Rachel Maddow

Rachel Anne Maddow (/ˈmæd/ (listen), MAD-oh; born April 1, 1973)[1][2] is an American television news program host and liberal political commentator.[3][4][5] Maddow hosts The Rachel Maddow Show, a nightly television show on MSNBC, and serves as the cable network's special event co-anchor alongside Brian Williams.[6] Her syndicated talk radio program of the same name aired on Air America Radio.

Rachel Maddow
Maddow in 2018
Rachel Anne Maddow

(1973-04-01) April 1, 1973
EducationStanford University (BA)
Lincoln College, Oxford (MA, DPhil)
  • Television host
  • political commentator
  • author
Partner(s)Susan Mikula

Maddow holds a bachelor's degree in public policy from Stanford University and a doctorate in political science from Oxford University and is the first openly lesbian anchor to host a major prime-time news program in the United States.[7][8][9][10] Asked about her political views by the Valley Advocate, Maddow replied, "I'm undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I'm in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform."[5]

Early life and education

Maddow was born in Castro Valley, California. Her father, Robert B. Maddow, is a former United States Air Force captain who resigned his commission the year before her birth and then worked as a lawyer for the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Her mother, Elaine (née Gosse), was a school program administrator.[11][12][13] She has one older brother, David. Her paternal grandfather was from a family of Eastern European Jews (the original family surname being "Medwedof") who self-identified as Polish and Russian at the time of their arrival in the United States. Her paternal grandmother was of Dutch (Protestant) descent. Her Canadian mother, originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, has English and Irish ancestry.[14]

Maddow has said her family is "very, very Catholic" and she grew up in a community that her mother has described as "very conservative".[15][16][17] Maddow was a competitive athlete and participated in high school volleyball, basketball, and swimming.[18]

Referring to John Hughes films, Maddow has described herself as being "a cross between the jock and the antisocial girl" in high school.[17] She is a graduate of Castro Valley High School[19] and attended Stanford University. While a freshman, she was outed as a lesbian by the college newspaper when an interview with her was published before she could tell her parents.[15]

She earned a degree in public policy at Stanford in 1994.[20] At graduation, she was awarded the John Gardner Fellowship.[21] She was the recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship and began her postgraduate study in 1995 at Lincoln College, Oxford. She had also been awarded a Marshall Scholarship the same year but turned it down in favour of the Rhodes.[22] This made her the first open lesbian to win an international Rhodes Scholarship.[lower-alpha 1][24] In 2001, she earned a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in politics at the University of Oxford.[25] Her thesis is titled HIV/AIDS and Health Care Reform in British and American Prisons, and her supervisor was Lucia Zedner.[26]


Maddow's first job as a radio host was in 1999 WRNX (100.9 FM) in Holyoke, Massachusetts, then home to "The Dave in the Morning Show". She entered and won a contest the station held to find a new second lead for the show's principal host, Dave Brinnel.[27] After the WRNX show, she hosted Big Breakfast on WRSI in Northampton, Massachusetts, for two years, leaving in 2004 to join the new Air America.[25] There she hosted Unfiltered along with Chuck D (of the hip hop group Public Enemy) and Lizz Winstead (co-creator of The Daily Show) until its cancellation in March 2005.[28] Two weeks after the cancellation of Unfiltered in April 2005, Maddow's weekday two-hour radio program, The Rachel Maddow Show, began airing; in March 2008 it gained an hour, broadcasting from 6 to 9 p.m. EST, with David Bender filling in the third hour for the call-in section, when Maddow was on TV assignment. In 2008, the show's length returned to two hours when Maddow began a nightly MSNBC television program. In 2009, after renewing her contract with Air America, Maddow returned to the 5 a.m. hour-long slot.[29]


In October 2018, Maddow launched the podcast Bag Man, produced with MNSBC and focusing on the 1973 political scandal surrounding Vice President Spiro Agnew.[30]


In June 2005, Maddow became a regular panelist on the MSNBC show Tucker.[31] During and after the November 2006 election, she was a guest on CNN's Paula Zahn Now; she was also a correspondent for The Advocate Newsmagazine, an LGBT-oriented short-form newsmagazine for Logo deriving from news items published by The Advocate. In January 2008, Maddow became an MSNBC political analyst and was a regular panelist on MSNBC's Race for the White House with David Gregory and MSNBC's election coverage[32] as well as a frequent contributor on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.[25]

