As Chris Matthews announced his immediate retirement from MSNBC's "Hardball" Monday over accusations of making inappropriate comments, an emotional scene took place behind the cameras where Matthews' family and crew watched him say his goodbyes.
"I’m retiring," the veteran host told viewers at the top of his show. "This is the last ‘Hardball’ at 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.’"
Before the taping began, Matthews rushed in ducked into the studio without talking to any of the people waiting to appear on his show. As upcoming guests, including Democratic strategist Joe Trippi gathered with makeup artist Roxanne Williams, Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire urged everyone assembled to watch Matthews’ opening.
Matthews, 74, announced he would exit the show immediately, leaving a surprised colleague, NBC correspondent Steve Kornacki, to finish the broadcast. Matthews, who was absent from Saturday's coverage of the South Carolina Democratic primary, said he and MSNBC decided to mutually part ways. He also apologized for past comments about women's appearances.
Matthews followed his announcement with a nod to the changing industry and an apology for his actions.
"The younger generations out there are ready to take the reins," said Matthews. "We’ve seen them in politics, in the media, and fighting for the causes. They’re 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."
After the announcement, there was little conversation as a producer walked the first three guests of the night to the door to enter the set. She opened and then closed it quickly saying Matthews was gathered with his family.
The guests included USA TODAY health policy reporter Jayne O’Donnell, Lemire and public health professor Lawrence Gostin.
Matthews’ grown children were crying with other family members as he came over to greet Lemire and O’Donnell. Matthews said he couldn’t comment beyond the statement the network signed off on, but that he did write it.
After the segment – quickly recast with anchor Steve Kornacke in New York – one female crew member apologized for crying, noting she had worked with Matthews for 20 years.
According to the Associated Press, Matthews had been talking to MSNBC management about retiring after the election, but he didn’t survive until Super Tuesday. The AP says crew members backstage at “Hardball” on Monday learned of their boss’ exit about an hour and a half before Matthews’ statement.
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, Andrea Mandell and Maria Puente, USA TODAY and the Associated Press.