In an interview with Vanity Fair’s Joe Hagan published on Friday, Chris Matthews addressed his on-air departure from Hardball for the first time since he stepped down on March 2.
Just days prior to his sudden exit from Hardball, freelance journalist Laura Bassett wrote an article published by GQ, in which she outlined a number of instances in 2016 where Matthews “inappropriately flirted with her” before she appeared on a Hardball panel. She acknowledged that his actions might not fall into the realm of sexual harassment, but that they had still made her feel uncomfortable, affecting her ability to do her job. Bassett also wrote that she was not the only woman to appear on Hardball who left the program feeling this way.
Matthews admitted that his behavior and alleged inappropriate comments were accurate and “highly justified” his leaving Hardball.
“I didn’t argue about it, I didn’t deny it,” the longtime TV newser told VF. “I accepted the credibility of the complaint in the article. I didn’t want to challenge the person that made the complaint and wrote the article. I thought it was very credible and certainly within the person’s rights to write that article, of course. That was highly justified. Basically, as I said, to repeat myself, it’s inappropriate in the workplace to compliment somebody on their appearance, this is in the makeup chair, and I did it.”
Following Matthews’ admission, Bassett took to Twitter to address his statement:
Somehow I missed that Chris Matthews confirmed my story about him to Vanity Fair yesterday. I appreciate him owning up to this and respect how he handled it. And to everyone who reflexively said I was lying: Please read this. https://t.co/Jd145g2beP pic.twitter.com/i0MpGMyknl
— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) April 25, 2020
Hardball was MSNBC’s longest-running show. It debuted on the network in 1999, but actually premiered on CNBC in 1997. (Matthews’ association with NBC goes back even further to 1994, when he hosted a political show on America’s Talking.)
At the time of his departure, a source told TVNewser that Matthews planned to retire sooner rather than later, but the negative headlines that had been swirling around the longtime cable newser most certainly expedited retirement talks with network executives.
A rotating group of hosts have filled in for Matthews, including his longtime primary fill-in, NBC News/MSNBC national political correspondent Steve Kornacki. AM Joy host Joy Reid and The Beat host Ari Melber have also filled in during the 7 p.m. hour. Melber, the network’s 6 p.m. host, is often the studio host during the White House’s daily coronavirus briefings, which usually fills his 6 p.m. hour.
The White House daily coronavirus task force briefings have unintentionally afforded the network some time to figure out who will take over the MSNBC 7 p.m. hour on a permanent basis. After Matthews stepped down, we asked TVNewser readers who they thought would become his replacement.
We launched the poll on March 3, and of now, 40.5% of you think Shep Smith will eventually take over MSNBC’s 7 p.m. hour. Nearly 20% say Nicolle Wallace. Nearly 10% opt for Steve Kornacki. Nearly 10% nominate Brian Williams. Nearly 9% say Reid. Nearly 5% believe “other.” 4.5% say Katy Tur, and 2% say Ari Melber.