Chris Matthews Retires From MSNBC

The 'Hardball' host made the shock announcement on Monday night after more than 20 years at the network.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews on Monday night announced his retirement from the network after more than 20 years at the left-leaning cable channel.

He will be replaced at 7 p.m. by a rotating group of hosts.

While Matthews was expected to retire in the near future, the sudden announcement comes amid a series of recent flaps and controversies.

Last week, Matthews apologized to Bernie Sanders for comparing his rise in the 2020 presidential campaign to the German invasion of France. He also confused one African American politician, Democrat Jaime Harrison, for another African American politician, Republican Sen. Tim Scott, which he later corrected on air.

"Let me start with my headline tonight: 'I'm retiring,'" 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. ... I'm very proud of the work I've done here."

He continued: "I love working with my producers and the discussions we have over how to report the news, 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."

Explained Matthews: "After a conversation with MSNBC, I decided tonight will be my last Hardball, so let me tell you why. 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."

The longtime host seemed to reference inappropriate comments he allegedly made to a female guest, Laura Bassett, in 2016. "A lot of it has to be with how we talk to each other," said Matthews. "Compliments on a women'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."

Matthews said he is working on another book and will "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. For those of you who have gotten into the habit of watching Hardball every night, I hope you're going to miss me, because I'm going to miss you. But remember Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca: We'll always have Hardball. So let's not say 'Goodbye,' but 'Till we meet again.'"

Matthews signed off after his initial announcement and was replaced on Monday's show by Steve Kornacki.

"That was a lot to take in, just now, I'm sure," Kornacki told viewers. "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."

Owing to the abruptness of the announcement, Kornacki said, "We're not going to have any bells or whistles here. We do have to fill the rest of this hour."

Last Thursday, an advocacy group, UltraViolet Action, called for MSNBC to fire Matthews over his aggressive questioning of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, but the network remained mum until Monday night's announced departure.

Matthews hosted his Friday night show from South Carolina, but did not appear on MSNBC's coverage of Saturday's primary in the state.

Matthews celebrated his 20-year anniversary at MSNBC in November and was toasted by his NBC and MSNBC colleagues. "Congratulations on a remarkable milestone, 20 years, and wishing you many more," NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt said at the time.

Matthews underwent prostate cancer surgery in October.