Last night, Chris Matthews bristled as Rachel Maddow hoisted him on his own network for his contribution to the "Tweety Factor" — the pack of hyenas he regularly leads in a disrespectful, chortling chorus against Hillary Clinton (see exhibit "A"). You don’t have to be a Clinton supporter, or a woman, to find it disconcerting that night after night, this is considered acceptable behavior on one of the country’s largest news networks.

But last night after his vigorous and emotional defense of St. John the Divine, Atrios rightly characterized Matthews performance as "LEAVE JOHN MCCAIN ALOOOOOONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Now Matthews has taken up the cause of poor, beleagured Rudy Giuliani. He’s sticking it to the New York Times for being unfair to Rudy over the Shag Fund, saying that their erroneous reporting cost Rudy 10 points in the polls, their story was wrong and they printed a "retraction" on page A-35.

But as Felix Gillette points out in the New York Observer, it wasn’t a "retraction":

In short, then, Mr. Matthews was accusing The New York Times of running an inaccurate story that, along with others of its kind, did grave damage to the Giuliani campaign—a serious charge.

The Times’ initial Nov. 29 story, by William Rashbaum—about the then-mayor billing travel and security costs to the city during a time when he was having extramarital liaisons in the Hamptons—simply recounted on page 26 of the national section the original news, which had been broken by The Politico. It acknowledged that some questions about how those expenses had been billed to the city remained unclear in the aftermath of The Politico’s scoop—such as how much of the expenses were billed to the mayor’s agency and how much were billed to obscure city agencies.

The follow-up piece by reporter Russ Buettner, published Dec. 20 and labeled a “Checkpoint,” reported that, as it turned out, all eight of Mr. Giuliani’s trip to the Hamptons in 1999 and 2000 had been billed to the mayor’s office—while several subsequent trips in 2001, after Mr. Giuliani’s affair with Ms. Nathan had become public, were billed to a separate agency.

The item did throw cold water on the heated question of whether the mayor was using unusual accounting practices to keep his affair secret. But it did little to alter the basic facts of the larger narrative about (a) the cost to taxpayers of the mayor’s extramarital affair in the Hamptons and (b) his office’s still mysterious practice, as the Checkpoint noted, of shifting mayoral travel expenses “to lesser-known units,” a practice “other administrations frowned on.” And it never presented itself as a retraction or correction of the earlier story.

It’s typical of the kind of deference Matthews always shows "manly men" (witness the embarrassing codpiece fealty that Digby has disturbingly chronicled for so long). What’s up with that? I don’t know, and I’m not sure I want to know.

But on cue, this morning, Matthews is back to bashing Clinton as nothing more than somebody’s wife. And nobody challenges him, because as Bob Somerby has long argued, when liberal women disagree with Matthews, they’re never invited back again. So to the extent that the women on the show aren’t a pack of misogynistic vultures themselves (Andrea Mitchell, Maureen Dowd, Kate O’Beirne — come on down!) and they disagree with Matthews, they’re forced to choose between joining in in the festivities or being disappeared.

There are no women hosts on MSNBC who get that kind of tight content control. And that’s a problem.

Four words, MSNBC: The Rachel Maddow Show.