Chris Matthews, Modern-Day St. Francis

The Hardball host is tough on his guests but a softy for animals.

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By Nikki Schwab, Washington Whispers

Chris Matthews may be best known for his loud mouth and sometimes cantankerous demeanor, but the Hardball host is a big softy for animals. "Well, first of all, anybody who spends two years in Africa is going to be fascinated with African wildlife," he tells us.

Matthews served in the Peace Corps in Swaziland from 1968 to 1970 and now sits on the board of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which hosted an event last night bringing actors Pierce Brosnan and Goran Visnjic to the Capitol to promote whale protection legislation.

While whales were on the agenda, African animals are what really gets the MSNBC host going. "Imagine being down by a river and a herd of elephants come down to the river to drink water and you are watching them—how wild is that?" he says. But he gets a thrill from local wildlife, too, admitting that he will walk outside the parklike NBC News Washington bureau just to catch a glimpse of the deer. "I'm one of those people who just stands there, like St. Francis. I just want to stand there and look at the animals," he says, referring to the patron saint of animals. "I love them."

Actor Pierce Brosnan, International Fund for Animal Welfare CEO Fred O'Regan and Chris Matthews at the IFAW Congressional Reception Tuesday night.

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