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Quick question: Why is Chris Matthews out of a job and Joy Reid still employed at NBC News? We’ll explore that fascinating double-standard at play over at the Peacock Network in a moment.
First of all, everyone at MSNBC knew Matthews was a problem. I mean, I was only on MSNBC a few times in early 2017 and I witnessed one of his tirades directed at his long-suffering staff.
I was sitting in the green room at the NBC News location on Nebraska Ave. in North West DC. I was due for an appearance on a mid-day program and “Mr. Hardball” was getting his make-up refined while going over topics for his program that afternoon.
It was just after Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from any investigation regarding the Trump campaign’s now-debunked connection to Russia.
“Is it RosenSTEEN or RosenSTINE?” Matthews bellowed at a young woman just trying to do her job. “Why the hell can’t we get a simple f****** pronunciation on this guy?” the tirade continued. Production assistance scurried away, rolling their eyes at each other in a “here we go again” kind of way. Ducking out of the way as the expletives flowed from Mr. Frothy’s piehole.
If I saw the guy frothing at the corners of his mouth while berating a production staffer over something as simple as a name pronunciation, how did this bully behave in more confidential settings over the course of the past several decades?
The green room lay just across a bay of cubicles from the make-up room, and I can’t remember if I was in there alone or in the icy presence of Jennifer Rubin. I remember saying aloud to nobody or to The Washington Post columnist (if she was actually there), “Jeez, he’s an HR lawsuit waiting to happen.”
Matthews lasted another couple of years as his NBC colleagues Mark Halperin and Matt Lauer were sent packing, and even with those stark examples of the repercussions of awful on-the-job behavior, Matthews apparently refused to change his Kennedyesque ways with the women he worked with.
Which brings us back to the aforementioned Joy Reid.
NBC News has an employee in good standing who wrote vitriolic, homophobic content on her personal blog over the course of the past several years. At first, Reid denied she had written any of the content. She then claimed “hackers” had infiltrated her blog’s servers and planted the content. NBC News protected Reid and issued a statement to the media affirming the ridiculous hacker narrative and even said it had brought the FBI into the matter to investigate.
Reid eventually issued an awkward and credibility-challenged statement on her weekend program, which included this remarkable statement, “I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me. But I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted, have written in the past, why some people don’t believe me. For that, I am truly, truly sorry.”
In other words, I still deny saying the homophobic things I clearly said, but because I’ve said other homophobic things at other times, nobody believes my current denial and I’m really sorry they don’t. Or something.
It doesn’t matter, Ms. Reid is still gainfully employed by NBC. The same NBC that just forced Chris Matthews out. And the same NBC that had to force Matt Lauer out. And the same NBC that had to force Mark Halperin out. And the same NBC that quashed the Harvey Weinstein story its reporter had uncovered. I’m no lawyer, but does any of this suggest a “pattern of behavior?”
Matthews may be the victim of his own bullying, boorish behavior. He may be the victim of generational change at a cable network resistant to a Kennedy/O’Neil/Biden brand of Democratic politics. He may be the victim of the laundry list of #MeToo perpetrators that came before him that weakened the Peacock network’s resolve to defend another nasty, old, white guy even if his behavior didn’t rise to the level of alleged sexual assault and buttons under the desk.
No matter, the fact remains that Chris Matthews is another example of NBC News’ roadkill left on the shoulder and Joy Reid’s star keeps rising. In fact, there’s some speculation that Reid may be elevated to primetime to replace Matthews in the MSNBC line up.
Now that’s playing Hardball.
Larry O'Connor hosts two separate radio programs on WMAL in Washington DC and on KABC in Los Angeles. He has a daily, 30-minute podcast covering U.S. Politics and featuring interviews with newsmakers and pundits on the biggest stories of the day. Subscribe here.