The tweet appeared just minutes after longtime MSNBC host Chris Matthews abruptly resigned Monday night at the top of his program — a shocking announcement that marked the end of a tumultuous week for the 74-year-old, who has recently been embroiled in controversy over on-air missteps and allegations of sexism.

“Chris Matthews is a friend of mine,” tweeted Kathleen Parker, a Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner. “He and I have flirted unabashedly for 20 years. This is an atrocious end to a noble, happy-warrior career. I will continue to be his friend.”

Parker appeared to be referring to one of the events that preceded Matthews’s unexpected exit: Journalist Laura Bassett published a article on Saturday that detailed what she described as the host’s “long history of sexist comments and behavior” toward women on- and off-air. Bassett wrote Matthews “inappropriately flirted” with her when she was a guest on his show, noting a number of other women also had similar experiences.

During his on-air resignation, Matthews apologized for his past comments, characterizing the remarks as “compliments on a woman’s appearance.”

Parker wasn’t the only person to publicly stand up for Matthews on Monday night. But she was among the most prominent and her words did not sit well with some feminists and several of her fellow female media figures.

Longtime MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews announced on March 2 that he would be leaving his show 'Hardball' after over two decades as host. (Reuters)

Soon, Parker’s tweet was at the center of a heated #MeToo debate as detractors slammed the columnist for “[discrediting] alleged victims” while Matthews’s supporters lamented he “got the screws put to him.” By early Tuesday, the tweet had amassed more than 1,000 replies and hundreds of retweets.

“The friend’s ‘He never did it to ME’ vouch-for is meaningless, since the friend wasn’t always there, AND it discredits alleged victims,” tweeted CNN host S.E. Cupp. “THIS one also manages to dismiss harassment as mere flirting, an idea that, like Matthews, has rightly been retired.”

Parker did not respond to a request for comment late Monday, but tweeted earlier in the night that an “angry column” about Matthews’s exit would be coming.

In a column that published Tuesday evening, Parker stressed that there is "no excuse for the things Matthews is accused of saying.”

“I come not to defend Matthews but to balance the picture now unfolding, and to offer a few comments on the ‘cancel culture’ that led to this moment,” she wrote.

This isn’t the first time Parker, who won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary, has questioned the impact of the #MeToo movement. Parker is also the author of “Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care,” in which she “explores how men, maleness, and fatherhood have been under siege in American culture for decades.”

“My admiration for the women across industries who have found the courage to come forward the past few months can’t be overstated,” she wrote in a 2018 column. “Nevertheless, I remain uncomfortable with aspects of the me-too methodology, wherein accusation equals indictment, public shaming is tantamount to conviction and sentencing usually means ruin.”

After Parker’s tweet about Matthews, several people called her out Monday night, arguing that while she may not have minded Matthews’s “flirting,” other women did.

“We should all be friends with whoever we want and flirt with whoever we want in our private non-work lives but women shouldn’t have to choose between torpedoing their careers and spending 20 years flirting unabashedly with a man they can’t stand,” tweeted feminist writer Jill Filipovic.

Gretchen Carlson, who accused former Fox News chief Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, pointed out Parker couldn’t speak to all of Matthews’s exchanges with women.

“Kathleen — respect you but [were] you with him in every case of interactions with other women?” Carlson tweeted.

But others joined Parker in criticizing the circumstances of Matthews’s resignation and took aim at Bassett.

“Shame on you Laura Bassett … This petty crap just ruined the legacy of a wonderful journalist,” one person tweeted. “This is NOT what me too is supposed to be!”

Still, many came to Bassett’s defense on Monday night, praising her courage and admonishing her critics.

“Regardless of how you feel about Matthews, it is repugnant that people are directing harassment at @LEBassett for simply stepping forward with her story,” tweeted Sam Stein, politics editor for the Daily Beast and an MSNBC contributor. “That took guts and the reaction to her shows how hard it is for women in this and other industries.”

In tweets following Matthews’s announcement, Bassett also addressed the backlash she has faced over the past several days.

“The harassment has been invasive, cruel and personal,” she tweeted. “And it’s all worth it if he will never have the platform to demean and objectify us again.”