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What's wrong with Chris Matthews?

Posted 19 April, 2007 at 12:45am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Current Events, Rant)

Chris Matthews and Karan GrewalThis week we were all shocked by the tragedy at Virginia Tech where Cho Seung-Hui gunned down and killed at least 33 people. I don't really want to blog about the events or the manifesto or how crazy Cho Seung-Hui must have been - but I do want to talk about getting upset over an interview with Karan Grewal (Cho's "roommate") and Chris Matthews.

In case you don't know who Chris Matthews is, he's a journalist / political commentator on MSNBC. I don't watch his show (Hardball with Chris Matthews), but apparently he's known to interrupt his guests and disagree with them vehemently. In any case, for some reason, they chose him to interview Karan Grewal who lived in the same suite as Cho. (In some colleges, there is housing set up in suites rather than the traditional dormitory floors. The suites generally have three to ten rooms and a common area which the residents of the suite share. I stayed in suites of varying sizes when I went to college and found it to be a fairly intimate environment where you get to know your suitemates much better than if you were living on a floor with forty or more students.)

Chris starts off asking Karan what it was like "roommating" with Cho, to which Karan replied that Cho was quiet and reserved. Karan then stated that Cho kept to himself and didn't seem dangerous at all. Karan had thought that Cho was "really shy and reserved" and left him alone after "most times when [he] said 'Hi', he's looked down or look away and pretend he didn't hear me."

Chris replies with: "I never heard of a kid like that - did you? Have you ever heard of a person like that? That wouldn't communicate in college? I mean in college you try to get along with people; it's part of the experience, to… to be social to some extent. Have you ever heard of a kid who wouldn't talk to you?" Chris then asks Karan if the cops came to Karan before the killings and asked him if Cho was a threat, then what would Karan say. Karan replied that he would tell the cops that Cho was not aggressive in nature or angry. He emphasized that he'd never seen Cho upset - just basically the same expression all the time. Chris then interrupts and says, "I have to tell you Karan, I've never heard of anyone like this in my life. You mean, he walked around without aspect, like a zombie, and you guys didn't talk about him, you never told anybody about him, you never thought this was really weird — you said weird — I think really weird. You never thought it was really weird that a guy who was completely incommunicado with his own suitemates."

I looked at my screen and I said, "What?" and typed "What?" in my IM window to my coworker Cliff (we were working from home, otherwise I would have said it out loud — due to a series of instant messages, we had ended up watching the same news video roughly at the same time). At the same time, on my screen, Karan said, "What?"

Apparently Chris Matthews lives in a different world than I do. Without the knowledge that Cho was to become a mass murderer - he was simply an extremely introverted and shy teenager. They are no mean the majority or plurality of the kids around, but to deny that they even exist is kind of odd. Then to imply that the suitemates should have reported the shy kid or asked to transfer because your suitemate was too quiet (which he asked Karan earlier if he did - Karan said "No") is ludicrous.

Throughout the rest of the interview Chris hunts for someone to blame. He doesn't come out and say it, but he sets up a lot of leading questions and implication filled statements. After acting incredulous that the suitemates (or Karan himself) did not ask for a transfer, he then forcefully states that the University administration kept Cho's past (psychological issues, stalking reports) from his suitemates. He also asked a few leading questions suggesting that the suitemates assumed Cho was not fluent in English. Then later in the interview he jumps on Karan for not noticing that Cho was obviously fluent in English since he spent a lot of time on the computer writing in English.

My favorite part was when Chris tried to blame Counter-Strike, the terrorist/counter-terrorist first person shooter/simulation. Not once, but twice he asked about Counter-Strike in particular. The first time, Karan stated that Cho didn't play computer games. About 3 minutes later, Chris comes back and asks again about Counter-Strike.

Chris: Let me ask you about… is there any culture at Virginia Tech about video games, anything the guys talk about… like video games, like this Counter-Strike game?

Karan: Well, there's a lot of tournaments that people do by themselves but there's no formal club tha…

Chris: But, what about the informal? Is there a sub-culture around video games?

Karan: Not really. Some people are interested, some people are not. There's not really a big culture on any kind of violent games or anything. No.

To quote Cliff's IM: pwned!

Anyway, Chris then goes on to see if he can find fault in the police's actions. He then says that Cho wasn't a very smart criminal to have removed the serial numbers from his guns but leaving a paper trail of receipts so the guns could be tracked back to Cho. Again, Cliff and I were incredulous. I wrote, "he's not trying to get away" and Cliff wrote, "uh, leave a trail? you mean like from his corpse? It's fairly obvious who did it"

The ending of the news clip left us with this statement from Chris: You know, you know, I have to tell you, as much as I am in disbelief that a person could be a roommate… you guys are very tolerant. Maybe it's - I don't know whether it's diversity or something, but today in school you're much nicer to classmates and roommates than we ever were. If we had a roommate that never talked at all to any of us, I think we would be asking for changes of roommates.

I think that is an underlying problem with journalists like Chris Matthews. He's operating under a different set of experiences and assumptions about the world — the world has moved on and the people reporting on it to us have not.

