(Reuters) — Longtime MSNBC cable news anchor Chris Matthews abruptly announced his retirement on Monday following controversial remarks to women and about Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders.
“Let me start with my headline tonight: I’m retiring. This is the last ‘Hardball’ on MSNBC,” Matthews said as he opened his evening show on the Comcast owned channel.
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 has aired since 1999. The decision by Matthews, 74, follows comments in which he appeared to compare the success of Sanders in primary voting for the U.S. presidential elections to the Nazi invasion of Europe during World War Two.
Sanders, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, is Jewish. Matthews last week issued an on-air apology.
Matthews was also criticized for a tough interview with Democratic contender Elizabeth Warren last week.
In a separate incident, a female journalist last week alleged that Matthews had made inappropriate remarks to her while she was getting ready to appear on his show in 2016.
No, I have more to say than that. Since calling out Chris Matthews, this week has been really rough. The harassment has been invasive, cruel and personal. And it’s all worth it if he will never have the platform to demean and objectify us again. https://t.co/YS1FxW25zt
— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) March 3, 2020
“Obviously, this isn’t for lack of interest in politics,” Matthews said on Monday of his decision to retire. “The younger generations out there are ready to take the reins. We see them in politics and the media.”
“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 added.
Matthews said he came to his decision after talks with MSNBC.
Matthews immediately handed over his show to stunned MSNBC political reporter Steve Kornacki.
“Chris Matthews is a giant, he is a legend … I knew how much you meant to him, and how much he meant to you. And I think you’re going to miss him, and I will too,” Kornacki said.
And here's the shot when the commercial break ended and the camera cut to a stunned Steve Kornacki, who was obviously not prepared for Chris Matthews' announcement, nor to fill in the hour of airtime when #Hardball would usually run. pic.twitter.com/idqhwvi3rl
— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) March 3, 2020
Kornacki later followed up with a longer on-air tribute.
I wanted to say something about Chris Matthews at the end of the show tonight and here it is: https://t.co/NlWDQrXwTd
— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) March 3, 2020
Twitter reacts after Chris Matthews retires in widely-seen video clip
Others among Matthews’ colleagues also responded with praise.
MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace described him as “in a league of his own.”
My friend and colleague @HardballChris with a heart felt sign off and nod to his viewers who are many. His love of politics and politicians and enthusiasm for every story he covers is in a league of its own. https://t.co/W76gZGJfo3
— Nicolle Wallace (@NicolleDWallace) March 3, 2020
Some on both the left and right, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, lamented Matthews as another casualty of cancel culture.
Tucker Carlson on Chris Matthews' exit: "I would say his real sin, of course, was being old and unfashionable. That's why they're making him leave…" pic.twitter.com/KmZZ5vUDn2
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 3, 2020
Reason editor Robbie Soave alleged there is a double-standard that disadvantages those who aren’t sufficiently “woke” to the progressive cause.
A question: Why does Christ Matthews have to retire, but Joy Reid can get away with lying about her past homophobia and getting hacking? She's woke, he's not, is that the difference? https://t.co/VYMoTTjbie
— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) March 3, 2020
Matthews was known for his combative approach in interviews with politicians and commentators. He came to MSNBC after a long career in Washington D.C., where he worked for several Democrats and became a speech writer for President Jimmy Carter.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Sandra Maler; Pluralist contributed to this report.)