At the same time that rising Republican Senate stars Rand Paul and Ted Cruz were making history with a filibuster, Chris Matthews, on Wednesday's Hardball, insisted Paul and Cruz must be heroes to hate groups.
During a segment on the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center's new study about an increase of anti-government hate groups, Matthews demanded which politicians they supported: "Who do they root for?! They don't root for Rand Paul? Pat Buchanan? I mean who? They must like this new guy Ted Cruz. They must love Ted Cruz, c'mon!"
The following are the relevant exchanges as aired on the March 6 of MSNBC's Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball, the crazies are still on the rise. A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center finds that the number of anti-government patriot groups has exploded over the last four years. According to the study these groups typically believe "that the federal government is conspiring to take Americans' guns away from them and destroy their liberties as it paves the way for a global one-world government."
MATTHEWS: These anti-government patriot groups have skyrocketed in number during President Obama's time in office. There only 149 groups back in 2008 and 2012. There are more than 1300 and that's an increase of over 800 percent. Look at the chart there. Yesterday the Southern Poverty Law Center sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder warning that the gun control debate may lead to even more such groups being founded. Mark Potok is a respected guy for us. He's with the Southern Poverty Law Center. And Brian Levin is with the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
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Gentlemen, I want you to start tonight. It's your report Mark. So lead the way here. Let me ask you this. I'm gonna get into this in my close tonight on the show, which I feel a lot. I Look at Obama as a perfect American. I don't mean politically. We can disagree left and right on him. You can argue about the drones. Argue about the fiscal policy, all that stuff. But as a citizen. The guy went to school, he never broke a law. He did everything right. He raised a wonderful family. He's a good husband, a good father. My God I don't think he's ever gotten a speeding ticket. The guy does everything right and these right-wingers. And he's really been pretty moderate on guns until the horror of Newtown. And I don't know what they're so afraid of, except that he happens to be black. Is there some reason why he has sparked this explosion of right-wing organizing?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me go to you Brian. The way I'm chalking this up, this right wing hysteria, if you will. Maybe it's logical on their point of view, the way they're thinking about demographic change. But guns, immigration and gays. Is that your reading, that those are the stimuli to these people when they organize these hate groups?
BRIAN LEVIN, CENTER FOR STUDY OF HATE & EXTREMISM: I think it's a lot of it, but I think we have to put in a context. The folklore of the far right - and I'm not talking about Mitt Romney supporters. I'm talking about people who have opted out of our political process and that's what's problematic. These people see the terra firma under them as shifting. Something that anchored them before, they no longer see as anchoring them.
MATTHEWS: Who do they root for?! Who do they root for?!
LEVIN: They don't root for anybody now.
MATTHEWS: They don't root for Rand Paul? Pat Buchanan? I mean who? They must like this new guy Ted Cruz. They must love Ted Cruz, c'mon!
-- Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.