Someone else needs to get off her asp: The pair of headlines go together, though the story still hasn't been told.
One double headline concerns Chris Matthews. At the New York Times, that headline says this:
Chris Matthews Out at MSNBCThe other double headline concerns the late Jack Welch, former head of General Electric. At the New York Times, the obit appears on the front page of today's Business section:
Mr. Matthews’s show, “Hardball,” has been on the air since 1997.
Jack Welch, G.E. Chief Who Became a Business Superstar, Dies at 84Steve Lohr's obituary of Welch is quite lengthy, but there is no reference to NBC News. This is the only statement which even goes into the general neighborhood:
Mr. Welch was named “manager of the century” after General Electric’s revenue jumped nearly fivefold during his tenure.
LOHR (3/3/20): Jettisoning those businesses was part of Mr. Welch’s design to cope with the threat by Japan Inc. and its manufacturing prowess. Later steps included a massive expansion of G.E.’s finance arm and the acquisition of RCA, mainly for its NBC television network. These were attractive, profit-generating businesses away from the march of manufacturing in Japan and other Asian countries.As CEO of General Electric, Welch became head of NBC News—and he was an active owner.
Mr. Welch’s view was that big changes were a competitive necessity, but his sense of urgency was not widely shared.
No one would ever discuss Fox News without naming Rupert Murdoch. But it's virtually against the law to discuss the way Jack Welch affected NBC News and the political coverage of the Clinton-Gore era—coverage which continued affecting American politics right through the election of Trump.
That story remains untold. Because their elders have maintained a rigid code of silence, younger journalists have likely never heard the basics of that story. This brings us to Laura Bassett's recent criticism of Matthews, a criticism which seems to have played a key role in getting him fired.
Bassett's column appeared in GQ. In the main, it focused on Matthews' behavior with female guests off the air, as experienced by Bassett herself and as reported by others.
That said, Bassett has also heard about Matthews' behavior on the air. In this part of her column, she starts to tell a very long story which has long been swallowed by a code of silence:
BASSETT (2/28/20): Some of Matthews’s behavior has already been well-documented. Like Bloomberg, who frequently remarked “nice tits” and “I’d do her” at the office, Matthews has a pattern of making comments about women’s appearances in demeaning ways. The number of on-air incidents is long, exhausting, and creepy, including commenting to Erin Burnett, for example, “You’re a knockout...it’s all right getting bad news from you,” while telling her to move closer to the camera. Behind the scenes, one of Matthews’s former producers told The Daily Caller in 2017 that he allegedly rated his female guests on a numerical scale and would name a “hottest of the week,” like a “teenage boy.” In 1999, an assistant producer accused Matthews of sexual harassment, which CNBC, the show's network at the time, investigated. They concluded that the comments were "inappropriate," and Matthews received a “stern reprimand,” according to an MSNBC spokesperson.In the last highlighted passage, Bassett begins to discuss Matthews' treatment of Hillary Clinton in the decade from 1999 through 2008. At that point, changing politics at the network eventually caused Matthews to start expressing his lifelong admiration of Clinton.
This tendency to objectify women in his orbit has bled into his treatment of female politicians and candidates. He has repeatedly lusted over women in politics on air, including remarking in 2011 that there’s “something electric” and “very attractive” about the way former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin walks and moves, and noting in 2017 that acting attorney general Sally Yates is “attractive, obviously.” But he has reserved a particular contempt for the woman who made it closest to ascending the heights of American political power—Hillary Clinton—calling her “witchy,” “anti-male,” and “She-Devil.” The Cut obtained footage of him joking in early 2016, just before a live interview with then candidate Clinton, “where’s that Bill Cosby pill,” referring to the date-rape drug. In 2005, he openly wondered whether the troops would “take the orders” from a female president; after another interview, he pinched Clinton’s cheek; and in another, he suggested that she had only had so much political success because her husband had “messed around.” This evening anchor, in addition to everything else, has repeatedly challenged whether women are legitimate politicians or could be president at all. "I was thinking how hard it is for a woman to take on a job that's always been held by men," he said of Clinton in 2006.
That said, Bassett is telling a small part of the story. She's omitting a great deal about Matthews' appalling behavior from that era.
At this site, we began recording Matthews' inappropriate on-air behavior toward liberal women in 1999. (Early examples: Norah O'Donnell; Elizabeth Holtzmann; Mary Rose Oakar). Doing so was utterly pointless. There was much less "cable news" back then, and career journalists wanted to build their careers by guesting on Hardball, one of the only games in town.
