Chris Matthews, the long-time host of MSNBC’s Hardball, announced his retirement in dramatic style on Monday. At the start of his weeknight show, the 74-year-old told audiences that he would be leaving immediately — just a day before the Super Tuesday primaries.
The veteran correspondent who has been the host of Hardball for 20 years, and a feature of cable news for a quarter of a century, has been at the center of a string of recent gaffes and controversies.
Matthews has been under fire this week for making inappropriate comments directed at women. In what has clearly been a difficult week for Matthews, he also took a lot of heat from supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren following controversial comments.
Chris Matthews explained his reasons for leaving on air
The former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter announced his departure in a two-minute-long monologue where he discussed how the industry was changing and how younger journalists were taking over.
He said, “the younger generations out there are ready to take the reins. We’ve seen them in politics, in the media, and fighting for the causes. They’re improving the workplace.”
Matthews went on to apologize for his own inappropriate behavior. “We’re talking here about better standards than we grew up with… 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.”
Chris Matthews and a series of scandals and gaffes
Several recent gaffes by Matthews have concerned MSNBC executives. This has been compounded with accusations of sexism.
On Friday, journalist Laura Bassett, writing for GQ Magazine, told of how Matthews would frequently demean “women guests with objectifying and belittling comments, both on and off air.”
Gaffes have included comparing Bernie Sanders’ win in the Nevada Democratic caucuses to the Nazi invasion of France. Then, on Friday’s show, he mixed up the identities of South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison and Sen. Tim Scott; both men are African-Americans.
He was also widely criticized for an uncomfortable interview with Elizabeth Warren, where he demanded to know if she thought Mike Bloomberg was lying when he denied asking an employee to terminate her pregnancy.
Chris Matthews asks Elizabeth Warren why she believes a female employee who sued Mike Bloomberg for telling her "kill it" when she was pregnant over Bloomberg.
"You believe he's lying? …Why would he lie? Just to protect himself? …You’re confident of your accusation?" pic.twitter.com/hVkkQhhXtz
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 26, 2020
An MSNBC spokesperson said the decision for Matthews to part company with the network was “mutually agreed.” However, insiders at the network have allegedly said that his departure was due to negative attention coming from his scandals and gaffes.
No replacement has been announced yet, which just underlines how last-minute this decision was, but AP News reports that Matthews had been planning to leave after the presidential election, so MSNBC executives might have an idea of who they’d like to take over.
Matthews says he plans to keep commenting on politics and to keep writing; he says he’s just finishing a book.
MSNBC has continued to court controversy recently. Matt Lauer, the former host of Today and a big star for the network, became embroiled in sexual assault allegations after he was accused of rape and fired from the show.
And in January, journalist Alison Morris was accused of using the n-word while reporting on Kobe Bryant’s death.