Longtime MSNBC host Chris Matthews announced on air Monday night that he was resigning following a slew of on-air fumbles and allegations that he made sexually inappropriate remarks to a political columnist in 2016.
“I’m retiring,” he said. “This is the last Hardball on MSNBC, and obviously this isn’t for lack of interest in politics.”
Over the past several weeks, the cable news veteran has been under increasing scrutiny due to allegations about previous offscreen conduct, as well as a number of eyebrow-raising on-air statements. Observers took note when Matthews, normally a staple of election coverage, did not appear on air on Saturday during the South Carolina primary.
“After my conversation with MSNBC, I decided tonight will be my last Hardball,” Matthews said on his show Monday night. “So let me tell you why. The younger generations are ready to take the reins. We see them in politics, the media, and fighting for their causes. They're improving the workplace. We're talking about better standards than we grew up with, fair standards... Compliments on a woman’s appearance some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were OK were never OK. Certainly not today. For making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.”
In an article for GQ, published Friday, freelance political columnist Laura Bassett wrote that when she appeared as a guest on Matthews’ show, he repeatedly made inappropriate remarks about her appearance while off-camera. In one instance, she recounted, Matthews asked, “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?” and urged the makeup artist to “Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.”
After Matthews delivered his resignation announcement, Steve Kornacki took over for the remainder of the hour, expressing shock over his colleague’s retirement.
“That was a lot to take in just now, I’m sure, and I’m sure you’re still absorbing that and I am, too,” the MSNBC host solemnly said. “Chris Matthews is a giant. He’s a legend. It’s been an honor for me to work with him, to sit in here on occasion.”
Matthews has repeatedly found himself in hot water for various on-air comments about the Democratic presidential primary. On Monday, Matthews apologized to Bernie Sanders for likening the senator’s Nevada caucus victory to when the Nazis invaded France during World War II.
The Hardball host again drew outrage last week after repeatedly pressing Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a post-debate interview about why she believes a woman over former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s denial of accusations that he made inappropriate remarks about female colleagues at his financial information company. Critics slammed Matthews for casting doubt on Bloomberg’s accuser, prompting women’s advocacy group UltraViolet to call for his ouster.
“This is good news. This is what needed to happen,” UltraViolet executive director Shaunna Thomas said in a statement after Matthews retired on air. “While tonight is a win, there is still much work to be done to hold Comcast and NBCUniversal accountable and ensure that women and people of color receive fair treatment in the workplace, especially from those in the news media. The fight is far from over, but we’ll celebrate tonight’s victory.”
Over the course of Matthews’ decades-long career at the network, he has made degrading comments about the women at MSNBC and guests who have appeared on his show.
He once joked about using a “Bill Cosby pill” on Hillary Clinton before a 2016 interview and has made cracks about the physical appearances of then-CNBC stars Erin Burnett and Margaret Brennan, and political figures including Sarah Palin and Melania Trump.
He was also formally reprimanded in the late ’90s for inappropriate comments and jokes he made about a woman in front of CNBC staff. That woman was reportedly given a separation payout from the network.
Over the past several decades, Matthews has been one of the most high-profile political commentators in America. A former aide to Jimmy Carter and Tip O’Neill, he has been a fixture on MSNBC since the ’90s.
The move also adds further uncertainty to MSNBC’s lineup. The network has been in the middle of a daytime reshuffle following the departure of host Ali Velshi for a weekend MSNBC show.
An MSNBC spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast that as first reported by The New York Times, a rotating series of hosts will be used to fill the Hardball time slot until the network decides on a permanent replacement for Matthews.