Chris Matthews, the outspoken host of MSNBC’s Hardball, announced his sudden retirement from the network Monday night, a shocking decision by the Philadelphia native who has been an important voice in the world of politics for more than 25 years.
“Let me start with my headline tonight: I’m retiring. This is the last Hardball on MSNBC," Matthews announced to open his show.
The surprise announcement — a mutual decision to part ways, according to an MSNBC spokesperson — came after the 74-year-old host was benched during the network’s coverage of the South Carolina primary, following several verbal missteps and accusations of inappropriate behavior from a former female guest. Matthews alluded to the allegations during his announcement.
“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,” Matthews said. “And for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.”
After a commercial break, a shocked Steve Kornacki took over for Matthews and finished Monday’s show, ending with an emotional sendoff where he called the longtime Hardball host the “most human” television personality he’s had the opportunity of watching and knowing.
“I say that as one of the highest compliments I can play to someone,” Kornacki said. “I’m sorry, I think you got him. And I think he got you. And all of us are going to miss him.”
Moving forward, a rotating crew of hosts will fill in until MSNBC makes a decision on programming.
Matthews recently celebrated his 20th anniversary with MSNBC and had several years remaining on his contract. As recently as November, Matthews told The Inquirer he wanted at least one more contract with the network. He recently launched a new podcast.
“I don’t want to leave. I love it,” Matthews said in November.
Matthews struggled through a rough series of headlines last week. He confused two prominent African American politicians in South Carolina — Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison and Republican Sen. Tim Scott — and was forced to apologize for comparing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ victory in the Nevada caucuses to the Nazi invasion of France during World War II.
Matthews was also accused by journalist Laura Bassett of making inappropriate comments on the set of Hardball in 2016, where she alleged the longtime host asked, “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?” while she was having makeup applied.
Matthews, who recently battled prostate cancer, has for the last 25 years been the outspoken host of Hardball, which began in 1994 on NBC’s now-defunct America’s Talking channel. He began his career as a political aide on Capitol Hill for several Democratic congressmen, including a six-year stint as chief of staff to longtime Speaker of the House Thomas P. O’Neill. Matthews also worked as the Washington bureau chief for the San Francisco Examiner and as a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Matthews told The Inquirer in 2014 that his grandfather spurred his lifelong interest in politics.