Is MSNBC providing free advertising for President Obama?

A network promotional campaign being run this summer on the cable network and in movie theaters is raising eyebrows among some viewers who believe MSNBC is actively campaigning for Obama’s re-election, and possibly admitting Obama may not be a natural-born American citizen.

“Sometimes I think the critics of the president are just clearly unfair when they say he doesn’t love this country,” says Chris Matthews, anchor of MSNBC’s “Hardball” program in one of the “Lean Forward” ads directed by Spike Lee.

“And here’s a guy of mixed background, and he said ‘Only in this country, my country, is this story possible.’ I think that was the greatest testament to American exceptionalism. I don’t think that you can say that in Japan or in China. You can’t go these countries and become Chinese.”

Then while pointing to the White House in the background, Matthews concludes by saying, “And look where he is.”

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That last statement caught the attention of Cat Mailander of New York City, who claims Matthews just “outed Obama” as a foreigner, and not a natural-born citizen.

“Saying that you can’t go to China and become Chinese, he implied that you can come to America and become American, which is true,” Mailander said. “But by saying that, he admits Obama came here and became American, and then became president. That proves that he and MSNBC know that Obama is a foreigner.”

Mailander says the most recent version of that spot actually has edited out Matthews’ statement about going to China and becoming Chinese.

Ironically, Matthews is starring in another spot in the rotation, where he focuses on the president being an American.

Matthews says in the second ad: “You know, I think one of the things that we’re going to see in the 2012 presidential election is whether one of the Republicans stands up and says, ‘I disagree with Obama on taxes, on the size of government and some foreign-policy issues. But he’s as much an American as I am.’ And you know what the problem of this election of 2012 is? They won’t say that. Let’s move on to the issue.”

Larry Klayman of the political advocacy group Freedom Watch told WND he doesn’t think the matter is one for the Federal Election Commission to investigate, but he says it’s offensive nonetheless.

“Chris Mathews has regrettably become a whore,” Klayman said. “His attacks on Christian conservatives, tea partiers and birthers are simply marketing. He is too intelligent to believe the crap he dishes, but MSNBC wants him to dish this crap, since it is trying to fill a market niche as the leftist counterpart to Fox News. MSNBC failed in its attempt to compete with Fox News, so it exited ‘stage left.'”

Matthews has previously come under fire and ridicule since his comment in 2008 about a personal feeling he had when listening to an Obama speech.

“I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean I don’t have that too often,” Matthews said on the air. “Seriously, it’s a dramatic event. He speaks about America in a way that has nothing to do with politics, but has to do with the feeling we have about our country. And that is an objective assessment.”

Matthews is not the only MSNBC host to star in the commercials.

Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz are each featured in a variety of locations across America, including Hoover Dam in Nevada.

“These ads are unlike anything else,” said Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC. “They are mini-documentaries that express the passion of our primetime hosts. You’re able to truly learn what drives them and why their audience tunes in to watch their shows.”

Some of the productions don’t shy away from hot-button political issues, and even help champion causes pushed by Obama.

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In one focusing on health care, Lawrence O’Donnell said: “Health-care reform didn’t go far enough. Health-care reform went halfway. Do you need a public option? What you need in health care is a global solution. What you need in health care is a solution that covers everyone because health care is a basic human necessity.”

MSNBC is known for a strong lean to the left in its news coverage, and it suspended its former anchor Keith Olbermann for ethics violations for contributing to the political campaigns of Democrats without the prior approval of the president of NBC News.

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