.
MATTHEWS: So you’re for a cease fire now?
GOODMAN: I mean, I think there is no question.
MATTHEWS: How many here would like to see a cease fire immediately?
How many would not like to have a cease fire right now? OK, I can’t find anybody. Michael, in Philly, how’s the debate going on the Middle East part of it, Israel versus its enemies in Lebanon?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, WPHT TALK RADIO: It would be Israel versus the situation in Iraq. And Israel has far more attention. But the proper question would be Mel Gibson versus the situation in Israel and I hate to tell you, there probably would be more interest in what’s going on with The Mel Gibson controversy.
SMERCONISH: Because it’s got all the elements. You know, you’ve got a Hollywood celebrity apparently hammered saying anti-semitic things, proof positive in some folks way of looking at this for all the concerns they had when he was doing “Passion of the Christ.” And I think that whole pop culture mentality is something that’s even more pervasive than the world events in the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: How many here think that Mel Gibson’s drunkenness and comments are more important than the war in the Middle East?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MSNBC does.
MATTHEWS: I haven’t mentioned it all day, brother. Let me ask you.
Why do you think it’s a big story? Why is it bigger story than war?
SMERCONISH: Well I think if folks are unfortunately fatigued by what they’re watching on television with all the violence in the Middle East, the situation in Iraq having gone on for three years.
By the way, let me be clear. I’m not defending it and saying Mel Gibson is a more important story. I don’t think that it is. But the reality is…
MATTHEWS: … Is that a candy story? It’s just too easy to eat and enjoy.
SMERCONISH: Absolutely. Especially in the summer.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think people would go to a story that’s so high concept, so easy to understand, rather than a difficult problem that we have in the war in the Middle East and Iraq?
GOODMAN: I think people deeply care about what’s going on in the Middle East and Iraq. I think we’re talking about our sons, our daughters, our mothers, our fathers. I look at young people here and I think about the kids in Qana that were just bombed in this Israeli air strike. It’s not enough for Israel to say we’re sorry when the cabinet votes to expand the ground offensive. We’re talking about living in the 21st century. There has to be an answer other than war. It is only going to make Israel unsafe. It’s only going to make the United States unsafe.
MATTHEWS: How does Israel make itself safe when it’s got Hezbollah on its border?
GOODMAN: Negotiation is the only answer. It is true for Iraq.
MATTHEWS: What is the base of negotiating with a country…
GOODMAN: … It’s true for Hezbollah. It’s true for Gaza and West Bank.
MATTHEWS: OK, Michael, do you want to get in this?
SMERCONISH: Yes, how do you negotiate with folks who are going to send missiles in your direction from the middle of a civilian neighborhood? I mean, it’s an unfortunate, it’s terrible what transpired. But the reality is that there is no other way to combat terrorism. And that’s who we’re combating.
GOODMAN: You don’t negotiate with your friends. You negotiate with your enemies. You come up with viable solutions that both can live with. What we’re talking about is not even Hezbollah. We’re talking about more than 700 Lebanese civilians, overwhelming civilian. Did they deserve to die over these last few weeks?
MATTHEWS: So as the Katyusha rockets are shot into Haifa, the Israelis should do what, nothing? They should sit on their hands?
GOODMAN: It is terrible that the Katyusha rockets are flying into Israel and it is terrible that Israel is bombing Lebanon. Right now we’re talking about civilians. And Israel has the capacity to call for a cease fire and the United States should not be sending bombs to Israel, which is exactly what they did, even over the objections of one of the British cabinet members. They should not be sending bombs to Israel. They should be demanding an immediate cease fire. This is about our national security and it’s about the national security of countries all over the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: OK, who wants to ask a question of one of these people? Do you have a question, miss? Address it to Amy or to Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. My question is for Michael. You speak about how American citizens would be more interested in this controversy, or in the war in the Middle East that’s currently going on if there was some celebrity figure. Do you think that the news plays any role in kind of hiding or not totally presenting the various historical perspectives?
SMERCONISH: No. I don’t blame the media. I think that MSNBC by way of example, is going to give you whatever it is you want to watch. All they’re there to do is fulfill your appetite. I’m just making the point that I think it’s a sad commentary on the United States that Chris asks the question about which is there most interest, the situation in Iraq or the situation in Israel, and my response is neither. The Mel Gibson story is the story of the day. I’m not proud of that, but that’s the reality.
GOODMAN: Americans are so much smarter than that. And Americans are a compassionate people. And if they saw the images on the ground, if they saw people, kids dead on the ground in Lebanon, if they saw Israeli kids dead on the ground, they would say no, this is not the answer. We need a media in this country that is open to the voice of (inaudible).
SMERCONISH: I want to respond to something that you said before that I’d like to—I hope that you’ll agree with me—that the 50 civilian deaths, most of whom are children, is the fault of Hezbollah, not of Israel, because Hezbollah used those kids as human shields. Would you agree with that?
GOODMAN: I would say that right now, we’re talking about terroristic tactics on both sides, and we, talking in a civilized way, can be a model for how this has to be negotiated.
