News, Culture & Society

Chris Matthews admits his exit was justified two months after he was ousted

Longtime MSNBC cable news anchor Chris Matthews, who abruptly announced his retirement in March following controversial remarks to women and about Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders, says he believes his departure was justified. 

In the almost two months since departing the network and his show Hardball Matthews has spoken publicly for the first time stating that he thinks the criticism he received and his subsequent exit were warranted. 

The end of his broadcasting career came after a female journalist wrote an account in GQ Magazine alleging Matthews made inappropriate remarks to her while she was getting ready to appear on his show. 

Matthews, 74, stunned fans when he announced he was retiring live on Hardball last month, but has admitted in his first interview since his departure that his leaving was ‘justified’

GQ Magazine political columnist Laura Bassett named Matthews as the cable news host that she referenced in a 2017 personal essay

GQ Magazine political columnist Laura Bassett named Matthews as the cable news host that she referenced in a 2017 personal essay

The accusation led to a resurfacing of reports that Matthews had also been reprimanded in 1999 after a similar incident that resulted in a settlement to an employee, as well as claims that Matthews treated female politicians less respectfully. 

The writer of the article, Laura Bassett, told of a moment in 2016 when she was getting ready to appear on Matthew’s show at which point the anchor remarked, ‘Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.’ 

Bassett said Matthews behaved inappropriately toward her in the makeup room prior to the show. He looked at her and said ‘why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?’ she wrote.

‘When I laughed nervously and said nothing, he followed up to the makeup artist.

‘Another time, he stood between me and the mirror and complimented the red dress I was wearing for the segment. “You going out tonight?” he asked.’

Bassett said that she ‘didn’t know,’ to which Matthews told the makeup artist: ‘Make sure you wipe this off her face after the show. We don’t make her up so some guy at a bar can look at her like this.’

‘Again – Matthews was never my boss. I’m pretty sure that behavior doesn’t rise to the level of illegal sexual harassment,’ she said.

Bassett tweeted on Saturday evening that her account had finally been vindicated

Bassett tweeted on Saturday evening that her account had finally been vindicated 

Bassett accused Matthews of inappropriately flirting with her in makeup room

Laura Bassett penned scathing article in GQ Magazine

Bassett accused Matthews of inappropriately flirting with her in makeup room

‘But it undermined my ability to do my job well. And after I published a story about it, even though I didn’t name him, dozens of people reached out to say they knew exactly who it was. Many had similar stories. 

Bassett said she wrote about the encounter in a 2017 essay but didn’t name Matthews because she was afraid of network retaliation, adding, ‘I’m not anymore.’

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Matthews admitted to making the comments and acknowledged that it wasn’t right. 

‘I didn’t argue about it, I didn’t deny it,’ Matthews said. ‘I accepted the credibility of the complaint in the article. I didn’t want to challenge the person that made the complaint and wrote the article. I thought it was very credible and certainly within the person’s rights to write that article, of course. That was highly justified. Basically, as I said, to repeat myself, it’s inappropriate in the workplace to compliment somebody on their appearance, this is in the makeup chair, and I did it.’

Bassett (pictured right) published an article in GQ in March accusing Matthews of being ‘gross and inappropriate’ with her before she appeared on his show (pictured) in 2017

Bassett claimed that Matthews made her ‘noticeably uncomfortable’ while on air, asking her ahead of a segment, ‘Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?’

Matthew’s most recent comments were appreciated by his accuser Bassett who acknowledged the anchor’s candor in a tweet on Saturday evening. 

‘Somehow I missed that Chris Matthews confirmed my story about him to Vanity Fair yesterday. I appreciate him owning up this and respect how he handled it. And to everyone who reflexively said I was lying: Please read this,’ she wrote, coupled with a link to the story. 

The hour-long week night talk show hosted by the pugnacious Matthews and focusing on politics was one of the staples of left-leaning MSNBC’s primetime lineup, where it had aired since 1999. 

Matthews had already been under some scrutiny, apologizing just the week before after making an awkward comparison on air between Senator Bernie Sanders’ victory in the Nevada caucuses and the Nazis’ World War II takeover of France. 

Chris Matthews

Bernie Sanders

Last month, Matthews apologized on the air after he ignited outrage by comparing Senator Bernie Sanders’ (right) victory in the Nevada caucus in February to Nazi Germany’s invasion of France in 1940. Sanders, who is Jewish, lost relatives in the Holocaust

The remark prompted public outrage from Sanders aides, and fanned complaints about MSNBC’s coverage of his campaign.

‘I’m sorry for comparing anything from that tragic era in which so many suffered, especially the Jewish people, to an electoral result of which you were the well-deserved winner,’ Matthews said in an on-air mea culpa to the politician.

And he was criticized for an uncomfortable interview with Elizabeth Warren following the presidential debate, asking if she believed Mike Bloomberg was lying when he denied telling a pregnant female employee of his news company to terminate the pregnancy.

‘Why would she lie?’ Warren said. 

His exit came after a weekend of discussions with his bosses, just three days after GQ ran the column by Bassett. 

The article only served to reinforce long-held views Matthews stretching back years that saw him commenting on women’s appearance both on and off the air, including  demeaning female politicians such as Hillary Clinton. 

Matthew told his audience what was going on and addressed the comments he had made on-air. 

‘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,’ he concluded.

In the latest report by Vanity Fair, Matthew was seen as ‘being generationally out of touch, and not always aware of the implications of what he was saying on the air,’ although he was still popular with his MSNBC colleagues.  

Matthews is now in quarantine at his Maryland home writing his memoirs for Simon & Shuster.

He still gets letter of support from fans of the old show.  ‘People say they miss me, I miss them too,’ he said. ‘C’est la vie.’

The 74-year-old Matthews, who underwent prostate surgery last year, worked as a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter and was top aide to House Speaker Thomas ‘Tip’ O’Neill before turning to journalism as Washington bureau chief for the San Francisco Examiner. 

He had already been talking to MSNBC management about retiring after this November’s election.