Brow Beat

Chris Matthews Unexpectedly Retires From MSNBC On-Air

Chris Matthews sits at the Hardball anchor desk, in front of an image of the White House.
Chris Matthews announces his retirement. MSNBC

MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews unexpectedly announced his retirement at the opening of Hardball on Monday night. “Let me start with my headline: I’m retiring,” said the anchor, who has hosted the show since 1997 at first CNBC, then MSNBC. “Obviously, this isn’t for lack of interest in politics,” Matthews said, explaining how much he loved hosting the show. As for his reason for leaving, Matthews told his audience that he came to the decision after a conversation with MSNBC and that he believed that a younger generation was “ready to take the reins.” He then praised young people for improving conditions in the workplace, then transitioned into an apology for sexual harassment. “Compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were OK, were never OK,” Matthews said. “Not then, and certainly not today, and for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.” As for his plans for the future, Matthews says he’s writing another book. Here’s his on-air retirement announcement:

After a commercial break, Steve Kornacki took over the broadcast, telling the audience, “That was a lot to take in just now, I’m sure, and I’m sure you’re still absorbing that, and I am too.” Kornaki didn’t give the impression that he or the network had had much advance warning that Matthews was leaving, saying, “We do have to fill the rest of this hour—we’re going to take a quick break and come back with today’s news,” before cutting to commercial again:

Matthews had come under fire this election cycle for a series of gaffes: comparing Bernie Sanders’ victory in the Nevada primary to the Nazi conquest of France, taking an overly credulous approach to Michael Bloomberg and his past treatment of women, and confusing one black politician for another on-air. On Friday, Laura Bassett wrote about her experiences with Matthews for GQ, writing that the anchor flirted with her uncomfortably before going on the air in 2016. The host was noticeably missing from the network’s coverage of the South Carolina primary over the weekend. According to Variety, a rotating group of anchors will replace Matthews until a more permanent solution is found.

Here are Chris Matthews’ full remarks on his retirement:

Let me start with my headline tonight: I’m retiring. This is the last Hardball on MSNBC. And obviously, this isn’t for lack of interest in politics. 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. I love working with my producers and the discussions we have over how to report the news. I love having this connection with you, the good people who watch. I’ve learned who you are, bumping into you on the sidewalk or waiting in an airport and saying hello—you’re like me! I hear it from your kids and grandchildren, who say, “My dad loves you,” or “My grandmother loves you,” or “My husband watched it till the end.”

But after a conversation with MSNBC, I’ve decided tonight will be my last Hardball, so let me tell you why. The younger generation’s out there, ready to take the reins. We see them in politics, in the media, and fighting for their causes. They are improving the workplace. We’re talking here about better standards than we grew up with—fair standards. A lot of it has to do with how we talk to each other. 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, and for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.

I’m very proud of the work I’ve done here. Long before I went on television, I worked for years in politics, was a newspaper columnist, an author. I’m working on another book. I’ll continue to write and talk about politics, and cheer on my producers and crew here in Washington and New York, and my MSNBC colleagues. They will continue to produce great journalism in the years ahead. And for those of you who have gotten in the habit of watching Hardball every night, I hope you’re going to miss me, because I’m going to miss you. But remembering Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, we’ll always have Hardball. So let’s not say goodbye, but till we meet again.