Roger Ailes and Rachel Maddow: A Friendship Made in Heaven?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I’m writing this quick post — or rather, this post that I thought would be quick — inspired by Nina Illingworth, who finds it, shall we say, odd that MSNBC star Rachel Maddow considers now-dead FOX founder and sexual predator Roger Ailes a “friend.” Liberals. I should immediately caveat that, as readers know, although I’m a voracious consumer of text media, I don’t even own a television, and so don’t watch cable news, including Maddow’s version of it. So I can’t pretend this post rises to the level of a media critique.[1] All I want to do is pose the question of whether there are more similarities between Ailes and Maddow, and their effects on the body politic, than one might think. First I’ll look at Ailes. Then I’ll look at what Maddow has to say about Ailes. Then I’ll look at Maddow.

There’s plenty not to like about Ailes, and about FOX, but I found this from commenter MichaelJeter at DeadSpin most telling because it’s happened to me:

Personally, I’ll never forgive him for the effect his network had on my grandparents in the last years of their lives. They were enthralled by Fox News, had it on day and night, whenever they were awake, and it infected them with paranoia, anger and most of all, fear. Visits were consumed with lectures about the latest conspiracy theory about nefarious plots by the Clintons, Obamas, minorities, poor, or whoever else was allegedly hell-bent on destroying their way of life that day. When my grandfather died, it took hours of searching to find where he’d hidden all of his valuables and guns – Obama, you see, was coming to take them at any moment. He lived in a constant state of dread.

Ailes was evil. No more, no less.

I’ve been lucky enough not to have this happen to me with family, but there are friends and neighbors that I just don’t bring certain topics up with; it’s horrible, like a horror movie where people’s brains are controlled by some infestation, whether digital[2[ or alien parasite. I’m sure readers can come up with their own examples.

Sociologists would, I think, characterize Ailes as a “political entrepreneur.” I’d add that his speciality was strategic hate management. So it’s worth taking a moment to see how Maddow characterizes Ailes, and relationship to him. Here’s the Access Hollywood video of Maddow on Ailes:

And here’s the transcript, which I made using YouTube’s autogenerated transcript as a starting point. (There are probably more commas than there should be for a fully accurate rendition.)

[INTERVIEWER:] [0:17] But Rachel, [0:20] a good friend of yours, Roger Ailes, a [0:22] somewhat of a mentor.

[MADDOW:] Well, yeah, I mean [0:24] it’s interesting because we were always [0:26] obviously on very different ends of the [0:28] ideological spectrum, but I met Roger [0:32] years ago and I went to talk to him [0:34] about the profession of cable news, [0:36] because… for all my differences with [0:39] him he kind of invented the genre, and [0:41] people I know who worked for him at the [0:44] time, you know, said that he might be open [0:47] to talking to me about it and I talked [0:48] to him about what he thought about my [0:49] performance on TV; it started a, what I [0:52] think became a collegial friendship, he [0:54] blurbed my book.


[MADDOW:] Which was a funny [0:56] thing and we stayed in pretty close [0:59] touch, I considered him to be a friend. [1:00] I mean the [sigh] obviously the sexual [1:03] harassment allegations against him at [1:04] Fox were a big deal and there were [1:07] serious allegations and there was a [1:09] bunch of them and it was enough for FOX to [1:10] get rid of him which is a huge deal [1:11] given what he did to create that massive [1:14] company, and that’s real I don’t want to [1:17] minimize any of that, but in addition to [1:19] that he was also a lot of other things [1:22] and one of the things he was was [1:24] basically the person who invented this [1:26] genre in which I and all these other [1:28] networks now exists [1:30]

[INTERVIEWER:] A media genius.

[MADDOW:] He was real genius.

[INTERVIEWER:] But [1:33] at the end of the day do you think we [1:35] will remember him more for the scandal?

[MADDOW:] I [1:38] mean the reason that he left is dire [1:41] stuff.


[MADDOW:] You know I mean that and the [1:44] and Fox is still coping with it because [1:46] they have that problem that related to [1:48] Roger that resulted in him letting go [sic] [1:50] being him let go, they had a problem with [1:52] one of their primetime hosts, they have [1:53] had ongoing problems in terms of other [1:55] executives, I mean this is something that [1:56] we still don’t know the end of it at [1:58] that network.

[INTERVIEWER:] Sort of a predatory culture [1:59] then that was fostered there.

