Chris Matthews retires from MSNBC show after inappropriate flirting with female journalist

Laura Bassett had written in GQ that Matthews made inappropriate comments to her when she appeared on his show

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 3, 2020 12:33PM (EST)

Chris Matthews   (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Chris Matthews (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Chris Matthews, the anchor of the MSNBC program "Hardball," announced on the air Monday that he is retiring from the show after being accused of inappropriately flirting with a journalist.

"Compliments on a woman's appearance that some men, including me, once incorrectly would have thought were okay, they were never okay. Not then, and certainly not today, and for making such comments in the past, I am sorry," Matthews said on Monday night.

The famous news anchor's remarks referred to an article published in GQ magazine on Friday by journalist Laura Bassett. Bassett recalled an incident with Matthews in 2016 when "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?'" She claimed that he later told his makeup artist, "Keep putting makeup on her, I'll fall in love with her." On another occasion, according to Bassett, he asked her whether she was going out that night and told his 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's article detailed other occasions when Matthews seemed to behave inappropriately, including telling CNN anchor Erin Burnett that she is a "knockout," rating the attractiveness of female guests on a numerical scale and joking about wanting a "Bill Cosby pill" before interviewing then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The "Bill Cosby pill" comment referred to Cosby's practice of giving quaaludes to women in order to rape them. She also pointed out that Matthews had been accused of sexual harassment by an assistant producer in 1999 and has publicly commented on the physical attractiveness of female officials like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former acting attorney general Sally Yates.

"All I gotta say is . . .  it's about time," Bassett tweeted after hearing the news of Matthews' retirement. She later added, "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."

Some women in media have controversially rallied to Matthews' defense.

"As a woman I want to say this: I loved working with Chris Matthews. I really enjoyed being his colleague," MSNBC's "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski said. "I understand the important changes around this so-called cancel culture – they're important, they're hard, they're painful and in many cases they are necessary. I do wonder at this point though, as we move forward and we look at this and what happened here, if there might be a better way for all of us in the future where we work through this and get to a better place."

Max Weiss, the editor-in-chief of Baltimore magazine, tweeted that Brzezinski's comments were "today's installment of Mika is a Bad Ally" and that "using the phrase 'cancel culture' is a tell. Similar to using the phrase 'social justice warrior.' The disdain is built right into the phrase." Former Fox News anchor and co-founder of "Lift Our Voices" Gretchen Carlson tweeted in response to Brzezinski, "Were you at every meeting and interaction? I know we love our friends and colleagues but what does this say to the bravery of women who come forward?"

Kathleen Parker, a columnist for "The Washington Post," tweeted that "Chris Matthews is a friend of mine. He and I have flirted unabashedly for 20 years. This is an atrocious end to a noble, happy-warrior career. I will continue to be his friend. Angry column to follow." Carlson replied to her by tweeting, "Kathleen — respect you but were you with him in every case of interactions with other women?"

CNN host S. E. Cupp made a similar point, tweeting, "This never goes well. The friend's 'He never did it to ME' vouch-for is meaningless, since the friend wasn't always there, AND it discredits alleged victims. THIS one also manages to dismiss harassment as mere flirting, an idea that, like Matthews, has rightly been retired."

Watch the full video of Matthews' monologue via Media Matters for America and the video of Brzezinski's comments via YouTube below:


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Aggregate Chris Matthews Laura Bassett #metoo Msnbc