Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC, announced on the air March 2 that that day’s telecast is his final one. He hosted the program for over 20 years.
“This isn’t for a lack of interest in politics,” he said, adding that “the younger generations out there are ready to take the reins,” in politics and in television.
Matthews, 74, has faced criticism for comparing Bernie Sanders’ campaign to the Nazis invading France, and after journalist Laura Bassett published a story on the GQ website where she said Matthews made inappropriate comments about her appearance before she went on Hardball in 2017.
“Compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were OK were never OK,” he said on the air March 2. “Not then and certainly not today. For making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.”
Before starting in television, Matthews worked in the U.S. Senate for Sen. Frank Moss of Utah. He was a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, then was an aide for Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.
Matthews switched to journalism in the late ’80s, serving as Washington bureau chief for the San Francisco Examiner. He went on television in 1994, hosting the nightly show In-Depth on America’s Talking. Hardball premiered in 1997 on CNBC and the program shifted to MSNBC in 1999.
“I’ll continue to write, and talk about politics, and cheer on my producers and crew here in Washington and New York,” Matthews said.
Steve Kornacki hosted the hour after Matthews's opening statement and a commercial break, saying "that was a lot to take in just now, I'm sure, and I'm sure you're still absorbing that and I am too. Chris Matthews is a giant, he is a legend." He added: "We do have to fill the rest of this hour. We're going to take a quick break and come back with today's news." Several guests on the show mentioned Matthews fondly and Kornacki closed with a hastily scripted tribute, holding up his copy of a Matthews "Hardball" book from 1988 and saying, his voice cracking with emotion, "of all the television personalities I've ever known as a viewer, Chris was the most human. ... All of us are going to miss him."
A rotating series of hosts will fill the hour until a permanent replacement has been named.
Others, including some advocacy groups, put out statements saying his resignation should have come sooner.
“Matthews’ departure from MSNBC is long overdue," said Media Matters for America VP Julie Millican. "No matter how the decision was made for Matthews to exit, the fact remains that MSNBC turned a blind eye to his sexist, misogynistic, and offensive behavior for years. This move was beyond overdue, and the network should be ashamed to have propped up this man for so long.”
“This is good news. This is what needed to happen," said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of Ultraviolet. “For decades, Chris Matthews has used his position to harass women with sexist and predatory comments, while undermining women serving in public office."