[MADDOW:] And Fox [2:01] and its parent company have to cope with [2:03] that, and they they still have to, um ,we [2:05] can see it unfolding as a business story [2:07] in a culture story and and it’s all [2:10] having a having of having a big effect [2:12] on this corner of the news business, but [2:14] this corner of the news business I think [2:16] it’s worth noting really was created by [2:18] Ailes. And over the course of his career, [2:19] decades, he got to know almost everybody [2:23] in this business and whether it was a [2:25] negative interaction or a positive [2:26] interaction, all of us had something to [2:29] do with him, because he was formative in [2:32] terms of this whole part of, this whole [2:34] part of American news, and so I mean [2:36] he’ll his passing was a real shock to me [2:38] when I learned about it this morning. [2:39]

[INTERVIEWER:] What did he say to you back in the day? [2:41] You said he met with him about sort of [2:42] your performance and your journey, so [2:43] what advice did he give you? Did he make [2:45] you a job offer?

[MADDOW:] State secret!

[INTERVIEWER:] Aw, come on!

[MADDOW:] No, he I mean [2:48] he used to tease me that he wanted to [2:50] hire me at Fox so then he could then put [2:53] me on ice not put me on the air but that would prevent anybody else in [2:56] putting me on the air too, which I think [2:58] was his way of giving me a compliment [2:59]


[MADDOW:] But you know we talked, I talked [3:04] technical stuff with him, literally I [3:06] talked about the color of my set and [3:08] that my angle toward the camera and my [3:10] tone of voice and the deal– I mean we I [3:12] went to him as somebody who I felt like [3:14] was very skilled on that stuff to hear [3:16] what he thought and he was [3:18] basically a professional enough to talk [3:20] to me in constructive ways about that [3:21] stuff, and I always felt like that was [3:23] that was a stand-up thing to do. Again, I [3:26] don’t want to dismiss and all right the [3:28] serious allegations are made against him [3:29] that resulted in him being fired from [3:31] that job, but there were other things to [3:33] know about him too, and my experience [3:35] with him was professional and supportive [3:38] and interesting.

I notice a couple of things about Maddow’s remarks (and though I can see why Maddow’s remark that “there were other things to know about him too”, and her characterization — one can only think — of sexual harrassment as a “negative interaction” would cause more than one reader to pop a vein, those remarks are not the subject of this post).

First, Maddow is very, very careful not to say that Ailes was, in actual fact, a sexual harasser, let alone a predator. She says: “allegations against him,” “serious allegations,” “enough for FOX to get rid of him,” “the reason that he left is dire stuff,” “that problem [!!] that related to Roger that resulted in him letting go,” and “serious allegations are made against him that resulted in him being fired from that job.” But she never comes right out and says anything about Ailes himself (a handy list; another; a worked example). Perhaps MSNBC legal gave her guidance (even though Ailes will find it hard to sue from the grave). In any case, one can only hope that Maddow applies the same rigorous standard to all her reporting. Eh?

Second, Maddow is very, very careful not to say anything substantive about FOX News as an institution. The Interviewer remarks that “[s]ort of a predatory culture … was fostered there.” Note the lack of agency in the interviewer’s “was fostered,” which Maddow proceeds to blur even further: “And Fox and its parent company have to cope with that, [and] we can see it unfolding as a business story in a culture story and and it’s all having a having of having a big effect [2:12] on this corner of the news business.” Nothing about Ailes, the CEO, at all! Again, one can only hope that Maddow applies the same rigorous standards to all her reporting. I mean, the interviewer practically invites Maddow to “connect the dots,” as we say, and Maddow virtuously refuses to do that. Give credit, people.

Finally, it’s worth asking what sort of a “political entrepreneur” Maddow herself is. As I said, I’m not really equipped to answer that question fully, since I don’t follow Maddow on cable (not enough commas). But I can give some indications.

First, Maddow is very successful: “Rachel Maddow’s show is the fuel that is powering the MSNBC rating surge”; her salary is $7 million dollars a year, and her net worth is $20 million. So I’d say she’s clinging to middle class status by her fingernails, and good for her, too.

Second, Maddow isn’t necessarily reliable. In this post, I’m not going to look at the Russki hairball[3]. But remember her debacle with Trump’s 1040? Slate — no friend to Trump — describes it:

At 7:36 p.m. Tuesday, Rachel Maddow tweeted, “BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC. (Seriously),” sending the internet into a frenzy of theorizing. Did Maddow have Donald Trump’s tax returns or just one of the Trumps’ tax returns? Could this be it, the tax return that would bring down the Donald? If this was it, why wasn’t MSNBC cutting into its programming, instead of running a countdown clock to Maddow’s show? By 8:24, Maddow was tweeting that the tax return in question was Donald Trump’s 1040 from 2005. By 8:30, still half an hour before Maddow started airing, the White House had responded to the MSNBC report, saying that Trump had paid $38 million on income of $150 million that year. An hour later, about 20 minutes after The Rachel Maddow Show started, Maddow would confirm these numbers, turning her big scoop about Donald Trump’s long-missing tax returns into a cautionary tale about overhype. Rachel Maddow, you played yourself—and us too.

