Profile of Rachel Maddow, MSNBC Journalist and Liberal Activist

Television host Rachel Maddow arrives for a lunch hosted in honor of Prime Minister David Cameron at the State Department on March 14, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Rachel Maddow is the outspoken, energetic host of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, a political news and commentary weeknight program. The show first aired on September 8, 2008, urged by viewers impressed with Maddow's frequent guest hosting of MSNBC's The Keith Olbermann Show.

Ms. Maddow is an avowed liberal who enjoys the feisty thrust-and-parry of debate. A self-described "national security liberal," Rachel Maddow is known for sharp intelligence, wit, work ethic, and reliance on well-researched facts, rather than party-line talking points, to inform her independent viewpoint.

Before MSNBC

  • 1999 - Won an open-casting call for a radio co-hosting job on WRNX in Massachusetts. Soon moved to WRSI, where she hosted a program for two years.
  • 2004 - Landed a co-hosting gig on new liberal radio network, Air America.
  • 2005 - Accepted Air America's offer to host her own liberal politics radio show, The Rachel Maddow, which continues in late 2009. The program has changed time slots several times, and currently airs each weekday at 5 am EST.
  • 2006 - Regular contributor to CNN (Paula Zahn) and MSNBC (Tucker Carlson) programs.
  • January 2008 - Signed exclusive TV contract with MSNBC.

Educational Path

A 1989 graduate of Castro Valley High School where she was a three-sport athlete, Rachel Maddow earned a B.A. in Public Policy from nearby Stanford University, where she won the John Gardner Fellowship for public service.

After a year in San Francisco working for the AIDS Legal Referral Panel and with ACT-UP, an AIDS non-profit, Rachel Maddow was awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study political science at Oxford University. She completed an Oxford doctorate in politics in 2001 after several delays, including a stint at the AIDS Treatment Project in London and a 1999 move to Massachusetts.

Personal Data

  • Birth - April 1, 1973 in Castro Valley, California, near San Francisco, to Robert Maddow, an attorney and former Air Force captain, and Elaine Maddow, a school administrator.
  • Family - Linked with partner Susan Mikula, an artist, since 1999. The couple reside quietly with their labrador retriever in a rural Massachusetts home built in 1865.

Rachel Maddow "came out" as gay at age 17 when a Stanford freshman. She was the first openly gay American to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, and the first openly gay journalist to anchor a major U.S. news program.

Accolades and Honors

For her efforts as a political journalist, Rachel Maddow has been awarded:

  • 2010 Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom award. Past recipients include Tom Brokaw, Larry King, and the late Peter Jennings.
  • 2009 - Nomination for "Outstanding Achievement in News and Information" by the Television Critics Association, the only cable news program accorded the honor
  • 2009 - Gracie Award by the American Women in Radio, Television
  • March 28, 2009 - Proclamation of Honor from the California State Senate

Maddow has also been lauded for her work by myriad gay and lesbian organizations, including GLAAD, AfterEllen, and Out magazine.


On Being a Liberal

"I am a liberal. I'm not a partisan, not a Democratic Party hack. I'm not trying to advance anybody's agenda."

Washington Post, August 27, 2008

On Her Appearance

"I'm not that pretty. Women on television are over-the-top, beauty-pageant gorgeous. That's not the grounds on which I am competing."

Washington Post, August 27, 2008

"I'm not Anchorbabe, and I'm never going to be. My goal is to do the physical appearance stuff in such a way that it is not comment-worthy."

The Village Voice, June 23, 2009

On Fox News

"The one time Fox News ever asked me to be a guest was when Madonna made news by kissing another famous female, Britney Spears. They thought I had expertise, maybe. I said, 'No, duh'."

The Guardian UK, September 28, 2008

On Being a Political Commentator

"I do worry if being a pundit is a worthwhile thing to be. Yeah, I’m the unlikely cable news host. But before that I was the unlikely Rhodes scholar. And before that I was the unlikely kid who got into Stanford. And then I was the unlikely lifeguard.

"You can always cast yourself as unlikely when you’re fundamentally alienated in your worldview. It’s a healthy approach for a commentator."

New York Magazine, November 2, 2008

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Your Citation
White, Deborah. "Profile of Rachel Maddow, MSNBC Journalist and Liberal Activist." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, White, Deborah. (2020, August 26). Profile of Rachel Maddow, MSNBC Journalist and Liberal Activist. Retrieved from White, Deborah. "Profile of Rachel Maddow, MSNBC Journalist and Liberal Activist." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).