Chris Matthews Rips GOP 2012 Candidates on Leno, Then Claims: 'I Want to Be Somewhat Nonpartisan'

On Monday's Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC, MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews slammed the potential crop of 2012 Republican presidential contenders as "the weakest list of candidates I have ever seen."

Matthews bashed Mitt Romney as someone who "gives a bad name to empty suits." He claimed Mike Huckabee was being "racist" by mistakenly saying President Obama spent part of his childhood in Kenya instead of Indonesia. When Leno asked about Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann, Matthews ranted about a gaffe she made about Lexington and Concord being in New Hampshire: "You ought to at least know high school got to know something to run for president, don't you?"

Continuing his attack on Bachmann, Matthews added: "Wouldn't you like your plumber to know what a pipe was?" He then admitted: "That's too mean." And announced: "I want to be somewhat nonpartisan."

Back in 2008, Matthews appeared on the late night show and described then candidate Barack Obama as "cool" four times in ten seconds.

Here is a transcript of the March 14 (aired at 12:26AM ET on March 15) exchange:

JAY LENO: So let's talk about prudential candidates, the prudential candidates. Did I say prudential? Potential.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: A piece of the rock.

LENO: Potential GOP candidates.

MATTHEWS: The weird thing is the President - everybody knows next year's election's gonna be real close because of the economy.

LENO: Right.

MATTHEWS: You got 9% unemployment, you got gas prices about - up, you know, gonna be five bucks or whatever, and you got - so it's gonna be a close election. The American people, they always feed the hot hand. If he's hot next year and he's got the economy going down, he'll get reelected. If he doesn't have a hot hand, he's not gonna get fed. It's like, you wanna make a baseball analogy? Who goes out to the pitcher when he's not getting the other guys out and says, 'give me the ball'?

LENO: Right.

MATTHEWS: The American people are the manager, they go out and say, 'Give me the ball.' I don't think they're going to ask the ball back from Obama unless the economy's not recovering next year. If it is, he'll be back in.

LENO: Well, let's see, here are the Republicans, Mitt Romney-

MATTHEWS: But this crowd, this is the weakest list - the weakest list of candidates I have ever seen.

LENO: Yeah, right.

MATTHEWS: And this first one you're pointing to, Mitt Romney, is the reason the list keeps getting longer.


Because everybody looks at him and goes, 'My God, I could beat him.' He makes-

LENO: Okay, how about Huckabee?

MATTHEWS: He gives a bad name to empty suits.

LENO: What happened to Huckabee? What's all this-

MATTHEWS: Huckabee is - he's one of these guys that comes off as nice he's - you know, a reverend, and a minister and all this. He's out there selling that Barack Obama grew up with the Mau Maus in Kenya. I mean, the guy - I spent three years in the Peace Corps. I mean, I - back in the two years, I was back and forth a lot, I - he never spent one day in his life in Kenya. He grew up in Hawaii. He spent like a couple years in Indonesia. - going to Catholic school there. The rest of the time, he's playing basketball in Honolulu. We've got pictures of him playing for his team in Honolulu, when he's a kid. When we got the announcement when he was born in the Honolulu newspapers when he was born. And they - I think it's racist. I'm sorry. I think that's the game they're playing.


MATTHEWS: They keep saying, you know-

LENO: Michele Bachmann? How about the shot heard 'round the world Michele Bachmann? What about that?

MATTHEWS: You know, I don't want to be the elitist, because she's waiting for me to be elitist. But you ought to at least know high school history. I mean, you grew up in Massachusetts.

LENO: Right.

MATTHEWS: You know Lexington and Concord, it was in your state, it wasn't in the other state. The other day, they're talking about, her and - I get - you got to know something to run for president, don't you?


MATTHEWS: You know, like the citizenship test you take when you come into this country, you got to know something. And then they'll say things - 'Well, I'm a woman, I'm a multitasker.' Okay, that's a start, that's not bad, I agree women can multitask, but the idea that's somehow a credential to be President of the United States?

LENO: Donald Trump, is he-

MATTHEWS: Wouldn't you like your plumber to know what a pipe was?


LENO: Well, yeah. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: You know?

LENO: Well, look, we will-

MATTHEWS: That's too mean. I want to be somewhat nonpartisan.

LENO: Yeah, yeah. And you can't get more nonpartisan than Chris.

- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.