By Erik Wemple
The Washington Post
We’ve seen this before in corporate media: A male star television personality acts like a jerk or a predator or a monster. A woman complains about the conduct. Company pays a settlement in an exit package for the woman. Star television guy carries on.
And according to the Daily Caller, that’s pretty much the sequence of events that protected MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews in 1999.
According to an MSNBC spokesperson, a female employee told CNBC executives — Matthews’ show was then airing on the business network; it later to move to MSNBC — that Matthews had made inappropriate jokes and comments at her expense and in the presence of others. The company investigated and found that Matthews’ conduct was inappropriate and offensive, though it concluded that he wasn’t propositioning the woman.
He received a formal reprimand, according to the MSNBC spokesperson; the complainant got a separation package with an undisclosed amount of money. Citing a confidentiality clause, the company declined to provide further information. The woman has moved on to other positions in media, according to the Daily Caller’s reporting.
“Hardball” has been around for two decades and holds down the 7 p.m. Eastern time slot with an unapologetic dose of political junkiness. The show’s obsession with Beltway politics has its roots in Matthews’ past: He ran for Congress as a Democrat in 1974, went on to work in the Carter White House as a speechwriter and later served as an aide to House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill. Along the way, he wrote biographies on John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy.
Other prominent names in the NBC News family have surfaced in the country’s sexual-harassment reckoning.
Matt Lauer, co-host of the “Today” show, was fired in November following a sexual-harassment complaint.
Matt Zimmerman, who worked with Lauer on “Today” bookings, was dismissed earlier that month for “inappropriate conduct with more than one woman at NBCU, which violated company policy.”
The company ended its arrangements with senior political analyst Mark Halperin after reports of sexual misconduct while he worked at ABC News a decade ago.