Things took a rather awkward turn during Wednesday’s broadcast of The View when co-host Joy Behar confronted Chris Matthews on his long history of sexism towards Hillary Clinton only for the ex-MSNBC star to straight-up deny he ever made such comments.
Resurfacing after more than a year out of the limelight, following his abrupt exit from MSNBC amid sexual-harassment allegations and a slew of on-air mishaps, Matthews recently made his return to his former network to promote his latest book, This Country: My Life in Politics and History. During his Tuesday night interview with Joy Reid, who took over his 7 p.m. time slot, Matthews acknowledged that he “did something wrong” and that he “took complete ownership” of his behavior that prompted his departure.
While Matthews appeared willing to own up to political columnist Laura Bassett’s claims that he acted inappropriately towards her, the same can’t be said for all the times he made offensive remarks about the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
At the top of his Wednesday appearance on The View—a program that largely defended him after his exit—Matthews was asked by co-host Sunny Hostin if it was his decision to leave MSNBC and if he learned any lessons.
“I owned up to it,” he said. “I took ownership of it. I never said it was he said/she said. The reporting by Laura Bassett was correct. It was factual. It was great reporting, you might argue. I said it all was true. I retired. That was the decision I made.”
Behar, who was critical of Matthews at the time of his sudden retirement, reacted by saying she believed him and appreciated his mea culpa. At the same time, however, she brought up his past remarks about Clinton.
“I want to talk about another part of what happened to you,” Behar pivoted. “You made a lot of sexist comments about Hillary Clinton. You called her ‘she-devil,’ ‘witchy,’ ‘Nurse Ratched,’ among other things.”
Smiling and shaking his head, Matthews interjected: “No, I didn’t. I never did.”
Briefly speaking over each other, Behar appeared flustered as the former Hardball host reiterated that he never made those remarks about the one-time First Lady, imploring the View host to “look it up.”
“You never did that? So my research is wrong?” Behar wondered aloud.
“Well, I think what you heard was—you know what a tease is on the show?” Matthews replied. “There was a tease by a producer. It was setting up what the Republicans were going to do to her in that campaign.”
He continued: “It was a setup to a whole segment on the program how the Republicans were not going to run against her on the issues. They’ll go after her personally, in that kind of attack. That’s how that phrase was used... I never said that about her.”
A clearly confused Behar shot back that “it was reported that you said those things” before adding: “So that’s my bad—I think.” Seemingly exasperated by the turn of events, Behar tossed her papers to the side and handed off the questioning to co-host Sara Haines.
Despite Matthews’ protestations, it was widely reported that he tossed those sexist insults Clinton’s way over the years. “Nurse Ratched”—a reference to the sadistic antagonist in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—was a favorite term of his for the former Secretary of State dating back to the late 1990s. And research shows he didn’t merely utter that description in the context of mimicking Republican attacks.
Additionally, contemporaneous articles show that he used the sexist insult “witchy” to describe Clinton in the 2000s, prompting women’s groups and prominent feminists to call on him to apologize. It does appear, however, that his use of the term “she-devil” was as a hypothetical Republican taking aim at her.
Furthermore, Matthews has taken heat over other instances of sexist behavior towards Clinton, notably when he pinched her cheek after a 2008 interview, claimed she only made it as far as she did on the political stage because her husband “messed around,” and—perhaps most infamously—joked about giving her a “Bill Cosby pill” before a 2016 interview with her.