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MSNBC's Chris Matthews remains in the bull's eye for new women's group

September 16, 2008 |  2:31 pm

Forget the battle for the White House -- here's a campaign that's really heating up: the bid by a new women’s group to hold Chris Matthews accountable for what it asserts is “misogynistic journalism" practiced by the voluble MSNBC political pundit.

The New Agenda, a nonpartisan organization promoting women’s rights, today sent a letter to NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker asking for a meeting to discuss Matthews’ attitude toward women.Chris Matthews of MSNBC at his desk with Ron Reagan giving a thumbs up

Amy Siskind, one of the group's founders, said in an interview it wants Matthews (at right, with Ron Reagan behind him) to issue a public apology and change his on-air behavior. Absent that, he needs to be fired, she said.

The New Agenda also sent its letter to various Democratic officials in Pennsylvania -- Matthews' native state, where there has been chatter he might seek the party's nomination for the Senate in 2010.

The group's letter applauded the recent decision by MSNBC to remove Matthews and Keith Olbermann from prominent roles anchoring political events, but said more action is needed.

"MSNBC can regain its reputation as a respectable news organization by taking more appropriate action against Chris Matthews," the letter said. "If Matthews were an employee in a Fortune 500 company, he would have been fired for sexual harassment long ago. Instead, MSNBC peddled misogynistic journalism to the American public."

Compiling a list of actions that it deemed offensive, The New Agenda wrote that the "Hardball" host a couple of years asked if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would "castrate" a fellow Democrat with whom she had feuded, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

The letter also faults Matthews for likening Hillary Clinton, during the Democratic primary campaign, to Nurse Ratched, the power-mad character from Ken Kesey’s novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest."

And it cited a statement by Matthews that Clinton owed her political success to her husband’s having “messed around" -- a reference to Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. Matthews later apologized on the air for that comment.

"The historic candidacies of both Hillary Clinton and [Republican vice presidential nominee] Sarah Palin have brought to light for all Americans the rampant sexism in the media," the letter said.

Matthews, through a spokesman, declined comment.

-- Peter Nicholas

Photo credit: L.A. Times/Ken Hively

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