MSNBC's Chris Matthews Apologizes to Bernie Sanders for Nazi Invasion Comparison: 'I Was Wrong... You Were the Well-Deserved Winner'

MSNBC host Chris Matthews took the first few moments of his television program Hardball Monday to apologize to Senator Bernie Sanders for comparing his victory in the Nevada caucuses to France falling to the Nazis in World War II.

Sanders was the overwhelming winner in Saturday's caucuses, gaining 24 Nevada state delegates. Former Vice President Joe Biden came in second with nine delegates while former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg took third place with three delegates.

Matthews was amazed Saturday at Sanders' "one-sided" victory.

"I'm reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940 and General Renault calls up Churchill and says, 'It's over,' Matthews said. "And Churchill says, 'How can it be? You've got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over?' He said, 'It's over.'"

Matthews faced criticism from other members of the media and Jewish advocacy groups for his comments.

"I think historical analogies are fine to use," said Fox News contributor Marie Harf Sunday. "If Bernie Sanders' family hadn't been victims of the Holocaust, I'm not sure people would be quite as outraged today. I think it was personally out of bounds and Chris Matthews should personally apologize to Bernie Sanders."

"There are plenty of other analogies Matthews could have made that did not invoke the Nazi campaign to eradicate the Jewish people," said Yonah Lieberman, communications director for progressive Jewish activist group IfNotNow in a Sunday statement to Newsweek.

Matthews began his on-air apology by calling it "important and quite personal."

"As I watched the one-sided results of Saturday's Democratic caucus in Nevada, I reached for a historical analogy and used a bad one," Matthews said. "I was wrong to refer to an event from the last days, actually the first days, of World War II."

"Senator Sanders," Matthews continued, "I'm sorry for comparing anything from that tragic era in which so many suffered, especially the Jewish people to an electoral result in which you were the well-deserved winner."

chris matthews
MSNBC's Chris Matthews apologized on-air Monday to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for a comment which compared Sanders' victory in the Nevada caucus to the fall of France to the Nazis in World War II. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

"This is going to be a hard-fought, heated campaign of ideas. In the days and weeks and months ahead, I will strive to do a better job myself of elevating the political discussion. Congratulations by the way to you, Senator Sanders, and to your supporters on a tremendous win down in Nevada," Matthews added.

In a statement to Newsweek, Sanders' campaign manager Faiz Shakir said, "We appreciate some of the steps MSNBC has taken, and we hope to get fairer coverage going forward."

IfNotNow thanked Matthews for his apology on Twitter Monday.

"Our movement, like many Jews, believes in the practice of teshuva, repentance," the group tweeted. "We value people who make mistakes, reflect, and ask forgiveness. This is the only way we can build deeper relationships and the world we're all fighting for."

During a February town hall meeting, Sanders said his Jewish heritage had impacted his worldview "profoundly."

"How horrible people can be to each other in the names of racial superiority or et cetera has certainly been with me for my entire life," Sanders said.