At the top of his show today, Chris Matthews announced he was retiring immediately and apparently walked off the set, leaving a shocked and surprised Steve Kornacki to step in to finish the show.
His statement was defiant and angry. It's clear it wasn't really his choice as he made clear right at the beginning when he informed viewers that his retirement wasn't "for lack of interest in politics."
"As you can tell I have loved every 20 minutes of my host as "Hardball," he said. "Every morning I read the papers, I'm gung ho to get to work."
"I love working with the producers and discussions we've had over how to report the news. I love having the connection with you the good people who watch," he continued. "I've learned who you are, bumping into you on the sidewalk or waiting in an airport and saying hello. You're like me. I hear from your kids and grandchildren. My dad loves you, my grandmother loves you."
He went on to say that he was handing the reins to younger people.
"Compliments on a woman's appearance some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were okay were never okay. Certainly not today," he admitted. "For making such comments in the past, I'm sorry."
He went on to say that he'll miss the viewers and hoped they missed him.
Last week, Laura Bassett name-checked Matthews as the person who made inappropriate remarks to her on the set of Hardball.
This tendency to objectify women in his orbit has bled into his treatment of female politicians and candidates. He has repeatedly lusted over women in politics on air, including remarking in 2011 that there’s “something electric” and “very attractive” about the way former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin walks and moves, and noting in 2017 that acting attorney general Sally Yates is “attractive, obviously.” But he has reserved a particular contempt for the woman who made it closest to ascending the heights of American political power, Hillary Clinton, calling her “witchy,” “anti-male,” and “She-Devil.” The Cut obtained footage of him joking in early 2016, just before a live interview with then candidate Clinton, “where’s that Bill Cosby pill,” referring to the date-rape drug. In 2005, he openly wondered whether the troops would “take the orders” from a female president; after another interview, he pinched Clinton’s cheek; and in another, he suggested that she had only had so much political success because her husband had “messed around.” This evening anchor, in addition to everything else, has repeatedly challenged whether women are legitimate politicians or could be president at all. "I was thinking how hard it is for a woman to take on a job that's always been held by men," he said of Clinton in 2006.
Clearly that was what prompted MSNBC to pull him out of the South Carolina coverage and confront him on his behavior. But if it wasn't, what he did to Elizabeth Warren last week should have done it anyway.
Chris Matthews demands to know why Warren believes the woman who accused Bloomberg of telling her to "kill" her unborn child: "You’re confident of your accusation?" pic.twitter.com/sroztgr9kB
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) February 26, 2020
Bassett's reaction was swift:
No, I have more to say than that. Since calling out Chris Matthews, this week has been really rough. The harassment has been invasive, cruel and personal. And it’s all worth it if he will never have the platform to demean and objectify us again. https://t.co/YS1FxW25zt
— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) March 3, 2020
Elie Mystal summed it up:
Note to self: never, ever, fuck with Liz Warren.
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) March 3, 2020
Matthews' announcement was dramatic, and also overdue. I'm sure he will write books and find other ways to scratch his politics itch. But it is time for cable news commentators and pundits to live in the 21st century.