Friday Classic Clip: Politician Challenges Host To Duel (2004)

In 2004, Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller made headlines for a couple of reasons.

He first got the nation’s attention by crossing party lines and supporting George W. Bush for president instead of his party’s nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

But as it turns out, that isn’t what he’s best remembered for.

On September 1, 2004, he addressed the Republican National Convention, asking if John Kerry was going to defend the nation with “spitballs.” Later that night, Sen. Miller appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball With Chris Matthews – and he took issue with some of the loudmouth host’s questions.

Let’s just say the interview didn’t go well.

Click here if you want to see part one of the video, which immediately preceded the above clip.

Among other memorable phrases, Sen. Miller told Chris Matthews:

“Get out of my face!”

“I wish I was over there where I could get a little closer up into your face.”

“If you get in my face, I’m going to get back in your face.”

 

But it was this line which became iconic:

“I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel.”

 

That’s right. A United States senator wanted to duel a cable news host. But we later found out that there was more to the story. Before Sen. Miller came on the air, Mr. Matthews referred to him as an “old-time seggy,” or segregationist. Mr. Miller was infuriated by that claim.

No wonder he wanted to challenge Matthews to a duel. His pride was wounded. And his hostile interview didn’t really matter, since he had already announced his retirement from the Senate. 

The “Matthews-Miller Duel” may have been the most high-profile mention of the word “duel” since an actual duel that had occurred almost exactly 200 years earlier. In July 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

And you thought this interview was hostile.

Want to see more classic clips? Click here for a few other memorable media moments.