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Hardball Host Chris Matthews Quits MSNBC Live on Air

He also apologized for his previous comments about women's appearances

Lindsay MacDonald

Chris Matthews shocked MSNBC viewers Monday night by abruptly announcing that he was retiring and the airing episode of Hardball with Chris Matthews would be his last. After his announcement, he did not return to finish the show.

"Let me start with my headline tonight: I'm retiring. This is the last Hardball on MSNBC, and obviously this isn't for lack of interest in politics." Matthews said at the top of the hour. "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 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 right waiting in an airport and saying hello, you're like me, I heard from your kids and grandchildren who say my dad loves you, or my grandmother loves you or my husband watched until the end.

"After conversations with MSNBC, I've decided tonight will be my last Hardball. Let me tell you why: The younger generations out there are ready to take the reins. We see them in politics, in media, in fighting for their causes. They are improving the workplace, we're talking here about better standards than we grew up with, fair standards," Matthews continued.

He went on to explain that these young people are introducing "better standards than we grew up with -- fair standards" to the workplace. He acknowledged that he's seen a cultural change, pointing specifically to the kind of compliments on a woman's appearance in the workplace that men, including him, thought were acceptable, but are not and never have been. "For making such comments in the past, I'm sorry," he said.

The anchor, who has spent the past 20 years hosting Hardball concluded his statement saying, "I'm very proud of the work I've done here. Long before I went on TV, I worked for years in politics, was a newspaper columnist and author. I'm working on another book, I'll continue to write and talk about politics and cheer on my producers and crew here in Washington, in New York. My MSNBC colleagues, they will continue to produce great journalism in the years ahead. And for those of you who have gotten into a 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 will always have Hardball. So let's not say goodbye, but till we meet again."

Matthews' resignation comes after multiple recent controversies on air. Last week, Matthews had to issue an apology to presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders after comparing his rise in the 2020 Democratic Primary to Nazis invading France at the start of WWII. He also confused Democrat Jaime Harrison, an African-American politician running for senator in South Carolina, with Republican Senator Tim Scott, who also is black. There were also calls online for Matthews to be fired after his post-South Carolina debate questioning of Elizabeth Warren's criticism of Michael Bloomberg went viral.

The move to resign on air was shocking and not just for audiences. MSNBC correspondent Steve Kornacki took control of the show after Matthews message, appearing a little out of sorts.

"I'm sure you're still absorbing that and I am too," Kornacki said, going on to call Matthews a giant and a legend. "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. We're not going to have any bells or whistles here. We do have to fill the rest of this hour. We're going to take a quick break and come back."

Matthews will be replaced in the 7 p.m. hour by a rotating group of hosts, according to The Hollywood Reporter.