Chris Matthews, the longtime host of "Hardball" and a CNBC, then MSNBC fixture for over the last quarter century, abruptly resigned from the latter network Monday.
"Let me start with my own headline tonight," he said at the top of the program. "I'm retiring. This is my last 'Hardball.' "
A shocker as well as "headline" — especially on the eve of Super Tuesday — even MSNBC appeared to have been caught flat-footed by the announcement. However, Matthews, 74, had been under fire the last few days, first for bizarre comments relating to Sen. Bernie Sanders (comparing his caucus victory in Nevada to the Nazi invasion of France), then over the weekend, in an article on the GQ website by journalist Laura Bassett who said Matthews had made inappropriate and sexually suggestive comments about her appearance when she was a guest on his show.
Without referring to Bassett, Matthews apologized for "making such comments in the past."
In announcing his departure at the top of Monday's show, Matthews said "the younger generations out there are ready to take the reigns, in politics, the media, fighting for their causes. They are improving the workplace. We're talking about better standards than what we grew up with, fairer standards. 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 once incorrectly thought were OK but were never OK. Not then and certainly not today."
In her post on Saturday, Bassett wrote, "Matthews has a pattern of making comments about women’s appearances in demeaning ways. The number of on-air incidents is long, exhausting, and creepy," while adding "then there is the open secret of Matthews’s everyday behavior off camera with guests," including when she was one in 2016.
For example, Bassett wrote, "In 2016, right before I had to go on his show and talk about sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump, Matthews looked over at me in the makeup chair next to him and said, 'Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?' ”
"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."
"I said I didn’t know, and he said — again to 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.' ”
Bassett concluded, "I’m pretty sure that behavior doesn’t rise to the level of illegal sexual harassment. But it undermined my ability to do my job well. And after I published a story [in 2017] 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."
MSNBC did not have an immediate comment.