(Reuters) – Longtime MSNBC cable news anchor Chris Matthews abruptly announced his retirement on Monday following controversial remarks to women and about Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders.
“Let me start with my headline tonight: I’m retiring. This is the last ‘Hardball’ on MSNBC,” Matthews said as he opened his evening show on the Comcast owned channel.
The hour-long week night talk show hosted by the pugnacious Matthews and focusing on politics was one of the staples of left-leaning MSNBC’s primetime lineup, where it has aired since 1999.
The decision by Matthews, 74, follows comments in which he appeared to compare the success of Sanders in primary voting for the U.S. presidential elections to the Nazi invasion of Europe during World War Two.
Sanders, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, is Jewish. Matthews last week issued an on-air apology.
Matthews was also criticized for a tough interview with Democratic contender Elizabeth Warren last week.
In a separate incident, a female journalist last week alleged that Matthews had made inappropriate remarks to her while she was getting ready to appear on his show in 2016.
“Obviously, this isn’t for lack of interest in politics,” Matthews said on Monday of his decision to retire. “The younger generations out there are ready to take the reins. We see them in politics and the media.”
“Compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men including me might have once incorrectly thought were OK, were never OK. Not then and certainly not today. And for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry,” he added.
Matthews said he came to his decision after talks with MSNBC.
Matthews immediately handed over his show to stunned MSNBC political reporter Steve Kornacki.
“Chris Matthews is a giant, he is a legend… I knew how much you meant to him, and how much he meant to you. And I think you’re going to miss him, and I will too,” Kornacki said.
Matthews was known for his combative approach in interviews with politicians and commentators. He came to MSNBC after a long career in Washington D.C., where he worked for several Democrats and became a speech writer for President Jimmy Carter.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Sandra Maler)