The longtime MSNBC host announced his resignation at the start of Monday night's 'Hardball.'

By Maureen Lee Lenker
March 02, 2020 at 08:50 PM EST
Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images

Chris Matthews isn't going to play hardball anymore.

The longtime MSNBC host and journalist abruptly announced his retirement at the start of Monday night's Hardballeffective immediately. So immediate, in fact, that he didn't return after the first segment, leaving MSNBC correspondent Steve Kornacki to take over from there.

"Let me start with my headline tonight — I'm retiring. This is the last Hardball on NBC and obviously this isn't for lack of interest in politics," Matthews began at the top of his show. 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."

Matthews went on to praise his viewers, saying, "And 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 at 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 until the end."

He then delved further into his reasons for leaving the show. "After a conversation with MSNBC, I've decided tonight will be my last Hardball, so let me tell you why," he said. "The younger generations out there are ready to take the reins. We see them in politics, in the media, in fighting for their causes. They are improving the workplace, we're talking here about better standards than we grew up with, fair standards."

He then indirectly addressed many of the gaffes and controversies that have plagued him and the show of late. "Compliments on a woman's appearance that some men including me might have once incorrectly thought were okay, were never okay. Not then, certainly not today, and for making such comments in the past, I'm sorry," he said.

Matthews concluded by summing up his work at MSNBC and his plans for the future. "I'm very proud of the work I've done here," he finished. "Long before I went on television, I worked 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've got 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."

Picking up in the newsroom for Matthews, Kornacki continued on, trying to make sense of the abrupt news. "That was a lot to take in just now I'm sure," he said. "And I'm sure you're still absorbing that, and I am too. Chris Matthews is a giant. He's a legend. It's been an honor for me to work with him, to sit in here on occasion, and I know how much you meant to him, and I know how much he meant to you. I think you're going to miss him and I know I'm going to."

Matthews' sudden departure, of course, raises questions about whether the decision was entirely his choice. He has been the center of controversy numerous times, often for his remarks regarding the appearance of female guests and political candidates. In recent months, Matthew has been under fire for his likening of the Bernie Sanders campaign to the Nazi war effort and for misidentifying an African American politician. Last Friday, GQ columnist Laura Bassett accused Matthews of making sexist remarks when she was a 2016 guest on Hardball. 

"All I gotta say is... it’s about time," she tweeted on Monday following Matthews' announcement.

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MSNBC has not yet named a replacement for Matthews.

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