Providence College Students Play Hardball: Chris Matthews Visits Campus for “Pizza and Politics” Election Discussion

by Sarah McLaughlin '23 on November 27, 2022


by Sarah McLaughlin ’23 and Christina Charie ’25

Photo courtesy of Joe Cammarano

Former host of MSNBC’s Hardball, Chris Matthews, came to campus on Wednesday, Nov. 2 to have lunch with Providence College political science students and faculty and participate in a “Pizza and Politics” event in the Guzman lecture hall. Matthews has also worked as a Capitol police officer, staffer for four Democratic congressmen, Carter’s presidential speech writer, and Chief of Staff to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. In 2020, Matthews retired from his show following accusations of sexual harassment from former guests. He formally apologized for his actions and chose to step down. In September, he returned to MSNBC as a political analyst.

Matthews answered questions at the event facilitated by Dr. Adam Myers and Sarah McLaughlin ’23. Following the facilitated discussion, students in attendance had the opportunity to pose their own questions to him.

The discussion largely focused on the 2022 Senate and Congressional elections, pre-election day. Dr. Myers opened with a general question of what to expect from this election cycle. Matthews emphasized the importance of a few issues in particular: interest rates, gas prices, food prices, and inflation.

Matthews also expressed strong opinions about various candidates running for the Senate, including Dr. Oz (R-PA), Herschel Walker (R-GA), and J.D. Vance (R-OH). Matthews voiced concerns about Oz’s statement surrounding government involvement in abortion procedures. Though he thinks the cost of living will be a more decisive issue in this year’s elections, Matthews believes that abortion will become a more prominent issue in subsequent elections as more people become impacted by bans instituted after the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Matthews referred to Oz as a “sleazeball” and noted how he is “from the shore,” meaning the Jersey Shore, rather than being a native Pennsylvanian. However, he also pointed out how John Fetterman (D-PA) was not the best candidate choice for the Democratic party, especially considering his recent health issues.

Pennsylvania was one of the tightest races we’re seeing this year in the Senate race, but Fetterman came out victorious with 51 percent of the vote and flipped the seat. 

Matthews described Walker as “a joke” in his campaign against incumbent senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and he called Vance a “fraud.” Georgia and Ohio were also key races in determining which party took control of the Senate. Vance defeated Tim Ryan (D-OH) with 53 percent of the vote in Ohio, while Warnock and Walker will face a runoff election on Dec. 6. since no candidate received over 50 percent of the vote. Matthews noted that this policy was historically intended to prevent African-Americans from winning elections in Georgia. This race between Warnock and Walker is the first Senate race in Georgia history between two black candidates from opposing parties.

McLaughlin asked Matthews if he had any thoughts on the tight race we’re seeing here at home, in Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional district, between Allan Fung (R) and Seth Magaziner (D). Some Rhode Islanders have expressed concerns that Fung would cut social security, but Matthews believes these fears to be unfounded, as Fung would be “a fool to take it away” and lose the elderly vote, on which he relied. Magaziner has since emerged victorious in the race, receiving 50 percent of the vote. 

Dr. Myers asked Matthews about how the media landscape has changed throughout his career. Matthews’ insight into Washington is unparalleled given his approach to political commentary. The former broadcaster knows politicians from both sides of the aisle very well, given his willingness to present individuals from all viewpoints on Hardball. He argues that Americans could benefit from more programming like this today instead of shows like Tucker Carlson’s, where TV personalities simply confirm the audience’s preexisting viewpoints. Matthews noted that President Biden refused to appear on Hardball because he did not want to be challenged on his perspectives and actions. 

McLaughlin asked Matthews about the changes he has witnessed in both the media and politics regarding diversity. Matthews noted how despite a lack of women’s involvement in the past, women now constitute nearly half of the Democratic Caucus. He expressed optimism that “we should have a woman president soon.”

Students also had the opportunity to ask questions towards the end of the discussion. Christina Charie ’25 asked Matthews what type of barriers women face within American politics. Matthews noted that the number of women in the House of Representatives is rising. Additionally, women account for almost half of the Democratic Caucus. Matthews also noted that women perform well in coastal areas because their economies include industries that provide women the opportunity to prove themselves, such as merchandising and accounting. Ranching and mining economies do not necessarily afford the same chances for women, Matthews stated. Ultimately, Matthews believes that America should have a female President in the near future, noting that he believes Americans would have been satisfied with a Klobuchar presidency. 

Matthews does draw the line regarding the 2020 Presidential election. During the discussion, he boldly declared that “anyone who is an election denier is unacceptable” as a political candidate. In Matthews’ life, he cannot remember a candidate who refused to tell their supporters about losing an election. Americans still believe that former President Trump won the election because he refused to admit defeat in Matthews’ assessment. 

A prominent theme the discussion stressed was the importance of participating in our democracy: “If you [don’t] vote, then why are you here?” Matthews asked the audience. He asked for a show of hands on who votes, and most students expressed that they had already voted or planned to vote in the midterm elections.