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Chris Matthews: RNC chairman, Romney playing ‘the race card’

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus and MSNBC host Chris Matthews got into a heated exchange on Monday, after Matthews accused the GOP of playing the "race card" against President Obama. 

The row began after Matthews said Mitt Romney’s recent joke referencing the conspiracy theories surrounding the president’s birth certificate and his insistence that President Obama was gutting the work requirement for welfare were racially loaded attacks. 

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“That cheap shot about 'I don't have a problem with my birth certificate' was awful,” said Matthews. “It is an embarrassment to your party to play that card. 

"This stuff about getting rid of the work requirement for welfare is dishonest, everyone's pointed out it's dishonest, and you are playing that little ethnic card there," Matthews continued. "You can play your games and giggle about it, but the fact is your side is playing that card. When you start talking about work requirements, we know what game you’re playing, and everybody knows what game you’re playing, it’s a race card."

Priebus initially dismissed Matthews’s charges, noting that Romney had repeatedly said he believes Obama was born in the United States and characterizing the remark as a moment of levity from the presumptive GOP candidate.

The situation escalated when the RNC chairman said Obama was “looking for guidance” from Europe in formulating domestic policy.

“That’s insane,” Matthews shouted. “It’s your foreign-ization of this guy — you’re doing it again. What is this European thing of yours?”

“I’m not going to get into a shouting match with Chris,” Priebus said. “So you guys can move on.”

“Because you’re losing, that’s why,” Matthews shot back.

“Garbage,” Priebus muttered. “Garbage.”

“You’re garbage,” Matthews said, as MSNBC quickly cut to commercial break.

At a campaign event Friday, Romney made a joke referencing the “birther” theories surrounding the president. 

“Now, I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital," the presumptive GOP nominee said at a campaign rally in Michigan.

The Obama campaign seized on the remarks, releasing a Web video on Saturday saying “America doesn’t need a birther-in-chief.”

Romney in an interview said that he did not intend for his comment to be a swipe against the president. 

“I've said throughout the campaign and before, there's no question about where he was born. He was born in the U.S. This was fun about us, and coming home. And humor, you know — we've got to have a little humor in a campaign,” Romney told CBS News.

This story was updated at 10:10 a.m.