Former MSNBC host Chris Matthews publicly addressed his behavior and allegations of sexual harassment for the first time since leaving the network.
The former host of “Hardball” abruptly left MSNBC with a surprising announcement in March that he was retiring and, in a new interview, Matthews acknowledged that the harassment accusation against him was “highly justified.”
Matthews admitted in a Vanity Fair interview that he “didn’t deny” the claims by GQ columnist Laura Bassett, who said he repeatedly made sexual remarks to her and had “inappropriately flirted” with her during multiple appearances she had made on the network.
“I didn’t argue about it. I didn’t deny it,” Matthews said.
“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,” he added. “That was highly justified.”
Matthews, who started on the primetime cable show in 1997, announced his departure just days after Bassett’s February column in which she recounted how he once told her, “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet? Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her,” as she sat in a makeup chair before going on the air.
“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,” Matthews told Vanity Fair.
His abrupt on-air announcement in early March came as a surprise although he had been under fire for other controversial comments he had recently made.
“I’m retiring. This is the last ‘Hardball’ on MSNBC, and obviously this isn’t for lack of interest in politics,” Matthews said at the time. “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.”
But the host added that “compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have incorrectly thought were OK were never OK. Not then, and certainly not today, and for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.”
Bassett noted the Vanity Fair interview with Matthews and responded in a tweet over the weekend.
“I appreciate him owning up this and respect how he handled it,” she wrote, taking an added dig at “everyone who reflexively said I was lying.”
Somehow I missed that Chris Matthews confirmed my story about him to Vanity Fair yesterday. I appreciate him owning up 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
Reactions to Matthews’ interview and the remarks by Bassett were mixed on social media.
He was Fired.
— Will in Seattle (@WillSeattle) April 25, 2020
Chris Matthews’s pathetic attempts to reinvent himself. No matter how he spins it, MSNBC/NBC finally got rid of the serial misogynist. “Exclusive interview?” There is nothing noteworthy about Chris Matthews. He’ll vanish into the media etherland like Matt Lauer.
— Marty Davis (@MartyDavis) April 25, 2020
— Dianne Sherman (@dsherman2407) April 25, 2020
God, what’s this world turning into? one cannot complement someone’s beauty without been nailed to the cross anymore. I am terrified of the future if we continue in this bias and sentimental path.
— Drew (@wonkie007) April 26, 2020
Cool. Now please do the part where you destroyed a man’s career because he gave you an inappropriate compliment….
— John Ziegler (@Zigmanfreud) April 27, 2020
Is he hoping mia culpa will get him back on the bus?
— ᗪK ᑕᗩᖇTᗯᖇIGᕼT (@auntiemamer) April 27, 2020
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