Chris Matthews was born on December 17, 1945, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Matthews served as presidential speechwriter during the Carter administration. From 1981 to 1987 he was top aide to Tip O'Neill. Afterward, he wrote for the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1997, he began hosting the show Hardball. In 2002, he also became host of The Chris Matthews Show.
Chris Matthews, the second son of Herbert Charles and Mary Teresa Matthews, was born on December 17, 1945, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the neighborhood of Nicetown. Chris was later raised in Northeast Philadelphia in the area of Somerton, where he attended Catholic school while his father worked as a court stenographer. Chris’ grandfather, a local Democratic committeeman, was Chris’ role model during these formative years, and encouraged his early interest in politics.
After he graduated from a Catholic high school, Chris attended the College of the Holy Cross. He went on to study economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1967. Matthews joined the Peace Corps in 1968, volunteering in Swaziland, Africa, until 1970.
Matthews’ childhood interest in politics carried over into his adulthood. After he returned from his Peace Corps work in Africa, he worked as an aide to U.S. Senator Frank Moss, a Democrat representing Utah. In 1974 Matthews ran for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democratic candidate representing Pennsylvania, but his run proved unsuccessful. In the mid-1970s, Matthew’s moved to Washington, D.C., where he was offered the job of congressional staffer under Senator Edmund Muskie, a Democrat from Maine. From 1974 to 1977, Matthews additionally worked as a staff assistant to the Senate Budget Committee.
When Jimmy Carter became president, Matthews served as his speechwriter. During the Carter administration, Matthews also handled press relations for the President’s Reorganization Project, a directive for reorganizing executive offices and federal government agencies. In 1981 Matthews became top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. Matthews was forced to abandon the position when O’Neill retired in 1987.
The year that Tip O’Neill retired, Matthews took a job as Washington bureau chief of the San Francisco Examiner. Although he was initially paid only $200 a week for his work, Matthews held the position for the next 13 years. During this stint, Matthews covered such significant historical events as the fall of the Berlin Wall. Matthews's work in print journalism also included writing a nationally syndicated column for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Matthews's column in the San Francisco Chronicle led to television appearances on high-profile news talk shows, including Good Morning America. A natural on the small screen, in 1994 Matthews was invited to host his own nightly show, called America’s Talking, on a small NBC-owned station. By 1997, Matthews was the host of Hardball, which has since aired on MSNBC. In 2002, Matthews also became the host of NBC’s weekly Saturday morning program The Chris Matthews Show.
Matthews makes routine appearances as a commentator on other MSNBC and NBC news shows as well. Recently, he and fellow political talk-show host Rachel Maddow teamed up to anchor MSNBC’s primetime convention coverage. The pair joined forces again to cover Election Night 2012.
Although Matthews is a political commentator and author, his views have made it difficult for the public to clearly categorize him. While he often espouses liberal views, Matthews doesn’t hesitate to play the devil’s advocate when grilling his Democratic guests. Matthews is known to confront Democrats and Republicans alike with hard-hitting questions that challenge their actions, words and intentions.
Over the course of his professional life, Matthews has written several best-selling books. His first book, Hardball: How Politics Is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game, was published in 1988 and later became the namesake of his show Hardball. Matthews’ other books include Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America (1996), Now Let Me Tell You What I Really Think (2001), America, Beyond Our Greatest Notions (2002), Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation and Success (2007) and The Hardball Handbook: How to Win at Life (2009). In 2011 Matthews published an up-close-and-personal biography of J.F.K., titled Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero.
Matthews married his wife Kathleen in 1980. Kathleen is a former news anchor and the executive vice president of Marriott International. The couple has three children, including a son named Michael, who helped his dad work on former President Bill Clinton’s global initiative in Africa.
Matthews is a diabetic and requires regular doses of insulin. After experiencing related health complications, with his wife’s encouragement Matthews quit smoking and drinking and lost 35 pounds—all while under the scrutiny of the public eye.
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