Matthews Accuses RNC Chair, Romney of Playing the ‘Race Card’

By Melanie Arter | August 27, 2012 | 1:44 PM EDT

MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on June 4, 2012. ( Starr)

( MSNBC host Chris Matthews accused RNC Chairman Reince Priebus of playing the “race card” for making an issue out of the welfare work requirement.

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday, Matthews said Romney also played the race card for joking about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

“This stuff about getting rid of the work requirement for welfare is dishonest. Everyone’s pointed out it’s dishonest, and you are playing that little ethnic card there. You can play your games and giggle about it, but the fact is your side is playing that card,” Matthews  told Priebus.

“When you start talking about work requirements, you know what game you’re playing, and everybody knows what game you’re playing – it’s a race card,” he added.

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As reported, the Obama administration announced in July that it would issue waivers to states of the federal requirements that welfare recipients find work or participate in job training.

That requirement was enacted in 1996. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a chief architect of the welfare reform law, said the administration’s decision to waive the work requirements “is against the law” and an “abuse of presidential power.”

“You’ve been suggesting that somehow Obama’s been running a negative campaign, and your guy’s been running a positive campaign. That’s not accurate. In fact… they’ve both been negative. That cheap shot about, ‘I don’t have a problem with my birth certificate’ was awful. It is an embarrassment to your party to play that card,” Matthews said.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, host of “Morning Joe,” asked Matthews if he really believes Romney’s playing the race card.

“There’s no doubt he did with the birth certificate. No doubt. Why would he bring it up? Why would he say, ‘I have no problem with my birth certificate?’ What’s that supposed to say?” Matthews asked.

“Because he’s an awkward joker,” said Mika Brzezinski, co-host of “Morning Joe.”

“Because he misfired badly on the joke,” Scarborough said. He asked Matthews again if he thought Romney played the race card.

“Yeah, and I think this work requirement fits right into it,” Matthews said.

“That’s the race card too?” Scarborough asked.

“Of course it is – welfare, food stamps. Absolutely. You can chuckle about it, Mr. Chairman, because you have to flack this issue, but the fact is you know what’s going on,” Matthews said.

“You got your monologue in so, congratulations. You’re loaded up. You got it out, so good for you,” Reince responded, adding that Romney was “making the point that ‘I was born in Michigan.’”

“And you know what? We’ve gotten to a place in politics that any moment of levity is totally frowned upon by guys like you just so that you can push your brand. You know what? Good for you. It’s a moment of levity. Everybody gets it,” Reince said.

“What was the joke?” Matthews asked.

“Barack Obama came out at the correspondent’s dinner with his own joke as you remember a couple years ago playing the Hulk Hogan song, ‘I’m a Real American.’ Every person - myself – starting in February of last year, as soon as I became chairman of the RNC, Mitt Romney continuously has said, ‘This president was born in this country. It’s a non-starter. It’s a dumb issue. It’s a distraction forget about it,’ Priebus said.

“It just seems funny that the first joke he’s ever told in his life was about Obama’s birth certificate. It was just a funny choice,” Matthews said.