Matthews' behavior was frequently appalling, and not just with respect to Hillary Clinton and other liberal women. His behavior toward Candidate Gore during Campaign 2000 bordered on the barely sane, and it included the elements of crackpot sexuality which were being normalized by Maureen Dowd and the hopeless New York Times.
Dowd was also too big to fail. All the hustlers who preceded Bassett agreed that the conduct of people like Matthews and Dowd couldn't be discussed.
While Matthews trashed Clinton as Nurse Ratched, he was also trashing Candidate Gore as "today's man-woman." Meanwhile, he was conducting ludicrous on-air love affairs with Gennifer Flowers and Kathleen Willey, his favorite (Bill) Clinton accusers.
On one especially heinous occasion, he and Willey came this close to getting an American journalist killed through a false on-air accusation. Luckily, the falsely accused journalist wasn't home when the Hardball watcher with the history of mental illness showed up at his home with a gun.
Police were called, and the man with the gun was arrested. Needless to say, he was the brother of a major NBC cable star. But Matthews and Willey had actually come that close, through their appalling behavior.
That said, the story of that astounding incident is one of The Greatest Stories Never Told. The people who preceded Bassett all agreed that it had to be hushed, left alone, ignored, sanitized, disappeared.
In our view, Bassett needs to get off her asp and tell this larger story. The trashing of Gore from March 1999 through November 2000 almost surely put George Bush in the White House. People are dead all over Iraq because the people who preceded Bassett, many of whom remain her superiors, refused to discuss what was happening on Hardball's air.
Meanwhile, the decade of misogynist trashing of Hillary Clinton almost surely put Trump where he is. In our view, Bassett needs to stop talking about the makeup room and start talking about this larger story. Or is she like all the rest?
Matthews behaved in astonishing ways during the Jack Welch era. Part of that story is merely comical. We refer to Welch's assembly of an all mid-century, East Coast Irish Catholic cabal inside NBC News.
He recruited Tim Russert for Meet the Press. He made Matthews the face of NBC cable, with Pat Buchanan as the go-to commentator. He established Brian Williams as the anointed successor to Brokaw. The NBC phone book had a separate page just for all the O'Donnells.
Clownishly, this was the MSNBC pundit lineup when the Bush-Gore debates were discussed in the fall of 2000:
Brian Williams, moderator:That was NBC cable's five-member, all Irish Catholic panel. First guest commentator each night? Who else? Timothy Russert!
Doris Kearns Goodwin
That was the comical part of this story—that and the way this tiny ethnic clan gathered in their multi-million dollar summer "cottages" on Nantucket, surrounding Boss Welch and his main man at NBC, the Irish Catholic Robert Wright.
That was the comical part. The part which killed people all over the world involves the kind of punditry these Welch shills provided as their salaries and their status climbed, with Bassett's predecessors maintaining silence about what was happening.
Bassett's successors agreed not to notice all this. In our view, Bassett needs to get off her ascot and start discussing this history.
People are dead all over the world because of what Matthews and Welch did. Donald J. Trump sits where he does because of the misogynist sliming of Clinton, with all of Bassett's liberal/feminist predecessors agreeing they mustn't say boo.
(Later, the same thing happened with Olbermann. Can you even look at Rebecca Traister without thinking of her silence, except when discussing Olbermann's misogyny in private at Journolist? For ourselves, we cannot. We feel certain that Bassett will want to tackle this part of the story too.)
Bassett has every reason to complain about what happened to her in makeup. That said, we think she needs to get off her asp and tell this larger story. Or will she obey the code of silence, the way those before her have done?
For decades, it's been all about these people's careers; nothing else has mattered. Is that the way things will continue now that Bassett has spoken?
These episodes are all described in real time in our archives. Our complaining about Matthews' inappropriate on-air behavior began in 1999. Given the code of silence these people maintain, our complaining was utterly pointless.
Today's obituary in the New York Times doesn't mention what Welch did with NBC News. Much of that involved Chris Matthews. The children all knew not to talk, and you won't hear them yapping today.
One road leads to Nantucket: As we noted in this report, Matthews purchased his Nantucket cottage for $4.35 million in 2004 (or so said the Boston Globe).
How did he scrape together the dough? We don't know, but according to press reports, his salary went from $1.1 million to $5 million during the era when he seemed to be playing toady to Welch.
Due to the press corps' code of silence, very few people have ever heard such things. Now that Bassett has found her voice, we feel completely sure that she'll want to report this out.
Her GQ bosses will urge her on. It's a new day in the world!