Matthews opened his show Monday evening by announcing his retirement from the cable news network after more than 20 years -- before handing over the reins to his regular Hardball substitute host Steve Kornacki, who looked visibly stunned. "Let me start with my headline tonight: 'I'm retiring,'" the 74-year-old Matthews said. "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." Matthews added: "After a conversation with MSNBC, I decided tonight will be my last Hardball, so let me tell you why," he said. "The younger generation is out there ready to take the reins. We see them in politics, in the media, in fighting for the causes. They have improved the workplace. We're talking about better standards than we grew up with: fair standards." Matthews signed off after his initial announcement and was replaced on Monday's show by Kornacki. "Chris Matthews is a giant, he's a legend," Kornacki said. "it's an honor for me to work with him, to sit in for him on occasion. I think you're going to miss him, and I know I'm going to." Over the past week, Matthews has had to apologize for describing Bernie Sanders' win in Nevada with the Nazi invasion of France. His retirement comes three days after a GQ political journalist Laura Bassett accused Matthews of sexist behavior off-screen in 2016. Matthews was noticeably absent from MSNBC's South Carolina primary coverage the next day. Matthews will be replaced by a rotating group of guest hosts. Hardball started on MSNBC predecessor cable channel America's Talking in 1994. It aired on CNBC from 1997 to 1999, when it moved to its current home on MSNBC.
MSNBC had been discussing a potential retirement plan for Chris Matthews for months: "There was talk of shifting Hardball to a less prominent time of day, during MSNBC’s afternoon lineup," reports The New York Times, which confirms Matthews was benched for Saturday's South Carolina primary coverage. "That was before Mr. Matthews faced a sustained bout of online criticism for his on-air comportment in recent weeks."
Chris Matthews apologized for sexist comments he used in the past: "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."
Laura Bassett responds to Matthews' retirement: "All I gotta say is... it's about time," she tweeted, adding: "No, I have more to say than that. Since calling out Chris Matthews, this week has been really rough. The harassment has been invasive, cruel and personal. And it’s all worth it if he will never have the platform to demean and objectify us again."
MSNBC should retire the "Hardball" name: "Chris Matthews' specific situation aside, this would be a good time to retire the Hardball name, along with any other news show/segment title that suggests politics is a sport," says James Poniewozik.
Steve Kornacki chokes up at the end of Matthews' final Hardball: "I do want to say a few words about tonight’s news, top of this show. What I’ve loved about Chris Matthews is how much he loved politics," said Kornacki. "That is what has always come through to me. He knew the dark side of politics just like we all do. He knew about the ugly unflattering aspects of humanity that politics can bring out and even reward. The things that rightly turn off so many Americans to all of it.”