Things got explosive today on the set of “Now with Alex Wagner,” MSNBC’s midday talk show. The host was chatting with libertarian and former congressman Ron Paul about his views and his appeal when she decided to institute a bit of on-air accountability. Let the Erik Wemple Blog transcript take it away:
Alex Wagner: With your emphasis on liberty, I have to ask you about some of the folks that are in your coalition. And this weekend you are going to be giving an address at the Fatima Center, a conference in Canada for the Fatima Center, which has been called a hard-core anti-Semite group. Is this something that you would reconsider doing?
Ron Paul: No. As a Catholic…
Wagner: Go ahead.
Paul: I even talk to Republicans and they disagree with everything I say. When I’m on a Republican stage and I say we should have a foreign policy of the golden rule, they boo me. I’m trying to covert people. But I’m going to a conservative Catholic group that is pro-peace and wants to hear my foreign policy and my take on economy. If I go only — I wouldn’t be on this station if I had to have a litmus test. I mean, you have an opinion. … I’m on your station, why can’t I go there?
Wagner: We appreciate you coming on this station, but at the same time this station is not advocating, as the Fatima Center has, to “the duty incumbent upon Catholics of combating valiantly for the integral rights of Christ the King and opposing Jewish nationalism and preaching about Satan’s plans against the church, among which include the granting of full citizenship to the Jews.” Is your appearance at an event like this not some kind of endorsement of…
Paul: What I would say is, yes, there are disagreements within the Catholic Church, and they’re debating its theological — I have nothing to do with that. I am not even going to pretend I know anything about that. Sounds to me like you have me on here to bash Catholics.
Wagner: I was raised Catholic, so that’s the last thing I’d want to do.
Paul: Yeah, well you ought to be more courteous to them and give them a break. I mean, you know, why can’t we have discussions with people that might have a difference? And I’ve put up with a lot of this in the last 40 years because not too many people agree, but why I’m excited is the country is coming toward the way of peace and this coalition of libertarians and progressives. We’ve had too much war, too much spending, too much Federal Reserve printing of money. And that’s what’s important. For you to bring this stuff up about the infractions of some group that I have no idea what their theology’s all about…that just astounds me.
Wagner: You know, there have been a lot of folks that have been involved with your campaign — supporters. There’ve been newsletters that have been accredited to you that have strong anti-Semitic, racist undertones and I think the American public is curious about how you endorse or do not endorse or deny involvement with any of that. And that’s why it’s a relevant line of questioning.
Paul: You know, the first month after I was elected in 1976 … I was a practicing physician for all these years. And I run for office, I had no expectation of winning. … The first month they put my picture in a magazine with a swastika. So this is just horrible and it just goes on. When people disagree with you on ideas, they have to destroy your character. That’s what they do. The main reason I get attacked from anybody, like you, it’s because there’s disagreement on my foreign policy. I want peace and I don’t want to support the war-mongers. So you have to go after somebody’s character. That’s wrong.
Wagner: I don’t think that constitutes a character attack, Dr. Paul, but we really do appreciate you coming on the show.
Some slight unpleasantries closed out the session. Whatever your politics, there’s no question that Wagner’s question was fair, strong and a continent removed from a character attack. People are accountable for the company that they keep. Paul may indeed not know much about this group’s “theology,” which constitutes nothing approaching an excuse.