There has been plenty of speculation over the real reason Chris Matthews stepped down at MSNBC, but a New York Post op-ed by Kyle Smith offered what may be the most compelling cause.
Matthews stunned viewers Monday on “Hardball,” announcing that he was retiring, and he meant immediately because he was gone after the first commercial break, as a dazed Steve Kornacki stepping in to replace him for the rest of the show.
“Let me start with my headline tonight,” Matthews said to open. “I’m retiring. This is the last Hardball on MSNBC.”
Because he apologized for “compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were okay, were never okay,” the feeling was Matthews was just the latest #MeToo fall guy.
There was also an embarrassing moment last Friday when Matthews mistook Jaime Harrison, a black Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate in South Carolina for Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who is also black.
The more cynical among us felt that his dismissal may have been because he panned socialism recently, given that the Democratic Party base has all but openly embraced it.
“I’ve seen what socialism is like, I don’t like it. OK — it’s not only not free, it doesn’t frickin’ work,” he has said on-air.
Tim Graham wrote in a Fox News op-ed that MSNBC was “shedding a host that had become a liability with the Sanders socialists, who are a decent chunk of the MSNBC audience.”
As Graham noted, Matthews offenses against women were verbal.
“He wasn’t accused of sexual assault (Matt Lauer) or a “crusty paw” and exhibitionism (Charlie Rose),” he said.
Graham would state that a big part of Matthews problem at the network was he was “falling out of step with the Democratic Party’s lunge to the left in the Trump era.”
“The MSNBC star reacted badly by comparing the Sanders victory in Nevada to the fall of France to the Nazis during World War II,” he said. “He also ripped into Sanders for lauding Fidel Castro’s literacy programs.”
But according to Smith, Matthews was fired “for doing his job.”
“And what was that job? To represent the non-crazy, ‘No Kool-Aid for me, thanks’ Left on television, while being entertaining and pointed and wacky,” he wrote.
Citing a GQ piece that he said created “an indictment of Matthews as a sexist,” Smith agreed that men should not say things that make women uncomfortable.
“But Matthews is 70. Old guys flirt with young women as a way of telling themselves they’re still in the game,” he continued. “Young women used to be more forgiving, to recognize the pathos underlying the impulse and shrug it off. Now they exaggerate their emotional reaction, pretend that they’re ‘shaken’ or ‘couldn’t breathe.'”
Old men who may consider themselves harmless don’t always grasp how their actions are interpreted by others.
Nonetheless, the real culprit behind Matthews being canned may have been the way he interviewed Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, Smith posited:
Matthews joked that Clinton is “witchy” and a “she-devil” and struck a skeptical tone when quizzing Warren about claims she made in debate against Mike Bloomberg. All of this is very much part of his job. Matthews tries to be pointed, provocative, a bit unpredictable and funny. Like drive-time radio talkers and other television pundits, he realizes that the minute you stop being colorful, you’re dead. Warren and Clinton are hardly the only pols to whom he has shown antagonism.
So Matthews laid it on a bit thick at times. Comparing Bernie Sanders to the Nazis overrunning France? Ridiculous. Never compare anyone who hasn’t murdered at least a million people to Hitler. Still, hysterical analogies are exactly what drives viewership of “Hardball” and all the TV and radio shows like it. We tune in to these guys hoping they’ll say something completely bonkers.
Matthews would issue an on-air apology for Sanders’ Nevada Democratic caucus win to France falling to the Nazis in World War II, but as Smith pointed out, that network regularly speaks of Trump and Hitler in the same breathe.
And that’s just scratching the surface of vile comparisons made about the president on MSNBC.
Smith concluded by noting that “saying crazy stuff doesn’t get you fired from MSNBC. It’s only saying stuff that annoys the Left that gets you fired from MSNBC.”
He doesn’t rule out that the possibility that Matthews did worse things than we know about today, but added it “looks like he’s been unfairly thrown into the same cultural ditch with actual predators like Harvey Weinstein.”
“He has been forever smeared as a sex abuser when what really cost him his job was being rude to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren,” Smith closed.
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