Chris Matthews has announced that he is retiring from MSNBC amid numerous controversies, including recent sexual harassment allegations.
Matthews was said to be planning to leave the network soon, but his decision was reportedly sped up by complaints about sleazy behavior in the workplace. The anchor, who had been with MSNBC for 20 years, also came under fire for insensitive live commentary, including a flat-footed comparison between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, and the Nazi regime.
Chris Matthews announces retirement
Matthews was conspicuously missing from the airwaves during Saturday’s coverage of the South Carolina primaries, as The Hill’s Joe Concha noted, and it’s now clear why. During his final broadcast of Hardball Monday evening, Matthews suddenly announced that he had reached a mutual decision to part ways with his home network of two decades.
“Let me start with my headline tonight: “I’m retiring,” Matthews said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “This is the last Hardball on MSNBC, and obviously this isn’t for lack of interest in politics. As you can tell, I’ve loved every minute of my 20 years as host of Hardball. Every morning I read the papers and I’m gung-ho to get to work. Not many people have had this privilege.”
An MSNBC spokesperson said that recent events had played a role in Matthews’ departure. Matthews had come under fire for various controversies recently that reached their apex with an article by GQ columnist Laura Bassett accusing him of making sexist and inappropriate comments to her in the studio. The article was published a day before the longtime pundit went AWOL on Saturday.
“Another time, he stood between me and the mirror and complimented the red dress I was wearing for the segment. ‘You going out tonight?’ he asked. I said I didn’t know, and he said—again to the makeup artist—’Make sure you wipe this off her face after the show. We don’t make her up so some guy at a bar can look at her like this,'” Bassett wrote in part, according to TIME.
Matthews acknowledged the accusations in his final on-air remarks and apologized. “Compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were OK, were never OK. Not then and certainly not today, and, for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry,” Matthews said, according to Reuters.
Broader generational shift
But Matthews had already faced calls to resign before Bassett’s article surfaced. Indeed, his departure seems almost to mark a generational change. A bastion of moderate liberalism on MSNBC for years, Matthews found himself outflanked when he sparked controversy with tin-eared rhetoric about the prospective takeover of the Democratic Party by Sen. Sanders.
Matthews compared the scenario to Adolf Hitler’s invasion of France, which caused particular outrage because Sanders is Jewish. Although Matthews apologized for his comments, he had also shown in other comments about Sanders just how out of touch he had grown with his party in the 20 years since he started hosting Hardball.
The liberal anchor prompted a backlash when he speculated that there would be executions in Central Park if sociliasm ever takes a foothold in America — a dreadful scenario that would have been realized sooner had the “reds” won the Cold War, he said.
In his final broadcast, Matthews seemed to acknowledge that his resignation was part of a wider generational shift that touched not just on party ideology, but also on norms of behavior in the workplace.
“After a conversation with MSNBC, I decided tonight will be my last Hardball, so let me tell you why,” he said. “The younger generations out there are ready to take the reins. We see them in politics, in the media, in fighting for their causes. They are improving the workplace,” he said.
A rotating cast of hosts is set to take over Matthews’ 7 p.m. slot.