On Friday afternoon, The Cut published an exclusive report revealing that longtime MSNBC host Chris Matthews made a joke about slipping Hillary Clinton a "Bill Cosby pill" in advance of interviewing the former presidential candidate back in 2016. Matthews, 72, has been a host on the liberal-leaning cable news network since 1997.
The wildly offensive joke, made by Matthews prior to conducting an interview with Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 Iowa caucuses, was captured on video, which means this is beyond the realm of mere allegation. In the video, Matthews is getting ready to interview Clinton as a glass of water is set up on a table across from him. Presumably, the water was for Clinton, which led Matthews to make the following comments.
"Can I have some of the queen's waters? Precious waters?" he said. "Where's that Bill Cosby pill I brought with me?" A man seated across from Matthews in the seat Clinton would later occupy chuckled uncomfortably and covered his face with his hand after the comment, while a woman filling the water glasses looked over startled, with her mouth agape.
Matthews apologized for the sexist joke, which referenced the dozens of allegations of drugging and sexual assault by comedian Bill Cosby. (Cosby has vehemently denied all allegations.) Matthews told The Cut he deeply regretted making that joke, while acknowledging that's "no excuse."
This was a terrible comment I made in poor taste during the height of the Bill Cosby headlines. I realize that’s no excuse. I deeply regret it and I’m sorry.
This is not the first time Matthews has been scrutinized for sexism, and not just towards Clinton. Back in 2007, he was criticized for appearing to leer at former CNBC and current CNN anchor Erin Burnett on-air, urging her to lean close to the camera before calling her "beautiful" and a "knockout." He also was caught on a hot mic gushing over Melania Trump's "runway walk" at the Republican National Convention in 2016.
It was also reported late last year that MSNBC paid out an unspecified amount of money to a former assistant producer on Matthews' show in 1999, after she alleged he'd made "inappropriate comments and jokes about her in front of others." MSNBC has reportedly denied that the payment was a settlement.
Regarding Clinton specifically, Matthews has a pretty long record of derogatory remarks, although nothing perhaps quite as jarring as this freshly revealed Cosby joke.
Back in 2005, he claimed Clinton appeared "witchy" in her opposition to the Bush administration's homeland security spending. In 2007, he suggested that Clinton didn't have complete "latitude" to answer a question in a Democratic primary debate, because she was on a "short leash" with her husband Bill not present. Just months later, he compared Clinton to Nurse Ratched, the villainous, cold-eyed character from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
It's unclear whether this latest revelation will impact or imperil Matthews' role at the network. His show, Hardball, is the channel's longest-tenured program, dating back to the earliest days of MSNBC's history.
He's survived and endured despite MSNBC going through a pretty big political evolution through the years, from a channel that once tried to court conservative viewers with hard-right hosts like Michael Savage and Alan Keyes, to one that's become a reliable outlet for mainstream, establishment liberalism and anti-Trumpism.
It remains to be seen whether Matthews will directly address the hyper-offensive joke on the next episode of his show. As it stands now, he's slated to go on the air at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday evening, for his usual slot in MSNBC's evening political lineup.
Disclosure: Hillary Clinton's son-in-law Marc Mezvinsky joined Social Capital, an investor in Bustle Digital Group, in mid 2017 and joined the Board of Bustle Digital Group in early 2018.