In 2008, Maddow was the substitute host for Countdown with Keith Olbermann, her first time hosting a program on MSNBC. Maddow described herself on-air as "nervous". Keith Olbermann complimented her work, and she was brought back to host Countdown the next month. The show she hosted was the highest-rated news program among people aged 25 to 54.[33] For her success, Olbermann ranked Maddow third in his show's segment "World's Best Persons".[34] In July 2008, Maddow filled in again for several broadcasts.[35] Maddow also filled in for David Gregory as host of Race for the White House.[25]

Olbermann began to push for Maddow to get her own show at MSNBC, and he was eventually able to persuade Phil Griffin to give her Dan Abrams's time slot.[36]

The Rachel Maddow Show

In August 2008, MSNBC announced The Rachel Maddow Show would replace Verdict with Dan Abrams in the network's 9 p.m. slot the following month.[37][38] Following its debut, the show topped Countdown as the highest-rated show on MSNBC on several occasions.[39][40] After being on air for more than a month, Maddow's program doubled the audience that hour.[41] This show made Maddow the first openly gay or lesbian host of a primetime news program in the United States.[42]

The initial reviews for the show were positive. Los Angeles Times journalist Matea Gold wrote that Maddow "finds the right formula on MSNBC",[43] and The Guardian wrote that Maddow had become the "star of America's cable news".[44] Associated Press columnist David Bauder opined that she was "[Keith] Olbermann's political soul mate", and he described the Olbermann-Maddow shows as a "liberal two-hour block".[45]

Of her collegial relationship with Roger Ailes of Fox News, whom she sought out for technical advice, Maddow said she doesn't want to talk about it because "I don't want anybody else to use it. It was a nice thing that he did for me, and it's been valuable for meit helped me get an advantage over my competitors."[46]

In mid-May 2017, amid multiple controversies surrounding the Trump administration, MSNBC surpassed CNN and Fox News in the news ratings. For the week of May 15, The Rachel Maddow Show was the No. 1 non-sports program on cable for the first time.[47] She has been called "America's wonkiest anchor" who "cut through the chaos of the Trump administration – and became the most trusted name in the news."[46] Maddow has argued that these issues "are the most serious scandals that any president has ever faced."[46]:38

Maddow has stated that her show's mission is to "[i]ncrease the amount of useful information in the world".[48][46]:56 She said her rule for covering the Trump administration is: "Don't pay attention to what they say, focus on what they do ... because it's easier to cover a fast-moving story when you're not distracted by whatever the White House denials are."[46]:37

Maddow often begins her broadcast with a monologue, some of these have extended over twenty minutes. About this process, she has said, "The thing that defines whether or not you're good at this work is whether you have something to say when it's time to say something. Because you're going to have to say something when that light goes on ... I want to have something to say that people don't already know every single night, every single segment, and that makes it hard to get the process right because that's the only thing I care about."[49]

On September 10, 2019, the One America News Network filed suit in federal court in San Diego, California against Maddow for $10 million, after Maddow described the network as "paid Russian propaganda" on her program on July 22. Maddow had repeated a Daily Beast story which identified an OAN employee as also working for Sputnik News, which is owned by the Russian government-owned news agency Rossiya Segodnya, and has been accused of deliberately disseminating disinformation, and is often described as an outlet for propaganda. Also named in the suit were Comcast, MSNBC and NBCUniversal Media.[50]


Maddow wrote Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power (2012) about the role of the military in postwar American politics. Upon its release, Drift reached the first position of The New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover nonfiction.[51]

In December 2013, The Washington Post announced that Maddow would write a monthly opinion column for the paper, contributing one article per month over a period of six months.[52]

On March 2, 2018, The New York Times published Maddow's first crossword puzzle, in collaboration with Joe DiPietro.[53] On the eve of its publication, she said: "This is kind of it, like there will never be a baby, but there's this freaking crossword puzzle, and I am very, very excited about it."[54]

Maddow's second book Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth was published in October 2019.[55][56]

