For 10 days, the "Hardball" host had doggedly insisted he was just reciting a bit of history when he said on the air that "the reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around."But protests against those and other remarks by Matthews reached a peak yesterday when the presidents of such groups as the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority and National Women's Political Caucus sent a joint letter of complaint to NBC News President Steve Capus.On last night's program, Matthews defended the substance of his remarks that Clinton's political career in New York was launched because of public sympathy stemming from her husband's much-investigated affair with Monica Lewinsky. But, he said, "was it fair to imply that Hillary's whole career depended on being a victim of an unfaithful husband? No. And that's what it sounded like I was saying."Noting that it would be just as unfair to attribute John McCain's political success to having been shot down in the Vietnam War, Matthews said: "Saying Senator Clinton got where she's got simply because her husband did what he did to her is just as callous, and I can see now, came across just as nasty worse yet, just as dismissive." He said he would be "clearer," "smarter" and more respectful in discussing women.
Kim Gandy, NOW's president, said last night that "Chris Matthews is a repeat offender when it comes to sexist attitudes toward women politicians. . . . I wasn't really looking for an apology. I was looking for a behavior change, and for him to treat female politicians the same way as male politicians."In the joint letter, also signed by author Gloria Steinem, the women cited other examples in which Matthews referred to Clinton as a "stripteaser" and called her "witchy." When Nancy Pelosi was in line to become House speaker, the letter noted, Matthews asked a guest if Pelosi was "going to castrate Steny Hoyer" if the Maryland congressman was elected majority leader.About 30 people affiliated with the National Women's Political Caucus picketed NBC's Nebraska Avenue NW bureau yesterday afternoon as a protest against Matthews's remarks."This is a victory for all women. We are pleased that Chris Matthews has shown remorse," the caucus said in a statement last night.