Men have been dropping like flies from prominent positions in entertainment, government, and business as women come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and assault. You’d think, then, that now would be a really good time for men with patchy histories with women to sit down, listen, and air out whatever skeletons may lie in their closets.
It therefore seems rather ironic that in a segment last Saturday, the day of the 2018 Women’s March, Hardball’s Chris Matthews spoke to a panel of female journalists about how women perceive the actions of President Donald Trump.
“Why is he being so condescending calling us ‘beautiful’?” The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin asked.
“Because he gets away with it,” Matthews replied. “Look what he did on the bus.”
The thing is, Matthews has some skeletons of his own, so maybe he isn’t quite the right guy to talk about women’s empowerment. Not only has he been accused of sexual harassment himself, but he also has a history of making wildly inappropriate remarks to and about women.
The anchor’s transgressions date back to 1999, when a news staffer who worked with Matthews accused him of sexual harassment. The staffer, whose identity is unknown but was an assistant producer at the network, claimed that Matthews made inappropriate comments about her in front of others. She ended up leaving the company, after being paid “separation-related compensation.” Matthews received a formal reprimand at the time, according to an MSNBC spokesman. The Hardball anchor has never directly addressed the allegations.
And Matthews’ general behavior thereafter – regardless of whether more women have made formal allegations against him – is not exactly sterling with respect to women. During MSNBC’s live coverage of the Indiana primary in May 2016, for instance, Matthews was caught on mic making objectifying comments about Melania Trump.
“Did you see her walk? Runway walk. My God is that good,” he said, likely assuming his microphone was cut. “I could watch that runway show.”
He also had an odd segment with Erin Burnett in 2007 in which he asked her to come closer and closer to the camera, to her confusion. Matthews then broke into laughter and said he was “just kidding” and that Burnett is “a knockout.”
Perhaps most bizarrely, before a 2016 interview with Hillary Clinton in Iowa in the run-up to that state’s primary, Matthews mocked the candidate by asking if he “could have some of the Queen’s waters,” and then said to nobody in particular: “Where’s that Bill Cosby pill I brought with me” — insinuating that he thought it funny to joke about drugging the female candidate. (For this, Matthews did later apologize.)
In light of these incidents, it strikes as a bit disingenuous that on Saturday’s segment, Matthews criticized Trump, claiming he “loomed like Godzilla over Hillary Clinton [and] didn’t care about looking dangerous or offensive.”
Much of Matthews’ comments and behavior can be chalked up to poor judgement and bad taste. But poor judgement begets poor decisions. Other women may have even come forward to complain to NBC News about Matthews, but as of now, the company is keeping silent on the subject.
It’s not that Matthews needs to never have done anything untoward with women to be an advocate for the movement. It’s that if he chooses to be vocal about it, part of being an ally is admitting to where you have failed at it. Matthews has yet to do so.
Watch above, via MSNBC.
[image via screengrab]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.