Christopher John "Chris" Matthews (born December 17, 1945) is an American political commentator, talk show host, and author. Matthews is known for his nightly hour-long talk show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, which is televised on the American cable television channel MSNBC. From 2002 to 2013, Matthews hosted a syndicated NBC News–produced panel discussion program on weekends titled The Chris Matthews Show. Matthews appears on other NBC and MSNBC programs as well.
Early life and education
Matthews was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Mary Teresa (née Shields) and Herb Matthews, a court reporter. Matthews' father was a Protestant of English and Scots-Irish ancestry, and his mother was from an Irish Catholic family; Matthews is a Roman Catholic.
Matthews attended La Salle College High School. Matthews is a 1967 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and did graduate work in Economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Matthews was also a visiting fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.
Matthews served in the United States Peace Corps in Swaziland from 1968 to 1970 as a trade development adviser.
Matthews holds 34 honorary degrees from numerous universities and colleges, including: The Ohio State University, Washington University, Howard University, College of Holy Cross, Fordham University, Villanova University, La Salle University, Temple University, University of Rochester, Suffolk, New England School of Law, Roosevelt University, St. Joseph's University, Old Dominion University, Hunter College, Lynn University, Stetson, University of South Carolina, Washington College, Quinnipiac University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, University of Scranton, Drexel University, Washington and Jefferson, St. Leo University, Niagara University, Loyola College, Fontbonne College, Beaver College, Chestnut Hill, and Anna Maria.
Matthews is the recipient of several awards, including The Pennsylvania Society's Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in 2005, the Abraham Lincoln Award from the Union League of Philadelphia, the David Brinkley Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism, and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award, the 2016 Tip O'Neill Irish Diaspora Award.
Political career and views
When Matthews first arrived in Washington, D.C., he worked as an officer with the United States Capitol Police. Subsequently, Matthews served on the staffs of four Democratic Members of Congress, including Senators Frank Moss and Edmund Muskie. In 1974, Matthews mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Pennsylvania's 4th congressional district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in which he received about 24% of the vote in the primary. Matthews was a presidential speechwriter during the Carter Administration, and later worked for six years as Chief of Staff to longtime Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Neill, playing a direct role in many key political battles with the Reagan Administration.
Matthews has said, "I'm more conservative than people think I am.... I voted for George W. in 2000." Salon.com has called him the "most conservative voice" on MSNBC's primetime lineup. Matthews has been accused by Media Matters for America of having panels of guests that skew to the right and of supporting Republicans in his own questions and comments.
On the April 14, 2008, edition of The Colbert Report, Matthews alluded to a possible run for the United States Senate from Pennsylvania. When directly questioned by Stephen Colbert about his intentions, Matthews stated that there is a difference between celebrities and those who work for the people, and it's a greater thing to work for the people. Matthews also said that his boyhood dream was to be a senator. Four days later, on April 18, 2008, Matthews told Bill Maher that he has "made a commitment to covering politics in a liberal way, starting in 1987, and [he is] honoring that commitment, not getting involved in it." The seat in question was the one held by Senator Arlen Specter, whose term in the Senate ended in January 2011. On November 28, 2008, Fivethirtyeight.com and The Politico reported that Matthews had been in contact with senior staffers of Barack Obama's campaign about a possible run. On January 7, 2009, The New York Times reported that Matthews told his staffers that he would not run for the Senate. On May 25, 2009 Chris Matthews appeared on Charlie Rose where he stated that he was intending to run for Specter's Senate seat in 2010, stating, "I could see myself winning the Democratic primary and I could see myself going on to face Arlen in the general [election]," but that he felt he had to decide between being a journalist and being a politician once Specter became a national figure by supporting the stimulus.
While discussing proposed healthcare reform on the December 17, 2009, edition of Hardball, Matthews stated, "The Republicans will know they have lost.... Let them keep score and it's easy. It's complicated when liberals get to keep score. We're always arguing. Well, I'm a liberal, too."
In 2004, at the Democratic National Convention, Matthews rightly predicted that he had "just seen the first black president."
Author and talk show host
Matthews worked in print media for 15 years, spending 13 years as Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the San Francisco Examiner (1987–2000) and two years as a nationally syndicated columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Matthews covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first all-races election in South Africa, and the Good Friday Peace Talks in Northern Ireland. In 1997 and 1998, his research in the National Archives produced a series of exclusives on the Nixon presidential tapes. Matthews has covered American presidential election campaigns since 1988.
In 1997, Matthews began his own weeknight talk show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, which originally aired on America's Talking but is currently on MSNBC. Hardball features pundits and elected officials as guests.
The Chris Matthews Show aired in syndication from 2002 until 2013. The show was formatted as a political roundtable consisting of four journalists and Matthews, who served as the moderator. He is estimated to earn more than $5 million a year. He is the author of seven best-selling books:
- Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked (2013)
- Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero (2011)
- Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success (2007)
- American: Beyond our Grandest Notions (2002)
- Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think (2001)
- Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry that Shaped Postwar America (1996)
- Hardball: How Politics is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game (1988)
Elusive Hero spent 12 weeks on The New York Times' bestseller list. The book was lauded by critics. "Matthews excels in capturing the tribalism of the Irish Catholic culture and experience Kennedy both absorbed and overcame as he made his way...[and] is at his best in describing political dynamics," The Washington Post said. "Matthews proves a compelling storyteller," said The Boston Globe. "Matthews has produced a valuable addition to the literature about the life and career of our 35th president," said The Christian Science Monitor. "Matthews's stirring biography reveals Kennedy as a 'fighting prince never free from pain, never far from trouble, and never accepting the world he found,'" said Publishers Weekly.
In 2013, Matthews announced that he had signed a long-term contract extension with MSNBC but that he would no longer host The Chris Matthews Show in order to focus his efforts on Hardball, writing books, and producing documentaries. The final episode of The Chris Matthews Show aired on July 21.
Matthews has been married since 1980 to Kathleen Matthews, who anchored News 7 on WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., before accepting a position as an executive vice president with J.W. Marriott. The couple has three children: Michael, Thomas, and Caroline. His brother Jim Matthews, a Republican, is a former county commissioner in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
In 2002, Matthews was hospitalized with malaria, which he evidently contracted on one of his visits that year to Africa. He has also had other health problems, including diabetes (which he acknowledged having on the Hardball broadcast of December 7, 2009) and pneumonia.
Matthews was the commencement speaker at The Ohio State University on May 4, 2014, and at the University of Rochester on May 18, 2014, where he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters.