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Wednesday, 04 March 2020 19:16

Goodbye and Good Riddance to Chris Matthews

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Jim DiEugenio reviews the career of Chris Matthews upon his resignation from MSNBC, asserting, “I cannot help but wonder who will replace him, and if that person will be any kind of an improvement. I would think he or she could not be much worse.”


On Monday March 2nd, Chris Matthews, host of the MSNBC program Hardball, announced on the air that he was resigning after 20 years. That resignation was effective immediately. Therefore, he would not be around for the next day’s Super Tuesday primary elections. Which suggests that this was not his idea and he was forced out. Furthering this idea was how he announced his leaving, which he said was not due to his lack of interest in politics. (For the brief sign-off, click here)

To put it mildly, Matthews has had a pretty bad last couple of weeks. Even for a dyed-in-the-wool MSM zealot, he has made some real bonehead comments. When Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses, Matthews compared that victory to the Third Reich’s successful invasion of France in 1940. After the New Hampshire debate between Democratic candidates, Matthews indulged himself in a diatribe against socialists. During that tirade, in John Birch society mode, he confused socialism with communism and said that if Fidel Castro had won the Cold War, there would have been executions in Central Park and he would have been killed while others were cheering. He then added, “I don’t know who Bernie supports over these years, I don’t know what he means by socialism.” This reveals either extreme bias or a feigned ignorance, since Sanders has held political office for about 35 years.

In another blunder, last week Matthews confused Jaime Harrison, an African American candidate for the Senate in South Carolina, with another black politician, Tim Scott, who is the GOP incumbent senator from that state. After Harrison corrected him, Chris apologized for the “mistaken identity”. Perhaps the last nail in the coffin was a column by writer Laura Bassett appearing on Saturday in the magazine GQ. In that column she complained about some sexist comments Matthews had made to her while she was in the makeup chair.

Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
Tip O'Neill

Matthews began in Washington as an officer with the United States Capitol Police. He then became an aide for four Democratic members of Congress before he failed in an attempt to win a congressional seat in Pennsylvania. After this, he became a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter. When Carter failed to win reelection in 1980, Matthews signed up with House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Matthews then switched over to print journalism for 15 years.

Jimmy Carter
H.R. Haldeman
Jimmy Carter
Richard Helms

It was in his position as a columnist that Matthews now emerged as a rabid, mocking conservative member of the Washington establishment. After Oliver Stone released his film Nixon, Matthews criticized that picture for its use of a passage from H. R. Haldeman’s book The Ends of Power. In that passage, Haldeman had described a meeting with CIA Director Richard Helms in which the Bay of Pigs invasion was discussed. Helms’ reaction was so extreme that Haldeman concluded that Nixon’s use of the incident had been code for the Kennedy assassination. In a December of 1995 column, Matthews said this was all strained interpretation by Stone that Haldeman had blamed on his co-author Joe DiMona. Matthews could write this since he did not visit with DiMona. Dr. Gary Aguilar did so, and he learned why Matthews had not. DiMona told Aguilar that the book had gone through five drafts and Haldeman made many changes, but he never altered that passage. Clearly, Matthews had realized that after his films JFK and Nixon, Stone had become a lightning rod for the MSM. And if he was going to advance up the ladder, he had to join in the assault.

Therefore in 1996, Matthews published his book entitled Kennedy and Nixon. This was supposed to be a dual biography of these two central political characters. But to anyone who knew who Matthews was, and understood the two men, there was a not so subtle subtext to the volume. Matthews was actually trying to say that, contrary to popular belief, Richard Nixon and John Kennedy had more in common than they had differences. Oliver Stone agreed that this was an unjustified interpretation. The LA Times allowed him to review the book in June of 1996. He took the author to task for his unwarranted assumption that the two were somehow chums and comrades in arms. Two weeks later, on June 30, 1996, the Times allowed Matthews to reply. The columnist said he had nothing but contempt for Stone and all but called him a liar.

This got his ticket punched and Matthews now made the transfer into television. He first became a commentator for ABC’s Good Morning America, and then he got his own CNBC show titled Politics with Chris Matthews. That program eventually morphed into Hardball and was then placed on MSNBC.

While the host of this program, Matthews made good on his promise to be one of the foremost bastions of the MSM. How bad could Matthews get? He even visited the disgraced Tom DeLay at his home in Sugarland, Texas after he forcibly left Washington. The alleged Democrat admitted to voting for George W. Bush in 2000. He later defended this admission by saying that he thought Al Gore was kind of strange. Is it only a coincidence that Gore was one of the high-level politicians who had no problem admitting that he thought John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy?

For, as Doug Horne writes on his blog in the wake of Matthews’s resignation, the Hardball host was one of the foremost defenders of the Warren Commission during his 20-year span. In all of those years, this writer can only recall one small exception to the rigor with which Matthews took pains to mock and ridicule those who held a different view of the JFK assassination than the Warren Report did. This was after Jesse Ventura did an interview for Playboy back in 1999.

Jimmy Carter
Jesse Ventura

At that time, Governor Ventura was making the rounds of talk shows after the controversy caused by his rather bold pronouncements during that interview. One of the interviews he did was with Matthews at Harvard. (Probe, November/December 1999) When Matthews asked Ventura about his opinion of Vietnam, Ventura very soberly said that the United States should have never sided with France in that conflict. This was a mistake that prefigured our own involvement in Indochina. Matthews replied by saying the American buildup actually started under Kennedy. When Ventura stated that there were certain elements in the country that favored us going to war in Indochina, Matthews said that it was Kennedy who was giving them what they wanted from 1961-63. Ventura did not think fast enough to say, “Chris, there was not one more combat troop in Vietnam after Kennedy’s death than when he took office. So please show me the huge expenditures made by Kennedy?”

Matthews then shifted to the assassination itself. He tried the old chestnut about having to believe in a large conspiracy if one advocated for a plot. Ventura replied that if one thinks the Dallas Police were involved, then their negligence does not denote a wide conspiracy. Ventura turned the tables and asked a question of Matthews: Why didn’t the Commission call all the witnesses who smelled smoke on the grassy knoll? To which Chris finally made his minor exception. He beat a tactical retreat by saying that he would admit the Warren Report was a rush job and he agreed with Ventura’s critique of their work. But this author has to note that Matthews’ retreat was very limited. In his book Kennedy and Nixon, he endorsed the verdict of the Commission and said that Oswald shot Kennedy.

Towards the end of the interview, Matthews went completely off the rails. He characterized Oliver Stone’s film JFK in a completely nutty, wild manner by saying that somehow Nixon was involved in the plot depicted in the film. Since Nixon does not appear in the film except for the introduction over the credits, this is simply a smear. In fact, even if we expand this to the film Nixon, it is still not true. But Matthews really showed who he was when, near the end of the interview, he said that Stone tried to portray Kennedy as a peacenik when, in fact, he was a Cold Warrior. He then added that no one in JFK’s administration said he was trying to get out of Vietnam. Which is astonishing. For even at that time one had people like Roger Hilsman of the State Department, and Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, who both said such was the case. One can also add in Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Max Taylor, advisor Ted Sorensen, and assistants Dave Powers and Ken O’Donnell. All of these men said that Kennedy would never have gone into Vietnam with combat troops and direct American military intervention. So what was Matthews talking about?jfk no vietnam

But this nonsense is consistent with Matthews’ book on Kennedy, titled Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. In that book, Matthews never mentioned NSAM 263. This was the order issued by Kennedy in October of 1963 which began a formal withdrawal from Vietnam of a thousand advisors by the end of the year and the rest of the advisors by early in 1965. If one does not mention that document, then one can say the things Matthews does. And I do not for one moment believe that Matthews did not know about it, since it was featured so prominently in Oliver Stone’s film. Matthews chose to ignore it due to his own bias against Stone.

He is now gone, from at least MSNBC. I cannot help but wonder who will replace him, and if that person will be any kind of an improvement. I would think he or she could not be much worse.


Link to Jim DiEugenio’s review of Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero : https://consortiumnews.com/2012/01/03/why-mr-hardball-found-jfk-elusive/

Link to Jim DiEugenio’s review of Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit: https://consortiumnews.com/2018/06/04/distorting-the-life-of-bobby-kennedy/

Last modified on Thursday, 05 March 2020 12:52
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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