March 3, 2020
This was inevitable. There is no MSNBC for Old White Men.
Chris Matthews’ abrupt resignation at the beginning of MSNBC’s “Hardball” Monday night came after several weeks of blunders that prompted the network to take action, say people familiar with the matter.
Mathews spoke to part of the controversy in an on-air apology, saying that “compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have thought were okay were never okay…and for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.”
MSNBC had no comment, but people familiar with the matter say the timetable for a planned retirement was suddenly accelerated after a series of mistakes and missteps by the onetime Jimmy Carter speechwriter and Tip O’Neill aide.
But for Matthews, a passionate political junkie, to bow out the day before Super Tuesday, rather than at the end of the primaries or even the end of the week suggests he did not control the timing.
His sudden departure is being portrayed by insiders as a matter of mutual agreement with the network that has employed him for two decades. He told viewers it’s time for a younger generation to take over. But there is no question that the recent spate of self-inflicted wounds rendered him a liability at the left-leaning network.
While people familiar with the matter say Matthews’ retirement had been imminent, they were unable to say whether that meant in weeks, months or after the 2020 election.
Matthews went to break immediately after disclosing his resignation, and the substitute host, Steve Kornacki, looked visibly shocked as he praised his colleague as a legend. But insiders say Kornacki had in fact been notified in advance.
The most high-profile embarrassment in a shaky month came when Matthews likened Bernie Sanders’ victory in Nevada to the Nazi invasion of France in 1940. After a weekend of intense criticism, he apologized to Sanders at the top of “Hardball” last Monday.
The final straw may have been a piece in GQ magazine Saturday by Laura Bassett, who described being a guest on his show in 2017 and was naming him for the first time.
Bassett said the host looked at her in the makeup chair and said, “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?”
This petard leaves a bad taste in his hoist, I’m certain.
Chris Matthews was truly a great man, who made so many deeply important contributions.