Link to video on MSNBC (opens in new window)

13 comments to What's wrong with Chris Matthews?

Jon, April 19th, 2007 at 7:36 am:

  • I agree Chris Matthews is way off base, but I don't think it's from "operating under a different set of experiences" unless this sort of brainwashing is what they teach journalists these days. He's a journalist hunting for an angle to try and force Karan to give him some kind of quote that he can create a sound bite out of and a headline with. He's just a pushy journalist with an agenda. I wish we could go back to the days when journalists asked real questions instead of pretending to be pyschologists and detectives.

    All Chris had to do was ask, "So Karan, what was Cho like?" and let Karan do the talking. That's news. Trying to badger him and create news (aka lies — misleading, out of context quotes to generate "news") is a slimy business but it seems to be the status quo these days.

Laura, April 19th, 2007 at 9:25 am:

  • Exactly how I felt when I saw that interview. I'm still so frustrated that I can't even write coherently about it.

Honeybee, April 19th, 2007 at 4:10 pm:

  • I was appalled when one of the network TV news programs flashed the name of the boyfriend of the first girl killed in the dorms on the screen. This poor kid was being questioned in her death when the shootings at the engineering building began. So, this guy who just learned his girlfriend was murdered now has his name in big letters on national TV. He was not very important to the story so why put his name on the screen.

Gary, April 19th, 2007 at 4:57 pm:

  • I also think Chris was off-base trying to extract information from his roommate. We all hear stories about wives and husbands who don't know his/her spouse is cheating, leading a double life, etc., and those people have selected to get married and live together, usually for years before they find out anything being kept secret or just not discussed between them. Cho CHOSE not to talk to his roommates, so why is it any wonder they didn't know about him? This is a case of a broadcaster doing his best to get a "scoop" because he was interviewing someone who was acquainted with a mass murderer. Often when we hear about a mass murderer, the news media virtually always interviews people who say they were a "loaner" or was quiet or kept to himself. Unfortunately, when it comes to using that characteristic to stop someone from nefarious deeds, one can't help but notice that the world is full of quiet, kind people to are introverted and keep to themselves. You just don't often see how many of those people there are, for the simple reason that they do keep quiet and to themselves.

Michael Chu, April 19th, 2007 at 5:55 pm:

  • Honeybee - I think there was a lot of confusion early on and it wasn't entirely clear to the media and the police that the two shootings (7:15am in the dorm and 9:15am in the classroom) were perpetrated by the same individual. I think it was initially treated as two separate incidents, then later they believed two people may have performed the shootings, and then finally it became clear that Cho did them all. During this time, the media was probably jumping on any suspect and they probably didn't know the boyfriend would become unimportant.

    I do agree that it was appalling for them to so quickly publicize the name of the boyfriend before anything conclusive had come down the pipes. Hopefully, the news plastering his name over national TV will not add to the sorrow and grief he must surely be feeling.

Honeybee, April 19th, 2007 at 6:31 pm:

  • Michael- This was Wednesday night, when the story was known. The story was the police were interviewing "name of the boyfriend is large white letters that filled the screen" when Cho was shooting up the engineering building. My dh said that he hope the boyfriend sues the news station.

Michael Chu, April 19th, 2007 at 9:12 pm:

  • Yeah, there's no excuse for doing that on Wednesday night. Wow.

Lucky Pierre, April 20th, 2007 at 6:06 am:

  • I have to agree with you. Chris Mathews, and too many like him, push their own unfounded theories for which they have little or no qualification. The networks should all clean up their acts, and stick to reporting the news and leave the analysis to real knowledgeable experts - after the facts are known. It's sickening listening to stupid reporters trying to manipulate the responses from VT students by the way they frame their questions, and then cutting them off when the response is not to their liking.

Molly, April 20th, 2007 at 6:57 am:

  • I laughed out loud when CM said "I don't want to ask a leading question here but…."

Sue, April 21st, 2007 at 6:30 pm:

  • I, too, was sickened by most of the comments Chris Matthews made, especially when he essentially condones ostracizing extremely shy, introverted individuals! Karan didn't know at the time what Cho would
    eventually do. For Matthews to say he would have asked for a change of roommates (if he were in Karan's "situation") just because his roommate "kept to himself" is cruel and could push someone who's near the edge even closer to it. Matthews made lots of other juvenile, mean-spirited comments in that interview (had to write Hardball to express my disgust).

Michael Chu, April 24th, 2007 at 2:22 am:

Alice, April 24th, 2007 at 2:30 pm:

  • USA Today has been just as irresponsible (playing with the facts).
    As tragic as it is, it's not "the worst mass killing ever" - not even in the US, not even limited to schools.

    These types of 'journalists' will argue any side as long as they think there is chance of getting a good emotional clip.

Angi, April 19th, 2009 at 8:53 pm:

  • Holy crap. Really, I know plenty of introverted people in my college. Myself included, I would rather read a book than listen to my roommates blather on about their boyfriends and their sex life, or how much they partied the night before.

    Sheesh. Blame it on the ill adjusted, why don't you?