Profile of Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball

Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, discusses his new book 'Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero' at the National Constitution Cente
Jeff Fusco/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Chris Matthews is the feisty, outspoken host of MSNBC's Hardball, a top-rated program devoted to political news and analysis. 

Matthews is known for his blunt, outspoken style and tough grilling of interviewees, and for his in-depth knowledge of and love for politics. He has produced a number of acclaimed special news programs for MSNBC, including "Rise of the Right" in 2010, a look at the rhetoric of violence and discrimination of rightwing extremists.

Political Views

Chris Matthews has been accused of being both too liberal and too conservative. In truth, he's an independent thinker, not prone to political extremism. His views are colored more by his Catholic convictions than by partisanship.

As a young man, Matthews was a conservative Goldwater supporter until he was attracted to the anti-war, pro-civil rights 1968 presidential campaign of fellow Irish Catholic Eugene McCarthy. Matthews has worked for four Democratic leaders, and yet, since 2001, has spoken to an array of conservative organizations. Matthews has openly stated,  "I'm more conservative than people think."

Earlier Positions 

  • 1968-70 - Peace Corps, in Swaziland
  • 1973-74 - After knocking "on 200 doors on Capitol Hill," Matthews landed a staff position with Sen. Frank Church (D-UT).
  • 1974 - Unsuccessful run for Congress from Philadelphia
  • 1974-81 - Speech-writer and advisor to Sen. Ed Muskie (D-ME) and President Jimmy Carter.
  • 1981-87 - Administrative assistant and chief spokesman for Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill (D-MA). As a powerful top aide to the Speaker, Matthews honed his political skills and masterful understanding of the political process. He also made invaluable Capitol Hill contacts. Tip O'Neill retired in 1987.

Broadcast & Newspaper Journalist:

  • 1987 - Briefly worked for Government Research Corp, a private company.
  • 1987 - 2000 - Washington D.C. bureau chief for the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper
  • 2000 - 2002 - Nationally syndicated columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle
  • 1997 - Debut on CNBC of Hardball with Chris Matthews, later moved to MSNBC. Hardball airs daily on weekdays, and as needed for special political coverage.
  • 2002 - Debut of The Chris Matthews Show, a 30-minute weekend news and political roundtable program produced by NBC News.

Honors and Publications 

In addition to 17 honorary doctorates, Matthews has been awarded:

  • David Brinkley Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism
  • Abraham Lincoln Award from the Philadelphia Union League
  • The Gold Medal Award from the Pennsylvania Society

Chris Matthews has authored 4 best-selling books:

  • "Hardball: How Politics Is Played Told By One Who Knows The Game" (1988)
  • "Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America" (1996)
  • "Now, Let Me Tell You what I Really Think" (2001)
  • "American: Beyond Our Grandest Notion" (2002)

Personal Data

  • Birth - December 17, 1945 in Nicetown, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb, to Herb Matthews, a court reporter, and Mary. The Matthews, conservative Irish Catholics, had 4 other sons, Herb, Jim, Bruce and Charlie.
  • Education - B.A. 1967, College of the Holy Cross. Graduate work in economics, University of North Carolina.
  • Family - Married in 1980 to Kathleen Matthews. 3 children, Michael, Thomas, Caroline.
  • Faith - Roman Catholic

Chris Matthews suffers from diabetes, and was hospitalized in fall 2006 for diabetic complications. He also survived a bout of malaria in 2002 that he likely contracted in Africa.

Marriage and Family

Chris Matthews has been married to Kathleen Matthews since 1980. Kathleen Matthews is an award-winning news anchor/producer who covered D.C. news, mainly for ABC, for over twenty-five years.  In late 2006, she was named Executive VP - Communications & Public Affairs of Marriott International.

Born in 1953 in Los Altos Hills, California, the oldest of five children, she was a 1975 honors graduate from Stanford University, where she majored in American Studies and played varsity tennis. Kathleen Matthews is active in charitable causes, sits on many non-profit boards, and with Chris, co-chairs a capital campaign for D.C. Catholic Charities. She holds 10 honorary doctorate degrees.

Chris and Kathleen Matthews have three children. Their son Michael (b. 1982) is a filmmaker who graduated from Brown University in 2005. Their son Thomas (b. 1986) is an actor who has starred in American Hustle , Joy, and HBO's  The Newsroom. Their daughter, Caroline (b. 1989), who graduated from high school in 2007, has absorbed her father's interest in Africa, and formed an AIDS awareness school club. In 2006, Caroline participated in a service project at an AIDS orphanage in Kenya, and wrote about her experience in a Newsweek magazine article.

Chris Matthews' brother Jim Matthews was defeated in his 2006 run as the Republican candidate for Pennsylania's Lieutenant Governor.

Memorable Quotes by Chris Matthews

On Press Coverage of the Iraq War

"It is like we are at war — we have killed 15,000 people that died over there in that war, we still get guys knocked off every couple of days, a couple more guys are killed — and yet it is not on the tube.

It’s like, are we bored with the war now? Is that the new thing? We don’t cover a war guys are fighting? And I watch the news, I don’t see the war any more. It has been taken off television, and Bush must love it. Certainly Karl Rove loves the fact that the Iraq War has gotten boring for the American people."

--- Radio Interview with Don Imus, September 21, 2006

Advice to Aspiring Political Journalists

"I've had one helluva an apprenticeship for what I'm doing on television: fifteen years in politics, fifteen years writing for San Francisco newspapers. I wouldn't have any of this if I hadn't gone to Washington and gotten in the door. That's what you've got to do: get yourself in the game."

On Liberals and Conservatives

"The liberals will talk about poverty, injustice, and racism, and nuclear war, and pick that part of the Christian message from Jesus, and the conservatives will find the evils of sodomy, the evils of, uh, uh, infidelity, the evils of sex of any form. It seems like the conservatives don’t like sex and they’re very focused on that and the liberals are focused on social injustice."

On His 2002 Bout with Malaria

"The important thing, I think, is how the experience affected me. There is no adequate emotional accounting for the effect of all those flowers, plants, fruit baskets, letters and phone calls. Or for the calm joy of simply having my crazed career engines turned off for a couple of weeks. Or for the love that has flowed from Kathleen and the rest of my world."