WASHINGTON — Early Monday evening Chris Matthews, longtime host of NBC's "Hardball," opened his show with a statement that sent shockwaves across the media landscape; he was retiring. Effective immediately.
And by immediately, I mean right there on the spot, surprising everyone, especially Steve Kornacki, who, with a shocked look on his face, pulled off his sweats and came off the bench to take the chair after a sudden commercial break. Considering that he didn’t seem to get any warm-ups in, he did a fine job.
An intelligent, glib talker with a deep knowledge of politics, Matthews could also be brash, outspoken and combative and it was these qualities that took him from the world of print journalism to television -- qualities that turned him into one of the first cable news stars, leading a show that in many ways would become the template of what we see across television media today.
His interview style could best be called, unpredictable. Willing to go off on tangents, he was known for interrupting and loudly challenging his guests answers and viewpoints, to which they would respond accordingly.
A senator, Zell Miller, once told him that he wished they lived in a day when he could challenge him to a duel. It was moments like these that kept people coming back to the show for 20 years and turned him into a pop culture phenom.
While this brashness may have made his a star, it could also lead to embarrassing moments, for him and his network. Such as last week, when he likened Bernie Sanders Nevada caucus win to the Nazi’s invading France.
He also gained a reputation for holding sexist views and making inappropriate comments towards women -- comments that he seemed to take ownership of and apologize for in his remarks Monday evening.
While it has been reported that he had already been in discussion with network heads about retirement, moments such as these as well as a recent essay concerning this behavior in GQ, may have accelerated the process.
While he upset many, in an industry built on personality, his was one of the strongest.
There is a line from artist Lupe Fiasco in his song "Superstar;" Did you improve on the design, did you do something new?
I don’t know if it was an improvement. That’s up to you to decide, but he did create something new -- something that changed the way we take in politics, and despite his departure, will be in full effect over the next eight months.