Rachel Maddow hire clinches MSNBC as home for the new left
Long hailed as one of the sharpest political pundits on cable and clearly groomed for big things at MSNBC, Air America radio host Rachel Maddow has finally gotten her own MSNBC show, replacing the channel's onetime general manager Dan Abrams at 9 p.m. weekdays, starting Sept. 8.
The move solidifies quite a few trends at MSNBC, including:
MSNBC's status as the deepest bench in cable political punditry -- Say what you will about their political leanings these days, there's little doubt that Maddow and NBC News political director Chuck Todd are among the sharpest pundits dissecting the election on cable. I've been calling for Todd to get some consideration as a dark horse Meet the Press host --though he will need lots of seasoning to hit that mark -- and Maddow ascended to a host's job in record time, just months after earning stints as a guest host on Keith Olbermann's Countdown show. Olbermann takes some credit for discovering Maddow in these posts on Daily Kos announcing the change.
MSNBC's status as a home for the new left -- Maddow's ascension, coupled with the success of Olbermann and the left-friendly conservative Joe Scarborough has finally allowed the cable channel to mint a brand of leftist punditry which can draw viewers on cable. No disrespect to Phil Donahue, who tried bringing left-wing politics to MSNBC when Bush was still popular and the channel was trying to be a limp echo of Fox News. But the timing couldn't be better for MSNBC to try shifting left and Maddow, who will continue hosting her show on liberal talk radio network Air America, has been very savvy about pushing left-leaning ideas without sounding didactic.
Dismantles MSNBC's image as boys club -- One of the criticisms which stung the cable channel was the Hillary Clinton campaign's contention that Olbermann and Chris Matthews were a boys club turning MSNBC against her. Maddow's hire helps there, as well.
Dan Abrams' fall from grace -- When I saw him at a party in Los Angeles in July, escorting a girlfriend who was appearing in a CW show, Abrams tried to sound upbeat but didn't want to talk much about his show. I left that conversation wondering how guy who once ran the channel wound up hosting a legal program on cable at a time when even CourtTV doesn't want to be associated with legal stuff anymore. The only question left now is how long before Abrams leaves the building entirely.
MSNBC's skill at developing talent -- Maddow has clearly toned down her style and modified her look to become more TV-friendly. Check out this old pic to the left for a hint at how much her look has changed since her early days.
Click below to read the release:
NEW YORK – Aug. 20, 2008 – "The Rachel Maddow Show," a smart look at politics, pop culture and all the day's top stories, will premiere Monday, Sept. 8, on MSNBC, it was announced today by Phil Griffin, President, MSNBC. "The Rachel Maddow Show" will telecast weekdays, 9-10 p.m. ET.
"Rachel is unbelievably talented and brilliant; her breadth and depth of knowledge of politics and news is astonishing and I'm so excited to give her a place to really showcase what she can do," said Griffin. "We've established MSNBC as the place for politics and the destination for viewers who want the smartest take on the day's developments. Adding Rachel into our primetime lineup makes perfect sense."
"I've loved working with MSNBC, and being asked to host my own show is an amazing opportunity," said Maddow. "I can't wait to get started."
Dan Abrams, currently the host of "Verdict," will remain Chief Legal Correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC; he will be expanding his role contributing to "Dateline" and "Today" and will also serve as an anchor on MSNBC during the day.
"When Dan served as General Manager, he really laid the groundwork for MSNBC's success today, with ratings growing 62 percent under his watch. Dan helped establish MSNBC as the place for politics, launched our political "Super Tuesday" coverage and was vital in positioning the network for its current success," said Griffin. "Dan is the best legal analyst in the business. Our primetime focus is now politics, so this move will enable Dan to focus on what he does best."
"Putting my G.M. hat back on, I think this is absolutely the right call. I look forward to my future success at NBC News," said Abrams.
"The Rachel Maddow Show" will feature Maddow's take on the biggest stories of the day, political and otherwise, including lively debate with guests from all sides of the issues, in-depth analysis and stories no other shows in cable news will cover. Maddow will also continue to host "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Air America at 6 p.m. ET.
In January of 2008, Maddow was named an MSNBC political analyst; she is a regular panelist on MSNBC's "Race for the White House with David Gregory" and a frequent contributor on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." She has been the regular guest host for "Countdown," has filled in for David Gregory on "Race," and has been a regular panelist on MSNBC's 2008 election coverage.
Maddow has worked with Air America Radio since its inception in the spring of 2004. Prior to joining AAR she worked for WRNX in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and WRSI in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Maddow received a bachelor's degree in public policy from Stanford University. She earned her doctorate in political science at Oxford University, which she attended on a Rhodes Scholarship. She is currently working on a book on the changing role of the military in U.S. politics, due out next year. She lives in New York City and Massachusetts with her partner, artist Susan Mikula.