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On the Trail / WOMEN'S GROUP

Playing hardball with Matthews

August 14, 2008|Peter Nicholas

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

The nonpartisan group, called the New Agenda, held its first meeting this week and established as one of several goals getting Matthews yanked from his long-running show, "Hardball with Chris Matthews."

Matthews' contract is up for renewal next year. His plans are unclear. But in Pennsylvania, his home state, some Democrats have long hoped that Matthews -- who was an aide in Washington to several Democratic lawmakers and a presidential speechwriter in the Carter administration -- would abandon TV and run for the Senate in 2010 against the Republican incumbent, Arlen Specter.

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

Amy Siskind of Westchester, N.Y., a founder and Clinton supporter, said the group was urging that Matthews' contract not be renewed because "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."

An MSNBC spokeswoman, Alana Russo, said Wednesday that Matthews was out sick and not available for comment.

Clinton loyalists were unhappy with Matthews' coverage of the race for the Democratic nomination and what they see as a pattern of demeaning behavior to women.

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 had made about Clinton's political achievements. He said she owed her Senate seat and presidential bid to the fact that her husband had "messed around."

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.

-- Peter Nicholas

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