Listen, ultimately, face it. It is going to be negotiated. It is just a matter of how many kids have to die.
MATTHEWS: Let me give Michael a chance. OK, what’s your take on Mel Gibson?
SMERCONISH: Mel Gibson, do I have to say allegedly before…
MATTHEWS: Whatever you want to say. You’re bringing him up twice.
SMERCONISH: He’s a drunkard and an anti-Semite. And I feel like this is confirmation of what many of us believe. And by the way, Chris, I say this as a Catholic who enjoyed to the extent anyone could enjoy “Passion of the Christ.” But I always had concerns. You know, seed of the father. He didn’t disavow those comments to my level of satisfaction when dad went off on that rant. And the reality is—wait a minute, when you’re drunk, except for if you’re slobbering over the company secretary, when you’re drunk, I say you say things that you really believe.
MATTHEWS: I believe it’s truth serum. We know that.
MATTHEWS: We’ll be right back with Michael Smerconish, speaking the truth soberly, and Amy Goodman.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, the subway series. Hillary against Rudy, when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Tonight is the, as I said about a thousand times tonight, the 10th anniversary of MSNBC.com. We’re here at Rockefeller Plaza, one of the most interesting, iconic spots in New York, where “THE TODAY SHOW” always does its broadcasts. And at the top of this building, I think you’re looking at pictures of the party that’s going on on top of the Rock. We’re going to be up there later.
I want to keep these questions going because we’re talking—it’s like being in the world community here, right near the U.N. here and we see all these flags up here. And we’re going to go to you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. My question is, because this entire rivalry, if you call it that, is fundamentally religious, you know, it is something deep seated in these people’s beliefs, is this problem ever going to be fixed?
GOODMAN: Well, I just wanted to say one thing before I answer that question. You said—since you said all the executives are on the top of the Rock. I want to congratulate you, Chris, on 10 years of MSNBC. But I wish standing with you was Phil Donahue. He shouldn’t have been fired for expressing an anti-war point of view on the eve of the invasion. His point of view and the people he (inaudible)…
MATTHEWS: I don’t know what the reasons were, but I doubt it was that.
GOODMAN: Well, we have the NBC memo that was a secret memo that came out that said they didn’t want him to be the face of this network, an anti-war face at a time when the other networks were waving the flag.
MATTHEWS: … remember me when you answer it. What?
SMERCONISH: The answer to the question is, and I say this as one with four kids, I don’t think it is going to be solved in our lifetime, because they are raising their kids to hate and want to kill our kids. And that’s the reality. And until those madrassas are solved and they stop preaching hatred against the Jews and the Americans, we’re never going to get beyond this.
MATTHEWS: Well, if being against the war was a problem here, I would have been out of here about four years ago, because I’ve been against this war from day one, and that didn’t cost me my job.
GOODMAN: I congratulate you, Chris…
MATTHEWS: So let me just say, they’re not against anti-war people. But there’s so much conservative tendencies in corporate America. You know that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regarding the cease-fire, I’m sorry, why doesn’t Hezbollah just return the two Israeli soldiers?
GOODMAN: Well, this is about a negotiation. I mean, I’m not here to condone Hezbollah. I’m not here to condone the state—the state of Israel’s tactics right now. I think what we have to talk about is a negotiated settlement.
We’re talking about the world at stake right now. Hezbollah has managed to do something that no one thought they could do before. They have united Shia, they’ve united Sunni, they’ve united Maronite Christian. The levels of Hezbollah popularity in Lebanon are skyrocketing, because the people of Lebanon are being bombed. It’s indiscriminate. It’s civilian. It is not about who we support. It is about what is possible in the world today. What are we—are we willing to see an explosion in the Middle East like we’ve never seen before?
I think we have to be civilized about this. I don’t care your political persuasion. I think we care about peace.
SMERCONISH: The short answer, if I can get in on this, the short answer is, you ask an excellent question. There is so much “who shot John” relative to what goes on in the Middle East. But not with the last 20 days. I mean, the reality is that this entire war was begun because Hezbollah captured those two soldiers by crossing the line, didn’t return them, still had not returned them.
GOODMAN: Negotiation. Settlement. Cease-fire. That’s what is going to save the lives of hundreds of people.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask everybody one last time, how many here are completely for Israel’s way of fighting this war? 100 percent?
(SOME CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: How many think—how many have a little problem or a big problem with the way Israel is fighting this war?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: How many are with Hezbollah? I think that was muffled.
GOODMAN: I also the urge the media to cover the peace movement.
MATTHEWS: Amy Goodman, thank you…
GOODMAN: Two thousand people marched in Tel Aviv last weekend.
People are saying no to war, both in this country and in Israel.
MATTHEWS: Amy Goodman, thank you very much, from Democracy Now. And Michael Smerconish, the best voice in Philadelphia. (inaudible). We’ll be right back with the people (inaudible) MSNBC.com 10th anniversary from Rockefeller Plaza.