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Chris Matthews publicly addresses his "inappropriate" behavior for first time since MSNBC exit

In March, Chris Matthews abruptly left MSNBC after decades at the network following a column by journalist Laura Bassett, who alleged the host had "inappropriately flirted" with her multiple times in the past. Matthews addressed his behavior for the first time publicly since his exit in an interview with Vanity Fair published Friday — and called his behavior "inappropriate."

The former host of "Hardball" commented on one of the encounters Bassett detailed in her revealing column for GQ in late February. Bassett said as she was in the make-up chair preparing for an appearance on his show in 2016, Matthews asked her, "Why haven't I fallen in love with you yet?" She said when she "laughed nervously and said nothing" Matthews told the makeup artist, "Keep putting makeup on her, I'll fall in love with her."

It is unclear in the Vanity Fair interview if Matthews is commenting on the entire interaction, or just his comment to the makeup artist, which is specifically referenced in the article.

"I didn't argue about it, I didn't deny it," Matthews told Vanity Fair about the comment. "I accepted the credibility of the complaint in the article. I didn't want to challenge the person that made the complaint and wrote the article. I thought it was very credible and certainly within the person's rights to write that article, of course. That was highly justified."

He also added in the wide-ranging interview, "It's inappropriate in the workplace to compliment somebody on their appearance, this is in the makeup chair, and I did it."

Bassett later commented about Friday's interview on Twitter the next day: "Somehow I missed that Chris Matthews confirmed my story about him to Vanity Fair yesterday," she wrote, including a link to the article. "I appreciate him owning up this and respect how he handled it. And to everyone who reflexively said I was lying: Please read this."

Bassett's column was published Friday, February 28; three days later, Matthews opened his Monday's edition of "Hardball" with the news of his abrupt retirement. Matthews had started the primetime cable show in 1997 — and regularly appeared on MSNBC and NBC during political coverage. 

He said at the time that "compliments on a woman's appearance that some men, including me, might have incorrectly thought were OK were never OK. Not then, and certainly not today, and for making such comments in the past, I'm sorry."

Bassett said in February that she wrote about the encounter with Matthews in a 2017 essay, but didn't name the host because she was afraid of network retaliation, adding in the column, "I'm not anymore."

Matthews had been criticized multiple times over the course of his career for comments toward or about women that some viewed as controversial or out of touch. In 2018, The Cut released 2016 footage of Matthews before an interview with then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In the footage, he asked, "Where's that Bill Cosby pill I brought with me?"

The statement was in reference to the sex offender and former comedian, who was later convicted of drugging and assaulting one of his many accusers in 2018. Matthews apologized after the footage was released.

Matthews came under fire earlier this year for an exchange with then-presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren about a woman who alleged that her opponent Mike Bloomberg once made an inappropriate remark — which he had denied, reports Vanity Fair. Matthews questioned the allegation at the time, asking, "Why would he lie?"

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