In those comments, Matthews said the president is "post-racial" and that he was pleased that Americans didn't think about the fact that the president of the United States is African-American.
Speaking to Rachel Maddow later in the evening, Matthews clarified the comments, saying he was "very proud" he made them.
"To see a president of the United States who is African-American, I was thinking tonight – this isn't even an issue tonight," Matthews said. "How far we've come in just a year, where it was a campaign issue in some parts of the country, it was talked about as something that would hurt him. And it wasn't in the room tonight, you could feel it wasn't there tonight. And that takes leadership on his part, to get us beyond these divisions."
Matthews added that Mr. Obama has "done something wonderful" and "taken us beyond black and white in our politics."
Matthews' comments brought to mind another recently-unearthed comment about Mr. Obama's relationship with race: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's characterization during the campaign of the president as a "light-skinned" African-American who didn't have a "Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Seizing on Matthews' comment last night, liberal blog Think Progress offered a criticism of the cable host that echoed critics of Reid: "Matthews' comment seems to imply that a man who is too 'black' still can't become 'a leader of this country.'"
Matthews' comment also provided fodder to critics who say the cable host is overly-enamored of the president. They are fond of pointing to Matthews' comment that he "felt this thrill going up my leg" following an Obama speech during the campaign.
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