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Has MSNBC 'Hardball' host Chris Matthews gone soft with new Bill Clinton special?

Clinton and matthews
Chris Matthews hasn't exactly been on the Friends of Bill list. Why, just three years ago, the host of MSNBC's "Hardball" landed in hot water when he suggested that Hillary Rodham Clinton owed her political career to her husband's infidelities.

"I'd been a pretty tough critic of Clinton over the years," Matthews said in a phone chat Thursday afternoon.

So what's he doing making a fawning special on Bill Clinton, complete with worshipful comments from celebrities such as Ben Stiller, Kevin Spacey and Mary Steenburgen?

Matthews says that "President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon," the special he hosts at 10 p.m. Monday on MSNBC, is no whitewash. Rather, it's a look at Clinton's charitable work since he left the presidency -- work that Matthews says has been nearly universally praised.

And he doesn't ignore the bad stuff, he says.

"I think I hit the points of fact that had to be hit in terms of the past," Matthews said of his interviews with Clinton. "We talked about Marc Rich, we talked about the Whitewater stuff, we talked about the impeachment.... This treatment was to look at a story that had not been covered.

"What is the negative? Tell me what I missed! I don't think I underreported something I had an awareness of."

Matthews -- who in his spare time writes presidential biographies; he has one due on John F. Kennedy later this year -- said he spent some time working on getting access to Clinton, with especially heavy attention on Doug Band, a close aide.

"They were very open to me," Matthews said.

Once he got access, Matthews said he was surprised by how seldom Clinton talks about the old days. "The guy does keep his mind going.... He doesn't tell old stories about what it was like to be president," he said. "He carries this satchel around with him, like an old-time 19th century satchel.... He started going through his book selections with me."

But there were limits to how close Matthews could get. He wanted to film Clinton going through some paraphernalia at his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark. But that request was ultimately denied.

"They got mad at me ... he didn't like something I said on the air," Matthews said with a chuckle. "I'm not in the business of getting liked. Obviously."

-- Scott Collins (Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT)

Photo: Chris Matthews interviews Bill Clinton on "President of the World." Credit: MSNBC.

Comments () | Archives (6)

Chris has never asked Obama a tough question.why pick on Clinton?

The ex-president doesn't look too great in this photo. Is he okay?

Why does Clinton hangout with that windbag, Matthews? An extremely rude, self-obsessed news personality with an unpleasant harshness.

I did ot start out with any feelings either way about this reporter but after 1 and half years of listening to his drivel I would greatly appreciate if this papist was removed from national t.v. First cnn gets rid of a great informative newsman in Lou Dobbs because he went after that criminal Villagosa in L.A. who bankrupt L.A. protecting those degenerate priest,and shoving as many illegals as they can get away with , in to our system, the whole time , protecting them with catholic D.A. while the catholic f.b.i. in L.A. says "what? you must be dangerous to attack priest. Then replacing Dobbs with Yellin who is covering up for the crooked deals her father did while in office. Then this excuse for an informative newscaster Matthews who knows Bill and Hillary are crooks who got away only because Bush senior showed them who was really in charge, The unelected Churchs who steal land don't pay taxes, export dissension and war against the world. Matthews should show a pair and report on that. Not elevating a pimp and whore to sainthood like he is trying. The Clintons are not the answer, never were.. Move on Chris and help America find the real leaders out there, not dancing out old misfits in new clothes like a communist country. I really do detest the way this guy pretends to have all this knowledge from his time in Washington yet never exposes any thing, just rants about Fox which no serious person looking for real answers would listen to.

I heard a rumor it's ALS.

Too bad he was a mediocre President... a shill for corporations ...sold out millions of Americans in the drug war and failed to even make a genuine 'attempt' to appoint hundreds of Federal judges ...President of the World ? ...nah.... his d...aughter is on the take for an economy raping hedge fund and his wife continues to implement the exploitative foreign policy of George Bush...he definitely bites his lip well and tells pseudo-liberal corporate greedheads just what they need to hear to feel less guilty ..,,..hope this isn't a buzz kill :))

Chris Matthews has an annoying habit of fawning over certain politicians. He really trashed Hillary during the primaries. He was passionate about Obama and still is. I would fall off my seat if I ever heard him say anything negative about Obama.

He loves to hear himself talk. I don't know why he has guests on when all he does is interrupt them or talk over them. If any of them don't agree with him, he will talk them into the ground until they cry "uncle." He is extremely biased and, in my opinion, not anywhere as bright as he thinks he is.


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