"One of the most prominent and well-paid hosts in the cable-news game didn’t listen, didn’t do his homework and treated politics as a game in which noisy confrontation was a necessity," says Margaret Sullivan of Matthews' abrupt exit Monday. "The problem was less about greenroom boorishness and far more about what you could see and hear on the air — especially in recent weeks, but also going back a long way." Sullivan adds: "With his reported $5 million annual salary, he wielded enormous influence. For many years, he had the power to sway public opinion on the crucial topics of the day. Not infrequently, he failed the main test of someone in that role. He was ready to offer his own views, but not prepared to hear those of his guests or to bring deep knowledge to the conversation. Frequently described as 'bombastic,' and certainly an excitable yeller, Matthews had a tendency to ask a question, and then, just as his subject was beginning to answer, interrupt, asking it differently or inserting his own opinion... I don’t buy the idea that Matthews, 74, had to leave his post because of his age. There are plenty of men and women in the public eye — in media, in politics and many other fields — whose age doesn’t, and shouldn’t, hold them back. Think, for example, of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who is 80, or, in Hollywood, 77-year-old Harrison Ford. Mere age doesn’t keep anyone from being informed, enlightened and effective at their work. After all, Mathews is downright youthful compared with most of the candidates remaining in the Democratic presidential field. No, the problem with Matthews was not about the accumulation of years. It was not purely about 'compliments.' It was about being flawed at the central part of his job — not in the green room but right there on the screen."
MSNBC president Phil Griffin reportedly spent the weekend pleading with Chris Matthews to quit: The Daily Beast reports that Matthews' wife, Kathleen Matthews, "expressed worry that her husband’s on-air controversies would become more frequent, more embarrassing, and more damaging to his legacy. For months, it was known to some inside the network that Kathleen pushed for her husband, now 74, to have a more limited schedule. Instead, the MSNBC anchor found himself on TV during more major events than he had since the 2016 election cycle." Following The Daily Show's devastating compilation of Matthews' sexist behavior and GQ writer Laura Bassett's story on her first-hand experiences with his sexism late last week, MSNBC brass had had enough. "Sources said Griffin traveled to Washington, D.C. over the weekend for a series of tough conversations with the Hardball host, his wife and family, arguing that now was the time to call it quits," reports The Daily Beast. "Matthews was very resistant, according to these sources, insisting he stay on through the election. But he was finally persuaded that 'retiring,' as he tried to portray his own abrupt resignation, was the only sensible option."
Matthews was everything wrong with cable news: "His departure was shocking," says Alex Shephard. "That’s partly because surprises rarely happen in the television business—by nearly all accounts, no one expected him to walk away (even if everyone expected him to be pushed out eventually). But the main reason his retirement was so jarring is that Matthews is synonymous with cable television punditry. He was, in The New York Times’ Mark Leibovich’s words, 'the carnival barker' at the center of 'the echo chamber.' Matthews may be stepping down, but his legacy—the shallow, bombastic style of rapid-fire commentary that he helped pioneer—lives on....Matthews had the perfect personality for cable’s approach to the news in the post-9/11 era of polarization, which was to bring people on to shout at each other. When the industry started to change, he was already an institution. Crossfire was dead, famously killed by (Jon) Stewart in one of his signature eviscerations of the cable news set, but Hardball lived on. And Matthews never seemed to care that the ground was shifting beneath his feet—a born yapper and self-proclaimed politics-knower, he treated anyone who thought about politics differently with disdain."
Matthews' misogyny helped shaped political journalism for a generation: His demeaning comments about women "over and over contributed to a culture in political journalism that devalues women, that puts their looks before their smarts or intellectual contributions," says Laura McGann. "And doing it on TV just makes it worse — presenting an image to viewers that goes completely unchecked."