Chris Matthews, former host of MSNBC’s Hardball, got a kick out of drubbing President Donald Trump over his lewd ten-year old ‘P-tape’ which became public in October 2016.
It was a recording of the president and Billy Bush, former host of NBC’s Access Hollywood, having a vulgar conversation on the set. They were laughing at the president’s jokes about his interactions with women which critics characterized as misogynistic and glorifying sexual battery.
The tape created a firestorm when it came out in October of 2016, just before Trump won the presidential election. The president defended his comments by saying it was just “locker-room talk”.
“This is a strange time. You can’t satirize it,” Matthews told Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal in April, 2018. “You’re my age pretty much. I have to tell you, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“You got the Access Hollywood thing, which networks — us included —love to play it over and over again,” Matthews said. “It’s fun.”
“He’s saying these horrible things, embarrassing things that cost Billy Bush his job but not him,” Matthews claimed.
At that time the #MeToo Movement was targeting men for sexual assault. They threw all the dirt they could unearth at the president to take him down. He survived, but the blowback on liberal journalists and political figures has been catastrophic.
The #MeToo bodies are piling up, including veteran journalists Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin, Matt Lauer and Tavis Smiley along with wealthy Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein and former Minnesota Senator Al Franken. One day these men are attacking Trump over sexual assault allegations — the next day the #MeToo paddy wagon is pulling up to take them away for their own violations.
The movement has recently increased the penalties for more offensive male behaviors. These include crude, even complimentary language toward women, and Matthews has found himself in its crosshairs. There used to be a fine line between admiring a woman and indulging in overt sexualization that men could carefully tread, but not anymore.
He ran afoul of his network after GQ columnist Laura Bassett said he made sleazy remarks about ‘falling in love’ with her when she was a guest on Hardball in 2016. The network benched Matthews over the weekend during its coverage of the South Carolina primary.
His tour of duty at MSNBC came to an abrupt end on Monday when the defiant, angry veteran host announced his resignation. The 74-year-old political commentator described his departure as a mutual agreement between him and the network. In recent weeks his lips had become a little too loose for MSNBC’s liking.
He was forced to apologize on February 24th for comparing presidential candidate Sen Bernie Sanders’ Nevada caucus victory to Nazi Germany’s invasion of France in 1940.
His resignation was the culmination of an organized political hit by Bassett with help from women’s advocacy group UltraViolet. They had been calling for his removal from MSNBC after they took umbrage to his sharp questioning of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren after the February 25th Democratic Primary debate.
The presidential candidate had pummeled former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg about his treatment of women over the years. She referenced a lawsuit in which a female employee alleged that he had told her to ‘kill it’ when he found out she was pregnant, a claim he denied. He did, however, reach a settlement with his accuser.
Matthews committed the cardinal sin of asking Warren why she would believe the accuser over Bloomberg. Forgetting the #MeToo doctrine that women must be believed, he repeatedly asked her why he would lie about pregnancy discrimination.
Bassett had written an article for Huffington Post in 2017 describing Matthews behavior toward her the year before, but it didn’t gain much traction. She decide to rehash her story in the GQ article, after watching his ‘sexist’ interview with Warren.
‘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?”‘ Bassett wrote in the GQ article published Friday.
‘When I laughed nervously and said nothing, he followed up to the makeup artist. “Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.”‘
Matthews opened Monday’s show by saying: “Let me start with my headline tonight: I’m retiring. This is the last Hardball on MSNBC. And obviously, this isn’t for the lack of interest in politics.”
“As you can tell, I loved every minute of my 20 years as host of Hardball. Every morning I read the papers and I’m gung-ho to get to work. Not many people have had this privilege. I loved working with my producers and our discussions we’d have on how we report the news. And I love having this connection with you, the people who watch.”
“After conversations with NBC, I decided tonight will be my last Hardball. So let me tell you why. The younger generations out there are ready to take the reins. We see them in politics, in the media, and fighting for their causes,” the tight-lipped political commentator said.
“Compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were okay were not okay, not then and certainly not today. And for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry,” he said while wincing.
Matthews has been the subject of numerous allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate on-air comments. A CNBC assistant producer accused him of making inappropriate comments and jokes about her in front of the staff in the 90s. CNBC reprimanded him after investigating her claims.
He was also criticized for comments about First Lady Melania Trump’s physical appearance during the network’s live coverage of Indiana’s primary in May 2016. “Did you see her walk? Runway walk. My God is that good,” Matthews said. “I could watch that runway show,” he added, perhaps not realizing his mike was on.
He also made remarks about then Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in summer of 2011, claiming she “could not be hotter as a candidate. “By the way, there’s something about her. It’s primordial, “Matthews said. “When she walks and moves, there’s something electric about it. That she doesn’t do on television with Roger Ailes sitting in that booth in Wasilla. Look at, there’s something. Other candidates don’t do this. She’s constantly in motion. She looks, obviously, very attractive. She’s doing something that works.”
Many viewers hurled on August 10, 2007 when he leered at CNN host Erin Burnett during a discussion of business news, asking her for a close-up. “Could you get a little closer to the camera? Come on in closer. No, come in — come in further — come in closer. Really close,” Matthews said.
As the camera zoomed in Matthews added, “Just kidding! “You look great! Anyway, thanks. Erin, it’s great to–look at that look! You’re great. You’re beautiful. I’m just kidding. I’m just kidding. You’re a knockout. Anyway, thank you, Erin Burnett. It’s all right getting bad news from you, even, OK? Thanks for coming on Hardball.”
Joy Behar, co-host of NBC’s The View dismissively said Tuesday, “He’s passionate and he loves politics and he loves history — and I enjoyed that about him, but you know what? It’s enough with these old guys with their stupid remarks.”