After an extended (and terribly lame) opening monologue bit on the coronavirus and the bang-up job that “Donald Trump, M.D., Trump University School of Medicine” is doing to handle its spread, Bill Maher addressed the firing of his “friend” this week: Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball.
The Real Time host said that he “will miss him, and a lot of other people will too,” before taking aim at MSNBC for urging his resignation.
“MSNBC used to run this thing: this is who we are. Well, I didn’t like who you were this week, and I don’t think a lot of people who work there liked this ether, and I think this ‘cancel culture’ is a cancer on progressivism,” Maher ranted. “Liberals always have to fight a two-front war. Republicans only have to fight the Democrats; Democrats have to fight the Republicans, and each other.”
Maher claimed that all Chris Matthews did was make a poor “analogy” when he compared Bernie Sanders, a Jew, to the Nazis (“I hope the victims got some closure,” the comic sarcastically cracked); that Matthews was basically branded a “Klansman” for mixing up Jaime Harrison and Tim Scott, two African-American politicians; and that people overreacted to Matthews being “mean” to Elizabeth Warren when he pressed her on why people should believe Mike Bloomberg’s female accusers over the billionaire himself.
And then things got really ugly, as the HBO host targeted Laura Bassett, who accused Matthews of sexually harassing her when she was a guest on his program.
In an essay for GQ, Bassett described how Matthews stared her down while she was in the makeup chair and remarked, “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?” before adding, “Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.” Another time, she recalls Matthews saying to her—again in the makeup chair—“Make sure you wipe this [makeup] off her face after the show. We don’t make her up so some guy at a bar can look at her like this.”
According to Maher, Matthews “said some things that are kind of creepy to women,” continuing, “You know, I just, guys are married for a million years, they want to flirt for two seconds. He said to somebody, Laura Bassett, four years ago, she’s in makeup, he said, ‘Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?’ Yes, it is creepy. She said, ‘I was afraid to name him at the time out of fear of retaliation. I’m not afraid anymore.’ Thank you, Rosa Parks. I mean, Jesus fucking Christ! I guess my question is: Do you wonder how Democrats lose?”
One of his roundtable guests, the anti-#MeToo writer Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic, proceeded to further mock Bassett, saying of her, “How fragile can one woman be?” and insinuating that she was only booked on Matthews’ show because “she probably looked good on camera.”
With that, Maher chimed in: “Is she a compliment-victim or a compliment-survivor?”
As is his wont, in addition to blaming and shaming the victim, Maher conveniently overlooked the other allegations against Matthews, which Bassett laid out in her essay: “Matthews has a pattern of making comments about women’s appearances in demeaning ways. The number of on-air incidents is long, exhausting, and creepy, including commenting to Erin Burnett, for example, ‘You’re a knockout... it’s all right getting bad news from you,’ while telling her to move closer to the camera. Behind the scenes, one of Matthews’s former producers told The Daily Caller in 2017 that he allegedly rated his female guests on a numerical scale and would name a ‘hottest of the week,’ like a ‘teenage boy.’ In 1999, an assistant producer accused Matthews of sexual harassment, which CNBC, the show's network at the time, investigated. They concluded that the comments were ‘inappropriate,’ and Matthews received a ‘stern reprimand,’ according to an MSNBC spokesperson.”
Overall, it was a truly repulsive, sexist display—although that’s really par for the course with Maher, who’s taken pains to defend everything from Joe Biden’s creepy, non-consensual touching of women to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign against allegations of sexual harassment.
The morning after Maher’s show aired, Bassett fired back at the host on Twitter, writing, “Hey @billmaher how’s this for fragile: Fuck you.”
She went on to add, “People are really outraged that a rich as hell 74-yr-old man had to retire after being called out for 20 years of objectifying women in the workplace? This is not about me, and if your inclination is to attack me, consider putting that energy into therapy or anger management.”
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