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MSNBC’s Karen Finney Getting A Little Hung Up Over Alger Hiss

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HH: Pleased to welcome for the first time, and I hope she comes back often, Karen Finney, long time voice of the Democratic National Committee, now the host of a weekend show on MSNBC, Disrupt With Karen Finney. Karen, welcome, good to have you on, thank you for coming.

KF: Thanks so much. Thanks for having me on.

HH: Now I caught some of your show this weekend. I want to play the intro to your segment about Ted Cruz.

KF: In case you haven’t heard, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is a man on a mission. He wants to take away your health care, even if that means bringing down our government, or a war within the GOP. But Cruz’ rhetoric isn’t just detrimental to his party. It’s contributing to a broader environment of paranoia that could have very real consequences for our democracy. The fear stoking is reminiscent of another Senator, a man from Wisconsin on his own mission. He also wanted to take his country back. Then, it was from the Communists who had supposedly infiltrated it. His name, of course? Joe McCarthy. And while Cruz’ mission this time around might be different, the rhetoric sounds eerily the same.

HH: Now Karen Finney, a couple of questions.

KF: Sure.

HH: Number one, when you said about Joe McCarthy he wanted to take it back from the Communists who had supposedly infiltrated, did any Communists infiltrate the United States government?

KF: Well, I think if we go back to the McCarthy hearings, it’s pretty clear that he A) created, you know, a culture of paranoia and fear that people later recognized was, you know, people sort of bought into it, and then recognized that it was absolutely misplace. I mean, that’s the point.

HH: But Karen, did any Communists infiltrate our government?

KF: Please, go ahead and name them.

HH: Well, can you name them? I’m trying to figure out if you know if any of them did?

KF: Here’s the point. No, there weren’t Communists who infiltrated our government. I mean, that’s like Michele Bachmann accusing my friend, Huma Abedin, of actually being Muslim Brotherhood, because…

HH: No, actually, it’s not.

KF: …she may have known somebody.

HH: No, it’s not. No, this is just a historical question. Was Alger Hiss a Communist?

KF: You know what? Can we, I understand where you’re going with this, and I get why you want to do this, but…

HH: No, it’s just a question.

KF: But again, I think that’s distracting from the point I was trying to make.

HH: It’s just a question.

KF: And the point I was trying to make was you had Joe McCarthy was on a mission to root out Communism in the government, and he did it in such a way that created a hysteria that was very unhealthy for this country. Do you really disagree with me on that?

HH: Karen…

KF: You really think what Joe McCarthy did was…

HH: I just, I’m just a little talk show host. I’m not an MSNBC host. I just have history. I just want to know. Do you think Alger Hiss was a Communist?

KF: Do you think that what Joe McCarthy did was healthy for this country?

HH: This is an interview. It wasn’t a debate. I just heard your introduction, and it’s an easy question. Do you think Alger Hiss was a Communist?

KF: I answered your question. Now you may not like my answer, but I did answer your question.

HH: No, you didn’t. It’s either he was or he wasn’t. Do you think he was a Communist spy?

KF: I don’t think that has anything to do with the point that I was making.

HH: Fine. It’s just a historical question.

KF: It has nothing to do with the point I was making about Joe McCarthy, and you know it.

HH: But I’m just asking, do you think he was?

KF: It has nothing to do with the point I was making about Joe McCarthy, and you know it.

HH: Okay, I agree.

KF: And that’s the answer I’m going to give you.

HH: We’ll stipulate that. Let’s stipulate that. We’re just sitting around, talking for the benefit of the American audience listening right now. Was Alger Hiss a Communist?

KF: Again, that’s not the point I was making, and you know it. I’m not going to take the bait on that. Come on.

HH: Well, I understand that. But I’m just asking you like right now…

KF: You want me to take the bait on what you want to talk about, because then you want to go down a rabbit hole over…

HH: No, I don’t. I just want to know if you…

KF: …over an issue trying to trap me, and I’m trying to tell you, the point…

HH: …if you actually know that Alger Hiss was a Communist.

KF: What I actually know was that the culture that the McCarthy hearings created in this country were dangerous to our democracy, and we look back now and we recognize that.

HH: Karen, what was more dangerous? Was Alger Hiss dangerous to the country?

KF: Was…Joe McCarthy…the environment that Joe McCarthy created healthy for this country?

HH: Karen, did Ethel and Julius Rosenberg spy on the United States?

KF: They did, and that was wrong.

HH: Okay, thank you.

KF: That’s not the point.

HH: I just wanted to make sure we had some historical framework. Now how about Alger Hiss? Was he a Communist spy?

KF: Hugh, I’m not doing this game with you. I’m just not.

HH: It’s just, it could be over. I didn’t pursue any rabbit hole.

KF: I’m not going to play this game with you. It’s not about who was a Communist and who wasn’t a Communist.

HH: You really can’t bring yourself…

KF: Who betrayed this country and who didn’t betray this country. Obviously, spying on this country and betraying this country is absolutely wrong. Of course, it is.

HH: You really can’t bring yourself to say it.

KF: But my point, that’s not my point and you know it. My point is that Joe McCarthy, like Ted Cruz, has created an environment in this country that is dangerous.

HH: You can’t bring yourself to say…

KF: Ted Cruz is creating an environment supporting…these Tea Partiers in Congress, they don’t actually care about getting anything done.

HH: Karen, this is astonishing. You can’t bring yourself to say Alger Hiss was a Communist spy.

KF: Sure.

HH: What?

KF: That’s not the point.

HH: Oh, I know that.

KF: And you know it.

HH: But you can’t say it. It’s like watching the Fonz say “I… was… wrong.”

KF: But that’s not the point and you know it.

HH: I know that. I know it’s not your point. I’m just amazed.

KF: (Click)

HH: I’m amazed that you can’t say Alger Hiss was a Communist spy. It’s like the Fonz not being able to say he was wrong. Karen, are you there? Karen hung up. Karen, she joined the Hang Up Club. Karen Finney hung up on me. (laughing) That is amazing. That is absolutely amazing. She could not answer that Alger Hiss was a Communist. Oh, absolutely call her back. Maybe she had a malfunction. Absolutely call her back. I just, I cannot, I cannot believe that. I cannot, I actually find that impossible to believe that that was, that she could not answer, she could not…what is it about the left? She answered and hung up on Marlon again. She couldn’t, she can’t deal with that question. That is, I am flabbergasted, I am astonished. The Professor stayed on for an hour. So she has got a show on MSNBC called Disrupt, and she can’t handle a little tiny question about Alger Hiss. She can’t talk to me and say yes, Alger Hiss was a Communist, Hugh. I just find that…can you go back and play a little bit of that? I don’t even know what to say. I am so at a loss for words. The people who have hung up on me in my life now include Karen Finney and Helen Thomas and Ed Henry. (And John Zogby)


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