Opinion: Chris Matthews must go, women’s group says

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A new women’s organization is setting out to get Chris Matthews fired from his job at MSNBC, calling his treatment of women on his show sexist.

The nonpartisan group, called The New Agenda, held its first meeting this week in New York and established as one of its goals the sacking of the host of ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews.’

Matthews’ contract is up for renewal next year. His plans are unclear, but in his home state of Pennsylvania, some Democrats have pushed for him to abandon TV and run for the Senate in 2010 against the Republican incumbent Arlen Specter. (A recent Quinnipiac poll found that to be a potentially competitive matchup, with Specter leading Matthews 41% to 36%.)

The 30-some women who attended New Agenda’s inaugural meeting included representatives of other women’s groups from around the country, along with supporters of Hillary Clinton’s defunct presidential campaign, according to one of the founders.


“The goal of the group is when his contract comes up for negotiation is to have it not be renewed,’ said Amy Siskind of Westchester, N.Y., a New Agenda founder and a Clinton supporter. “The kind of language he uses and the kind of behavior he exhibits in the public domain toward women objectifies them and leads to bad things for our society and to domestic violence.’

MSNBC spokeswoman Alana Russo said today that Matthews was out sick and unavailable for comment.

Clinton loyalists were displeased with Matthews’ coverage of the Democratic primary race and what they see as a long-established pattern of demeaning behavior toward women.

For instance, in 2007 Matthews was talking on the air with Erin Burnett, a CNBC business news anchor, when he asked her to lean into the camera. ‘Come in closer. Really close,’ he told a flustered Burnett. He then laughed and said, ‘Just kidding, you look great.... You’re a knockout.’

In January, Matthews apologized on the air for a comment he made about Clinton’s political achievements. He had said she owed her Senate seat and presidential bid to the fact that her husband had ‘messed around,’ a reference to the sex scandal that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

Siskind would not reveal what tactics the group would use to get Matthews off the air. She likened the organization to the Navy Seals, saying their methods would be ‘covert.’

Describing MSNBC as ‘the boys of sexism’ cable network, she also suggested Matthews may not be the group’s sole target.

New Agenda’s other goals will include helping women politicians who might one day compete for president, Siskind added.

-- Peter Nicholas