MSNBC's Chris Matthews abruptly announced his retirement at the top of his program on Monday night after a tumultuous month that included calls for his firing.
"I’m retiring. This is the last 'Hardball' on MSNBC, and obviously this isn't for lack of interest in politics," the 74-year-old said in scripted remarks to the audience. "As you can tell, I've 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."
Matthews's final show will be Monday night.
Matthews was notably absent from the network's live coverage of the South Carolina primary on Saturday, one day after being accused of "inappropriate" behavior by GQ columnist Laura Bassett.
In 2017, I wrote about a cable news host being gross and inappropriate with me. I was afraid to name him at the time. I'm not anymore; it was Chris Matthews! And his sexist exchange with Warren this week inspired me to revisit those moments and name him https://t.co/oBWXXJDPhR— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) February 28, 2020
"In 2016, right before I had to go on his show and talk about sexual-assault allegations against Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE, 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 a GQ piece 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.'"
"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 added.
"I’m pretty sure that behavior doesn’t rise to the level of illegal sexual harassment," she said. "But it undermined my ability to do my job well. And after I published a story about it, even though I didn’t name him, dozens of people reached out to say they knew exactly who it was."
Matthews has been the host of "Hardball" since 1999 and has been a fixture of MSNBC's political coverage during big events.
He has also been at the center of controversy in recent days, including for remarks in which he compared Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats Democrats say they're committed to reducing emissions in Biden plan MORE's (I-Vt.) decisive win in the Nevada Democratic caucuses to the Nazis taking France in 1940.
Criticism quickly poured in on social media over Matthews using the analogy as it pertains to Sanders, who is Jewish and had most of his family killed in the Holocaust. Among those who objected was Mike Casca, who serves as Sanders's 2020 communications director.
never thought part of my job would be pleading with a national news network to stop likening the campaign of a jewish presidential candidate whose family was wiped out by the nazis to the third reich.— mike casca (@cascamike) February 22, 2020
but here we are. https://t.co/2G1bqZ6bkI
Matthews apologized last Monday on the air, but the former speechwriter for Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterBiden, Democrats risk everything unless they follow the Clinton pivot (they won't) Raffensperger calling for bipartisan federal election reform commission Progressive economic theories run into some inconvenient truths MORE found himself in hot water again after confusing Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison for Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTim Scott takes in .3 million in third quarter Nikki Haley gets lifetime post on Clemson Board of Trustees First senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid MORE (R-S.C.) in a clip that quickly went viral and led to more online criticism.
Steve Kornacki, who serves as a national political correspondent for NBC News, called the Monday announcement "a lot to take in" when the show returned from a commercial break.
"Um, that was a lot to take in," Kornacki said to viewers after Matthews finished his statement. "And I’m sure you’re still absorbing that. And I am too."
He went on to call the "Hardball" host "a giant," adding that "he's a legend" and that "it's been an honor for me to work with him."
—Updated at 8:07 p.m.