Public image and publicity

A 2011 Hollywood Reporter profile of Maddow said she was able to deliver news "with agenda, but not hysteria".[57] A Newsweek profile said, "At her best, Maddow debates ideological opponents with civility and persistence ... but for all her eloquence, she can get so wound up ripping Republicans that she sounds like another smug cable partisan." The Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawik accused Maddow of acting like "a lockstep party member".[58] The editors of The New Republic similarly criticized hernaming her among the "most over-rated thinkers" of 2011, they called her program "a textbook example of the intellectual limitations of a perfectly settled perspective".[59] On awarding the Interfaith Alliance's Faith and Freedom Award named for Walter Cronkite, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy remarked that "Rachel's passionate coverage of the intersection of religion and politics exhibits a strong personal intellect coupled with constitutional sensitivity to the proper boundaries between religion and government."[60]

A Time profile called her a "whip-smart, button-cute leftie". It said she radiates an essential decency and suggested her career rise might signify that "nice is the new nasty".[61]

Distinguishing herself from others on the left, Maddow has said she is a "national security liberal" and, in a different interview, that she is not "a partisan".[62][63] The New York Times called her a "defense policy wonk".[43][62]

Political views

Maddow opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In February 2013, she said:

We say that Vietnam changed our politics forever. But less than 40 years after this, again, a campaign directed at the highest levels of government to get us to agree to a war based on something that did not happen the way they said it happened. It was a months-long campaign in 2002 and 2003, and it worked ... In three weeks, the CIA pulls together what normally takes months. It is delivered just seven days before the congressional vote ... By the end of 2002, the U.S. military is headed to the Gulf. Congress is on board, as are British Prime Minister Tony Blair and most of the mainstream media. The stage is set for war."[64]

During the 2008 presidential election, Maddow did not formally support any candidate. Concerning Barack Obama's candidacy, Maddow said, "I have never and still don't think of myself as an Obama supporter, either professionally or actually."[65]

In 2010, Republican Senator Scott Brown speculated that Maddow was going to run against him in the 2012 Senate election. His campaign used this premise for a fundraising email, although Maddow repeatedly said Brown's speculation was false. Brown continued to make his claims in the Boston media, so Maddow ran a full-page advertisement in The Boston Globe confirming that she was not running and separately demanded Brown's apology. She added that, despite repeated invitations over the months, Brown had refused to appear on her TV program.[66][67][68][69] Ultimately, it was Elizabeth Warren who ran in 2012, defeating Brown.[70]

Maddow has suggested that the alleged Trump-Russia collusion has continued beyond the 2016 presidential election.[71] In March 2017, she blamed Russia for WikiLeaks' Vault 7 disclosure of the CIA's hacking tools, saying: "Consider what the other U.S. agency is besides the State Department that Putin most hates? That Putin most feels competitive with? That Putin most wants to beat? It's the CIA, right? ... Smart observers say this is the largest dump of classified CIA material maybe ever, and it really could be a devastating blow to the CIA's cyber war and flat-out spying capabilities, and that dump was released by WikiLeaks."[71] Regarding the Trump-Russia investigation, Maddow said: "If the Trump presidency is knowingly the product of a foreign-intelligence operation, that is a full-stop national crisis."[46] Concerning "alternative facts" and fake news, Maddow said: "The president denigrating the press is important in terms of his behavior as an increasingly authoritarian-style leader, period."[46]:56

Following the October 2018 murder of Saudi Arabian dissident journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Maddow argued that Donald Trump's business ties to Saudi Arabia are raising some troubling questions.[72]

In December 2018, Maddow criticized President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.[73]

Personal life

Maddow splits her time between Manhattan, New York and West Cummington, Massachusetts with her partner, artist Susan Mikula.[74][75] They met in 1999, when Maddow was working on her doctoral dissertation.[74]

Maddow has dealt with cyclical depression since puberty.[76] In a 2012 interview, she stated, "It doesn't take away from my joy or my work or my energy, but coping with depression is something that is part of the everyday way that I live and have lived for as long as I can remember."[77] She has explained why she decided to speak about it in interviews: "It was a hard call ... Because it was nobody's business. But it had been helpful to me to learn about the people who were surviving, were leading good lives, even though they were dealing with depression. So I felt it was a bit of a responsibility to pay that back."[49]

