02/15/2010 by JR Russell
In an interview with the New York Times in October, 2008, Rachel Maddow was quoted as saying:
I don’t talk much about Fox. That’s more Keith Olbermann, but the only time Fox tried to book me on a show — ever — was for me to comment on Madonna and Britney Spears having kissed at an awards ceremony. I declined.
In today’s Washington Post, a spokesperson for Fox News was quoted:
These feelings that [Rachel Maddow] experienced about Fox News didn’t stop her from applying for a job here.
According to a source in Fox News, Maddow applied for work as a “talking head” with Bill O’Reilly back in 2007. Fans and critics alike of the out lesbian, very liberal, former AIDS activist could be forgiven for being a little bit taken aback by this revelation, but should we be?
There is a certain myth that surrounds 36 year-old Rachel Maddow, that — plucked from her bucket-washing job in rural Massachusetts — she, a radical liberal, was an unlikely but instantly recognised broadcasting talent. The myth continues that her ascent was as smooth as it was inexplicable, unaided by ambition, guided only by those who would discover her next.
Certain stories have been integral in this hagiography — the radio station contest which she entered “on a dare” and she was hired on the spot, is usually the starting point. Then we hear how she just miraculously landed a spot on the now-defunct liberal radio station Air America in 2004. Now given a nationwide audience, her fame grew until MSNBC selected her from Air America and offered her a show of her own, four short years later.
The serendipity myth hasn’t simply sprung up around her — Rachel herself has certainly contributed.
I’ve had about 300 different jobs in my life and I sort of feel like I’ve been a chit in the job lottery and my ticket just came up. Like I won the best job in the world, and I don’t really have a total grasp of how I got it – and I don’t know how long it’ll last. But as long as I have it I’m going to play it for all it’s worth.
wOw, Interview with Leslie Stahl, January 26, 2009
Her apparent humility is endearing, and while it may well be genuine, it might be a bit much for her to say she doesn’t know how she got the job.
Maddow’s real career in life has been winning, and she’s good at it. (Especially if you read her dad’s version of events… aw.)
While there is no indication that Maddow ever saw broadcasting as a career option until the radio contest that lead to her co-hosting the morning show in Holyoke, Massachusetts, after that, her career has no doubt been the expected and direct result of her own personal hard work, “incredible ability to focus” and ambition.
In high school, she lettered in three sports and was offered an athletics scholarship which she declined due to a shoulder injury. While she attended Stanford University,
She won a John Gardner Public Service Fellowship and a Ludlam Health Policy Fellowship. She also earned a Robert M. Golden Medal in the Humanities and Creative Arts for her senior honors thesis and an honorable mention for the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics.
Stanford News Service December 13, 1994
After graduating from Stanford early, she was then offered both a Marshall and a Rhodes scholarship. She took the Rhodes and became the first out lesbian in America to be selected as a Rhodes Scholar. She moved to the UK, ultimately spending most of her time in London. She moved to Massachusetts to finish her dissertation. Her D. Phil was conferred in 2001.
Like anyone who has been successful, she knows that being successful requires being unsuccessful sometimes, and a lot of work.
After graduating from Stanford, she wrote, lobbied for, and testified for California’s Bill AB 1408 which would have granted compassionate release for prisoners suffering from terminal illnesses with less than six months to live. While she achieved broad support from the legislators, the governor vetoed it. Turns out the filibuster isn’t the first veto she didn’t like.
When Rachel Maddow decided she wanted to be on television, she was smart enough to know her chances increased the more times she tried. I’m not likely to reach her for comment (in large part because I’m not going to try), but I’m guessing she applied for a lot of jobs and didn’t get them. (unless bucket washing was a calling of hers).
It was the awesome Wayne Gretzky who said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Rachel’s career at Air America started because she not only applied for the job, but lobbied for it. Lizz Winstead recalls that Rachel Maddow made it her business to get to New York City for an interview so quickly, they were worried she was too available. The same has been said for her relationship with MSNBC. She set her mind on what she wanted and did whatever it took to get it. She also knew she had to femme up for television — and she did. And while she ended up a good fit with MSNBC, she would have had more exposure with the larger audience of Fox News.
Why wouldn’t she?
UPDATE: Rachel has responded to the claim by Fox News on Politico.com
I never personally applied for a job at Fox… I have an agent who I assume talks to everyone on my behalf, so I have no reason to believe that Fox’s claim that they were approached on my behalf is false, even if I never knew anything about it at the time.