Chris Matthews calls accuser’s claim ‘credible’: ‘I didn’t argue about it, I didn’t deny it’

Chris Matthews, the former host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” who departed from the job in March after 20 years, says in a recent podcast interview that an accuser’s claims against him were “credible.”

“I didn’t argue about it, I didn’t deny it,” Matthews told Vanity Fair magazine’s “Inside the Hive.”

Matthews, 74, who resigned on the air amid allegations of sexist comments plus a series of on-camera miscues – forcing a stunned MSNBC colleague to take over the hosting duties in his absence – was responding to allegations made by Laura Bassett, a journalist who in February identified Matthews as the cable news host she had previously written about in 2017 without naming him.

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Bassett described Matthews’ behavior toward her as “gross and inappropriate,” and alleged that Matthews, while seated in a makeup chair next to her before a 2016 edition of his show, had said, “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?,” then turned to the makeup artist and said, “Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.”

In this week’s podcast, Matthews confirmed the incident happened.

“I accepted the credibility of the complaint in the article,” he said, in what Vanity Fair claimed was his first interview since leaving MSNBC. “I didn’t want to challenge the person that made the complaint and wrote the article, of course. That was highly justified. Basically, as I said, to repeat myself, it’s inappropriate in the workplace to compliment somebody on their appearance, this is in the makeup chair, and I did it.”

Matthews had also issued a mea culpa during his on-air farewell in March.

“Compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were OK were not OK, not then and certainly not today,” Matthews said at the time. “And for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.”

After Bassett identified Matthews publicly, numerous video clips of Matthews started to emerge on social media, showing him complimenting female colleagues on the air, or making remarks about other women shown on screen. The targets of his remarks included CNN’s Erin Burnett and CBS News’ Margaret Brennan (both of whom worked for CNBC at the time).

Other critics claimed Matthews had long demeaned female politicians, including Hillary Clinton, both on and off the air, Vanity Fair reported.

Matthews also took heat for a comment he made to Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a discussion about whether former presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg had made an inappropriate remark to a woman.

“Why would he lie?” Matthews said to Warren, prompting some to claim he was automatically taking Bloomberg’s side in the controversy.

After Matthews’ departure, his defenders in the media included “Real Time” host Bill Maher, who referred to Matthews as “a friend of mine” during commentary on his show and asserted that Matthews’ exit was another example of “cancel culture.”

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The HBO host acknowledged Matthews made “kind of creepy” remarks to women over the years, but said, “Guys are married for a million years” and they “want to flirt for two seconds.” (Matthews has been married to his wife Kathleen since 1980.)

Aside from comments about women, Matthews had also drawn backlash for some other on-air moments.

In March, he compared Bernie Sanders’ victory in the Nevada primary to the Nazis entering France during World War II, and in February he claimed “mistaken identity” after thinking that Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., shown in a video with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was instead Graham’s Democratic Senate opponent Jaime Harrison.

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this story.