NBC paid compensation to woman who accused Chris Matthews of sexual harassment in 1999

The Daily Caller reported Saturday night that an unidentified woman received compensation after complaining she had been sexually harassed by host Chris Matthews in 1999.

Two sources familiar with the situation told The Daily Caller that Matthews paid $40,000 to settle with an assistant producer on his show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” in 1999 after she accused him of harassment. An MSNBC spokesperson contested that claim to the Caller, saying the company instead paid significantly less as part of a severance package.

The woman complained to CNBC executives about Matthews making inappropriate comments and jokes about her while in the company of others.

According to MSNBC, they investigated the allegation and determined that Matthews had made inappropriate comments for which he was reprimanded at the time. However, they decided his off-color comments (which the network refused to describe beyond saying they were juvenile) were not intended as an actual proposition and therefore didn’t require more serious consequences. The Associated Press has confirmed a payment followed the woman’s accusation but not the amount:

An MSNBC spokesman has confirmed a report saying a news channel staffer had been paid and left the job after complaining she was sexually harassed by ‘Hardball’ host Chris Matthews nearly two decades ago…

MSNBC said the payment was “separation-related compensation,” which means the payment was tied to the woman leaving her job.

So it seems MSNBC is claiming she received a severance package that was more of a standard exit for someone leaving the network, not a payout connected to her allegation. It’s hard to judge whether that’s true because MSNBC won’t confirm how much was paid. Also, we don’t know what the pay scale was for an assistant producer or how long this person was working at the network before the incident that led her to quit. Forty thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money, especially 20 years ago, but again MSNBC is claiming the actual amount was less than that.

The other thing the network hasn’t said is that this was a one-time incident. That seems like something they would be eager to say in this situation, so why not put it out there to make clear this wasn’t part of a pattern? We’ll have to wait and see if anyone else comes forward and whether or not MSNBC decides this is a problem for their brand.

Here’s Chris Matthews suggesting maybe he and others were too tough on Bill Clinton: