Chris Matthews, longtime host of MSNBC' Hardball, announced his immediate retirement on air on Monday night after repeated controversial remarks during his coverage of the 2020 election. In his opening monologue, Matthews addressed a much longer-running complaint – his treatment of women both on and off-air.
“After a conversation with MSNBC, I decided tonight would be my last Hardball, so let me tell you why: The younger generations out there are ready to take the reins,” Matthews said, addressing his viewers on air. “We see them in politics, the media, and fighting for causes. They are improving the workplace, we’re talking here about better standards than we grew up with, fair standards."
Matthews stepping down comes closely after his coverage of the 2020 election, which was fraught with problematic statements including comparing Bernie Sanders’ Nevada caucus win to the Nazis’ takeover of France during World War II. Not only did it propagate the false idea that democratic socialism is in any way like fascism, but Sanders is Jewish and members of his family died in the Holocaust, sparking questions about Matthews' integrity as a journalist. Matthews subsequently received criticism after Sen. Elizabeth Warren came on his show to explain her recent concerns over Mike Bloomberg's own comments about women.
This isn’t the first time the Hardball anchor wasn't held accountable for controversial comments, particularly things he’s said to and about women. This includes a sexual harassment accusation in 1999 by a former assistant producer at MSNBC. The case was settled and Matthews received a reprimand but continued to make inappropriate comments about women. During his resignation, he addressed this as part of the reason he wants to step away. "A lot of it has to do with how we talk to each other, compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have incorrectly thought were okay were never okay," Matthews said on-air. "Not then and certainly not today. And for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.”
Still, his role as a prominent anchor for so many years before stepping down is inherently tied to the #MeToo movement and how we've progressed as a society. Ahead, we’ve rounded up a series of stories from women of their uncomfortable and sexist exchanges with Chris Matthews spanning decades.
2005: Matthews questions a woman's authority in the Military
With comments going back to at least 2005, Matthews has continuously belittled, doubted, and made inappropriate remarks about Clinton. In 2005, he wondered aloud on-air whether the military would take orders from a female president in reference to Clinton.
2006: Matthews criticizes Ann Coulter’s appearance
While on air on Hardball with former MSNBC host Rita Cosby, now-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and Mike Barnicle in 2006, Matthews reportedly surveyed the group about Ann Coulter’s appearance. “Do you find her physically attractive, Tucker?” he asked before asking Barnicle to weigh in. He asked Cosby as well before answering his own question aloud saying, “She doesn’t pass the Chris Matthews test.”
2007: Matthews comments on Laura Ingraham and Erin Burnett's appearances
In 2007, Matthews spoke with television host Laura Ingraham as a guest on Hardball. “I’m not allowed to say this, but I’ll say it – you’re beautiful and you’re smart. And you’ve got a huge radio audience,” Matthews said during their interview. He added, “I get in trouble for this, but you’re great looking, obviously. You’re one of gods’ gifts to men in this country.” The same year, he had CNBC host Erin Burnett on his show to do a segment on financial news. During the segment, he described her as “beautiful” and “a knockout.” At one point he said, “It’s all right getting bad news from you,” before commenting more on her appearance.
2008: Matthews continues to patronize Hillary Clinton
In 2008, Matthews pinched Hillary Clinton's cheek at the end of an interview. That same year, he suggested that her political success was only because her husband “messed around.” As she gained greater success, Matthews began referring to her as “witchy,” “anti-male,” and “uppity.”
2011: Matthews comments on Sarah Palin's appearance on-air
Matthews repeatedly made inappropriate comments about women in politics, including politicians as well as the spouses of politicians. In 2011, while on air, he remarked on then vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin saying there was “something electric” and “very attractive” about the way she walks and moves.
2016: Matthews harasses Laura Bassett
In a story for GQ published in late February, GQ political columnist Laura Bassett recalled an uncomfortable interaction she had with Matthews in 2016. While in the makeup chair before going on Hardball to discuss the recent outpouring of sexual harassment allegations against Donald Trump, Matthews approached Bassett and asked, “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?” He then told the makeup artist to “Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.” He then allegedly asked her whether she had plans to go out that night before instructing the makeup artist to “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.”
2016: Matthews makes a lewd accidental comment about Melania Trump
Unaware that his microphone was still on, Matthews comments about Melania Trump in 2016. “Did you see her walk? Runway walk. My god that is good."
2016: Matthews jokes about drugging Hillary Clinton
In footage obtained by The Cut in 2018, Matthews is seen in a 2016 interview with Clinton saying, “Where’s that Bill Cosby pill I brought with me?” when Clinton asked for water. Matthews later apologized for the Cosby pill comment. “This was a terrible comment I made in poor taste during the height of the Bill Cosby headlines,” he said to the Cut. “I realize that’s no excuse. I deeply regret it and I’m sorry.”
2017: Matthews ranks women guests by appearance, story breaks
In a story told to The Daily Caller in 2017, one of Matthew’s former producers said Matthews allegedly rated his female guests on a numerical scale before choosing one as “hottest of the week.”
2020: Matthews questions Elizabeth Warren's defense of women
While interviewing Elizabeth Warren in February, Matthews brought up a late-90s lawsuit against Michael Bloomberg who allegedly advised a former employee to “kill it” when she told him she was pregnant. As someone who faced workplace discrimination during pregnancy, Warren stood by the woman’s recollection of events as Matthews pressed her in a tense exchange. “Why would he lie? Just to protect himself?” Matthews asked. “Yeah. Why would she lie?” Warren answered. “I just want to make sure you’re clear about this: You’re confident about your accusation,” Matthews responded as if to suggest Warren might not be sure of what she is actually supporting.