Maddow said, "There are three things I do to stay sane: I exercise, I sleep – I'm a good sleeper – and I fish."[46]:56

Honors and awards

  • 2017 Emmy Award in the Outstanding Live Interview category for The Rachel Maddow Show segment "One-on-One with Kellyanne Conway".[78]
  • 2017 Emmy Award in the Outstanding News Discussion & Analysis category for The Rachel Maddow Show story "An American Disaster: The Crisis in Flint".[79]
  • 2011 Emmy Award in the Outstanding News Discussion & Analysis category for The Rachel Maddow Show segments "Good Morning Landlocked Central Asia!".[80]
  • Maddow was named in Out magazine's "Out 100" list of the "gay men and women who moved culture" in 2008.[81]
  • Maddow was voted "Lesbian/Bi Woman of the Year (American)" in AfterEllen's 2008 Visibility Awards.[82]
  • Maddow won a Gracie Award in 2009, presented by the American Women in Radio and Television.[83]
  • In 2009, Maddow was nominated for GLAAD's 20th Annual Media Awards for a segment of her MSNBC show, "Rick Warren, Change To Believe In?", in the Outstanding TV Journalism Segment category.[84]
  • On March 28, 2009, Maddow received a Proclamation of Honor from the California State Senate, presented in San Francisco by California State Senator Mark Leno.[85]
  • In April 2009, she was listed at No. 4 in Out magazine's Annual Power 50 List.[86]
  • Maddow placed sixth in the "2009 AfterEllen.com Hot 100" list (May 11, 2009)[87] and third in its "2009 Hot 100: Out Women" version.[88]
  • Maddow was included on a list of openly gay media professionals in The Advocate's "Forty under 40" issue of June/July 2009.[89]
  • In 1994, Maddow received an Honorable Mention in the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity Prize in Ethics.[90]
  • In June 2009, Maddow's MSNBC show was the only cable news show nominated for a Television Critics Association award in the Outstanding Achievement in News and Information category.[91]
  • In March 2010, Maddow won at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards in the category of Outstanding TV Journalism- Newsmagazine for her segment, "Uganda Be Kidding Me".[92]
  • In May 2010, Maddow was the 2010 commencement speaker and was given an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.[93]
  • In July 2010, Maddow was presented with a Maggie Award for her ongoing reporting of healthcare reform, the murder of Dr. George Tiller, and the anti-abortion movement.[94]
  • In August 2010, Maddow won the Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award, which was presented by the Interfaith Alliance.[60] Past honorees included Larry King, Tom Brokaw, and the late Peter Jennings.[60]
  • In February 2012, Maddow was presented the John Steinbeck Award by the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.[95]
  • Maddow was named Outstanding Host at the 2012 Gracie Allen Awards[96]
  • In December 2012, the audio book version of Maddow's Drift was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.
  • On October 5, 2017, her MSNBC show won two Emmy Awards, for coverage of the tainted water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and for Maddow's interview with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.[97]
  • In December 2017 The Advocate named her as a finalist for its "Person of the Year".[98]

Tracey Ullman played Maddow in her Showtime comedy series Tracey Ullman's State of the Union. Maddow invited Ullman on her show and interviewed her in January 2010.[99]

Abby Elliott and Melissa Villasenor have both played Maddow in sketches on Saturday Night Live.[100]

Maddow appeared as a character on the November 3, 2013 episode of The Simpsons, "Four Regrettings and a Funeral."[101][102][103][104]

Maddow appeared at the start of Trump: The Rusical on RuPaul's Drag Race season 11 as the star of a mini-challenge where the contestants had to dress up as Maddow and read from a teleprompter.[105]

Maddow is the voice of Vesper Fairchild for Batwoman. [106]


  • Maddow, Rachel (2012). Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. Crown. ISBN 978-0-307-46098-1.
  • Maddow, Rachel (2019). Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth. Crown. ISBN 978-0-525-57547-4.

See also


  1. In 1990, now San Francisco lawyer John Crandon is believed to have been the first openly gay Rhodes scholar.[23]


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