… Mr. Matthews, 74, had faced mounting criticism in recent days over a spate of embarrassing on-air moments, including a comparison of Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign to the Nazi invasion of France and an interview with Senator Elizabeth Warren in which the anchor was criticized for a condescending and disbelieving tone.
On Saturday, the journalist Laura Bassett published an essay accusing Mr. Matthews of making multiple inappropriate comments about her appearance, reviving longstanding allegations about the anchor’s sexist behavior. By Monday, his position at the news network he helped build had become untenable.
Accompanied by his family, Mr. Matthews walked onto the “Hardball” set inside NBC’s Washington bureau shortly before 7 p.m. to deliver a brief farewell. His longtime crew members, who had been told of his plans roughly an hour earlier, looked on stunned.
“I’m retiring,” Mr. Matthews told viewers in a solemn and brief monologue as his broadcast began at 7. “This is the last ‘Hardball’ on MSNBC.”
His sudden signoff took many colleagues by surprise — “Wait. What?” the MSNBC anchor Katy Tur wrote on Twitter — but it followed days of discussions with Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC and one of the early executive producers of “Hardball.”
Mr. Griffin, who is close with Mr. Matthews, traveled to Washington over the weekend to discuss his future in person, according to three people who requested anonymity to describe sensitive conversations.
On the air on Monday, Mr. Matthews made clear that the timing of his exit was not entirely his choosing. “Obviously, it isn’t for a lack of interest in politics,” he said, going on to apologize for his past insensitive comments.
“Compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were OK are never OK,” he said. “Not then, and certainly not today.” …
… Commenting on the Nevada caucuses, Mr. Matthews compared Mr. Sanders’s victory to Germany’s takeover of France in World War II, drawing the ire of many liberals. He later apologized on-air, saying, “In the days and weeks and months ahead, I will strive to do a better job myself of elevating the political discussion.”
A day later, he was under fire again, this time for repeatedly questioning Ms. Warren about her assertion that Michael R. Bloomberg had mistreated his female employees. Ms. Warren was referring to a widely reported anecdote, and Mr. Matthews’s disbelief was criticized as sexist and dismissive.
On Friday, yet another faux pas: Mr. Matthews confused the identities of two African-American politicians, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Jaime R. Harrison, a Democrat running for Senate in that state. “Big mistake; mistaken identity, sir, sorry,” Mr. Matthews said after he was corrected on-air. …