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MSNBC's Mike Barnicle Smears John McCain: More Afraid of J.D. Hayworth Than of North Vietnamese

During a discussion of John McCain's drift rightward on Wednesday's Morning Joe, MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle smeared the Arizona Senator as more scared of Republican primary challenger J.D. Hayworth than he was of his Vietnamese torturers. Barnicle mocked, "The ultimate sadness is that, here, in the 21st century, running for re-election, he shows more fear of J.D. Hayworth than he showed toward his captors in North Vietnam." [MP3 audio available here]

"That is really sad," added Barnicle. At this point, the show ground to a complete stop. Seemingly stunned by the journalist's comments, co-host Mika Brzezinski sputtered, "That's- Okay. I'm just going to stay away from that. " The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart marveled, "Wow."

Joe Scarborough, who is supposed to be the token conservative on the liberal cable network, provided no defense of McCain. He neutrally remarked, "There's a pregnant pause. Some very tough things being said here." Scarborough continued, "And since I'm a diplomat, and I never say such things, I'm just going to go to my good friend Paul Ryan." He then moved on to a different subject and talked to the Republican Congressman.

In addition to MSNBC, Barnicle has also contributed to the Huffington Post and Newsweek. He resigned from the Boston Globe in 1998 after allegations of plagiarism.

A transcript of the exchange, which aired at 8:05am EDT, follows:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Is he angry and bitter, Mike Barnicle?

MIKE BARNICLE: To me, there is a sadness to what he says. And what he has been saying. There is a real sadness 'cause this is not the same man that so many people in this country, Republican and Democrat, fell in love with and admired.

HENDRIK HERTZBERG (New Yorker): Me, too. I was on the bus and you know, and loved this guy. He's a Republican, but I like him anyway. Made me feel good about myself. I could like him.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I liked the maverick.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: The maverick.

HERTZBERG: But it's just sad.

CAPEHART: The label he's running away from.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: But he can be against Barack Obama, can't he, without being sad and pathetic.

CAPEHART: Right. He can be against Barack Obama but the guy is running against himself. He's running against the guy you rode on the bus with, the guy in 2000 that Democrats and republicans looked at and said "Hey." When you listen to John McCain speak, even recently, I think, a year and a half ago there was something in Washington, when you hear him speak, you hear Democrats saying "You know, I could vote for that guy." You don't hear- That guy is gone.

MIKE BARNICLE: The ultimate sadness is that, here, in the 21st century, running for re-election, he shows more fear of J.D. Hayworth than he showed toward his captors in North Vietnam. That is really sad.

HERTZBERG: That's sad.

[Awkward pause]

BRZEZINSKI: That's- Okay.

CAPEHART: Wow.

BRZEZINSKI: I'm just going to stay away from that.

SCARBOROUGH: There's a pregnant pause. Some very tough things being said here.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, I'm not sure-

SCARBOROUGH: And since I'm a diplomat, and I never say such things, I'm just going to go to my good friend Paul Ryan. [Changes subject.]

-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.