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UPDATED: The Matthews Speaking Fee Controversy

By Amanda Terkel  

"UPDATED: The Matthews Speaking Fee Controversy"

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ThinkProgress has learned that NBC anchor Chris Matthews has received tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for delivering speeches to corporate interest groups. Matthews’s speaking engagements appear to be in direct violation of NBC’s policy prohibiting its employees from accepting such fees.

Last week Dave Johnson of Seeing the Forest documented Matthews’s speaking engagements, but was unable to confirm whether he was paid.

In 2002, Howard Kurtz reported in the Washington Post:

I’ve been critical of journalistic buckraking since the mid-1990s, when I wrote about a $30,000 speech that Sam Donaldson had given to an insurance group…The issue began to fade as a number of news organizations, including ABC and NBC, banned the practice.

Three trade associations independently confirmed to ThinkProgress that Matthews spoke for hefty fees on several occasions, as recently as last year:

- The National Venture Capital Assocation (NVCA) confirmed that Matthews spoke at its 2005 Annual Meeting. NVCA told Think Progress that it booked Matthews through the Washington Speakers Bureau and that he received a fee of approximately $35,000. He received speaking fees from NCVA on at least two other occasions.

- The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) confirmed that Matthews spoke at its 2001 Annual Meeting. NACDS said it booked Matthews through the Washington Speakers Bureau and that he received a fee for speaking.

- The American Hospital Association (AHA) confirmed that Matthews spoke at its 2005 Annual Meeting. AHA said it booked Matthews through the Washington Speakers Bureau and that he received a fee for speaking.

In an email to ThinkProgress, MSNBC President Rick Kaplan said information that Matthews was paid to speak to outside groups was, “Totally untrue…totally.” He provided no evidence to support his claim.

UPDATE: On Thursday, we were contacted by MSNBC President Rick Kaplan who elaborated the blanket denial (“Totally untrue”¦totally”) he provided to ThinkProgress pre-publication. According to Kaplan, while these groups may have paid fees for Matthews to speak, the fees did not go to Matthews directly, but to a charity of Matthews’s choosing. Kaplan added that NBC policy prohibited anchors from personally accepting speaking fees and anyone who did so “would risk being fired.”

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