MSNBC host Chris Matthews compared Russian advertisements and Twitter accounts to the Sept. 11 attacks in his comments to Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) on Thursday night.
Matthews and Schiff were discussing the effects of Russian use of social media on the 2016 presidential election, and the "Hardball" host argued that the U.S. must tighten laws on Internet use. He compared the openness of Facebook and Twitter to Russian users to flight instructors’ openness to give the 9/11 hijackers flight lessons, which Matthews called "bombing lessons."
"When they came here to bomb us, hit the World Trade Centers back in 2001, did you notice how they came here for flying lessons? And Americans gave them flying lessons down in Florida, and the guy giving them flying lessons said ‘I thought they were from Germany.’ Come on—a little sophistication about who is coming to get the bombing lessons, controlling an airplane and taking it into the Twin Towers," Matthews said while Schiff nodded.
He did not explain why flight teachers should have been suspicious of Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, who did not reveal their intentions to fly planes into the World Trade Center when they took lessons in Florida. Matthews went on to say that exploiting Twitter was similar, and he called web companies "numbnuts" for allowing suspicious Russian clients.
"Now these guys just casually take Twitter," Matthews said. "They exploit the hell out of it, it's free. They exploit Facebook, they pay a few bucks, and these numbnuts that give them this authority, they treat these platforms like they are open to anybody—come on, the bank’s open."
Matthews then asked Schiff if he was amazed that "people like Zuckerman" — presumably a reference to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — maintain neutrality.
"Doesn't it amaze you that people like Zuckerman act like they are so neutral on this fight between the bad guys and the good guys?" Matthews asked. "Are they neutralists?"
Schiff started to say he was surprised it took so long for social media networks to realize they had sketchy Russian users, but Matthews cut him off.
"You think they are not a little bit open to this because it keeps the door wide open for money?" Matthews asked.
"This is going to have to be part of our oversight," Schiff replied.
The House Intelligence Committee has been investigating the effects of Russian online activity related to the 2016 election.