After a Sanders surge and a Matthews gaffe, MSNBC prepares to pivot

As far as the possibility of Matthews resigning or being booted goes, that definitely isn’t happening. “They’re not taking Matthews off air over this,” one network insider told me. Rather, sources said he will address the controversy on the Monday night installment of Hardball. Several of them also emphasized that Matthews was not actually likening Sanders to the Nazis—he frequently tosses out historical and World War II references, and this one was perhaps a tone-deaf analogy in the heat of the moment. But if nothing else, the backlash seemed to crystallize just how hot the Sanders–MSNBC dynamic has become, as Tom Kludt explored last week for Vanity Fair. Matthews’s remarks came just one day after Page Six reported that Sanders himself took his grievances directly to MSNBC president Phil Griffin, reportedly telling him in a greenroom before the NBC debate in Nevada last week, “Phil, your network has not been playing a fair role in this campaign. I am upset. Is anything going to change?…I hope you will do better.”

Griffin is taking the complaints seriously, according to network sources. After Matthews’s comments on Saturday night, Griffin’s phone blew up with an angry reaction from the campaign. Griffin quickly discussed the matter with Matthews, who then interviewed campaign cochair Nina Turner on air minutes later. Sources also noted that MSNBC took Sanders’s El Paso and San Antonio rallies live on Saturday, and that Sanders people like campaign manager Faiz Shakir and former campaign manager Jeff Weaver both received airtime on Monday. “The Sanders team is in contact with our senior management,” one source said, “and they are heard. Phil is doing his best to give Bernie his due.”