On Saturday, an MSNBC spokesman confirmed that the American news cable and satellite television network paid off one of well-known commentator Chris Matthews’ former assistant producers after she filed a sexual harassment claim against him.
MSNBC claims the sum was just part of a normal severance package, but other sources insist it was a $40,000 sexual misconduct settlement.
According to this former employee, Matthews made inappropriate comments and jokes about her in front of others in 1999 while she was employed on his show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Amber Athey, the investigative reporter for the Daily Caller who first broke the story, discusses the allegations against Matthews with Radio Sputnik’s Fault Lines.
“I established sources [at MSNBC], obviously and I can’t reveal who those are. I talked to two sources and they were familiar with the settlement and had a name and a number and so we [the Daily Caller] took it to the executives. Because we had specific details, they had to confirm [that a payment was made to one of Matthews’ employees],” Athey told hosts Garland Nixon and Lee Stranahan.
“Now I have additional sources [at MSNBC] that I am talking to that have claimed that this is the tip of the iceberg, not just in sexual harassment terms, but it terms of toxic workplace environment, and that’s something I’m exploring now,” Athey added.
According to Athey’s two sources familiar with the allegations against Matthews, MSNBC paid $40,000 to settle with the assistant producer on the show who complained about Matthews’ behavior toward her. Although the MSNBC executives admitted that a payment was made to the former employee, they claim that the company paid her a much smaller amount of money as a regular severance package.
“We got MSNBC to confirm that there was a sexual harassment settlement made with Matthews and an assistant producer back in 1999. Our sources were telling us it was for $40,000 and that it was a settlement. The MSNBC spokespeople disputed that, saying that it was actually for a lot less money and that it wasn’t a settlement but rather it was a separation-related payment, which leads me to believe that she was probably pushed out and given some kind of severance package after she made a complaint about harassment,” Athey explained.
According to MSNBC, the allegations against Matthews were thoroughly reviewed at the time and he received a formal warning. The network alleges that the comments Matthews made were inappropriate and juvenile but did not qualify as sexual propositions.
“What we know from MSNBC is that they have this history of not really investigating the claims that are brought against bigger people at the network and instead they try to cover it up and make it go away, and so this really isn’t an ‘out of the ordinary’ for their executives, to be paying someone off and pushing them out of the network in order to keep the alleged integrity of someone who obviously brings in really good ratings and has been with the network for 20 years now,” Athey added.
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MSNBC declined to comment on whether the former assistant producer left because of Matthews and whether there were multiple sexual misconduct allegations against Matthews throughout his NBC career.
“[MSNBC] would not tell us if there were any other settlements against Matthews and if there were any other claims made against him. They would not tell us if this was a repeating thing throughout the years or if it was a one-time thing. From what we’ve seen, sexual misconduct is usually a pattern of behavior. One woman speaks up and then it’s a whole lot of women with a whole lot of stories,” Athey said.
Matthews is the latest high-profile man in media to be accused of sexual misconduct.
Just last month, NBC News fired Matt Lauer, the former “Today” anchor, who was accused of sexual harassment and assault by multiple women, some of whom even claim that executives at the network were aware of his behavior.
In October, a dozen women accused NBC’s “Game Change” author Mark Halperin of sexual harassment and groping and former Senior Vice President Matt Zimmerman was fired for not disclosing relationships he had with women he worked with.