Rachel Maddow gave an interview in the British Guardian newspaper yesterday in which the MSNBC anchor said many interesting, often amusing things. “I’m not an autocutie,” she said, referring to the tendency of American TV news organizations to fill some anchor positions with women who have what The Guardian described as “the helmet of blond hair and rictus smile.”
She also drew this distinction between MSNBC and Fox News, regarding that false-equivalency comparison that continues to be drawn between the two channels:
“Of Fox News, she says simply, ‘When it starts to seem like you have popped into bed with a specific party, it makes it difficult for people to believe you are not doing someone else’s bidding for them.’ At MSNBC, on the other hand, ‘there are people here who are identified as liberals, but there is no political agenda.’”
But the part of the interview getting the most attention here is this bit:
“Does she feel frustration towards an equally well-known news presenter who is widely assumed to be gay but has never come out? For the first time, Maddow pauses: ‘I’m sure other people in the business have considered reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing, but I do think that if you’re gay you have a responsibility to come out,’ she says carefully.”
“Regarding The Guardian interview that’s getting a lot of pickup today: in that interview, I wasn’t asked about Anderson Cooper, I didn’t say anything about him, he literally was never discussed during the interview at all – even implicitly […] I don’t tend to be shy when I criticize – you wouldn’t have to read between the lines if that’s what I was trying to do.”
She emphasized: “I did not in my interview with The Guardian say anything about or to Mr. Cooper, nor would I. Although criticism of Mr. Cooper was intimated by The Guardian and picked up everywhere – I did not make that criticism in the interview, nor did I imply it, nor is it what I believe.”
By the way, MSNBC also unveiled new promotional spots yesterday for all its star anchors directed by Spike Lee. Here’s one featuring Maddow:
In her blog post, Maddow also offered her "three basic beliefs about the ethics of coming out":
"• Gay people -- generally speaking -- have a responsibility to our own community and to future generations of gay people to come out, if and when we feel that we can.
• We should all get to decide for ourselves the ‘if and when we feel that we can’ part of that.
• Closeted people should reasonably expect to be outed by other gay people if (and only if) they prey on the gay community in public, but are secretly gay themselves.”
Of course, by writing about the interview and the reaction to it, I am, I suppose, contributing to the vexed dilemma of how to cover stories about the sexuality of celebrities (which includes both Maddow and Anderson, no matter how hard-news-journalist they may be). Still, the points Maddow raises are valid and thoughtful ones, and as is her usual style, they provoke discussion, not controversy for its own sake.
On another topic, Maddow also told The Guardian she was flattered to be referenced in a recent 30 Rock episode in which Alec Baldwin’s character said, “I have to talk to Rachel Maddow – only one of us can have this haircut”: “Maddow winces slightly at the insinuation that she is now a celebrity, but she does concede ‘it got me more pop culture cred from my friends than anything, ever.’”