[Maddow’s] monologue started contextually enough, with a long-winded skewering of Trump’s refusal to share his tax returns that touched on Richard Nixon, the Clintons, and his unaudited tax forms, before veering off conspiratorially. “Whether or not you are a supporter of Donald Trump,” Maddow said, “It ought to give you pause that his explanations [for not releasing his tax returns] have never made any factual sense. … When you get an excuse from them that doesn’t make sense, you have to look for another reason. What’s the real explanation? Well, choose your own adventure.” She then launched into a long hypothetical about a particular Russian oligarch’s possible relationship to Trump that touched on Florida real estate, Deutsche Bank, and Preet Bharara that Trump’s tax returns—though not, as it would turn out, the ones she actually had—could conceivably clear up.

The longer Maddow went on, ever deeper into a conspiratorial thicket, the clearer it became that whatever tax returns Maddow had, they weren’t as juicy as the ones she was talking about. If she had anything that damning, she would have shared them from the start. TV is a ratings game, but an entire episode about highly damaging tax returns is just as likely to get you great ratings as milking the possibility that you have highly damaging tax returns and less likely to get you compared to Geraldo. Maddow even went so far as to hold the tax returns back until after the first commercial break, as if we were watching an episode of The Bachelor and not a matter of national importance—because we weren’t, in fact, watching a matter of national importance, just a cable news show trying to set a ratings record.

I’ll stop there, but read the whole thing; it’s pretty funny. What’s clear, though, is that she didn’t apply the same rigorous standards to this story that she applied to her friend Roger Ailes of FOX News. One can only wonder why.

Third, Maddow isn’t above using innuendo and smears to kick down. Consider this video (which I can’t find on YouTube, hence no transcript):

Readers know that I don’t think much of Jill Stein, not least because in her lawsuist she bought into the Clintonite myth that the Russkis actually hacked vote totals. (It may be Maddow is reinforcing that myth with her crack about “Wisconsin vote totals”; I’m not sure.) But Stein — compared, say, to the intelligence community — is a negligible quantity and an easy target. So easy that Maddow didn’t apply the same rigorous standards to Jill Stein that she did with Roger Ailes.[4] While she and her chortling sidekicks gleefully smear Stein as a traitor. Liberals.

* * *

What kind of political entrepreneur is Maddow, then? Well, I’m now afraid to talk to liberal friends and neighbors enthralled by Maddow about Trump’s 1040 and Stein’s Wisconsin vote totals. And, of course, the Russkis, but that’s a story for another day. But the ratings though. So, to answer the question: A very successful one.


[1] Sourcing on Maddow quotes seems pretty tangled. There are Maddow YouTubes and quotes everywhere, but I was consistently unable to corroborate quotes from the MSNBC transcripts, I assume due to ordinary randomness and/or Google’s crapification and/or a poor search function at the MSNBC site.

[2] Pause for some Simon Stålenhag:

[3] I continue to struggle with the paradox that seven months after Trump’s election, despite charges against Trump that, if true, would amount to treason, nobody in the intelligence community has been willing to risk their career by going on the record about the evidence they’ve seen (except perhaps Guy Steele, whose oppo was so sketchy that not even a chump like Jebbie would buy it).

[4] “Hey, come on. Where’s your sense of humor?”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. hardindr

    Regarding Maddow’s transcripts, Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler has noted that MSNBC is slow to upload transcripts, and, like almost all cable news transcripts, aren’t very accurate.

  2. Susan the other

    Rachael is too shrill when she has a big story so you know immediately she is covering the fact that there is no there there to the tale but she still chooses to use it to spew all sorts of unimportant details as if they had some bizarre significance. She smacks her lips, bounces up and down, waves her arms, and talks so loud you have to turn down the TV. In a word, she is very annoying. So one of two things: 1. she is an idiot or 2. she is a willing tool. What else?

    1. ger

      Never confuse journalism with (un)reality television. When Maddow declared she had complete control of content on her show, I thought, yeah, you got total control of what Comcast approves. Turned the TV off last year and plugged in to some great music. My octogenarian mind is much improved. Well, I do have one weakness, I really love to stick a comment finger in a neoliberal eye occasionally. It doesn’t matter what ever the “party”.

    2. Becca

      Yes, yes, yes!!!! Thanks for pointing out how difficult it is to watch her!! I’m seeing the word “schmacting” lately, which describes it. (Perhaps, some manic depression, too, given how extreme her behavior is.) I’m honestly wondering whether her high ratings are due at least in part to the freak show she puts on. She’s a corporate/neolberal tool, and a military groupie as well.

  3. Stelios Theoharidis

    Television media, which I can’t watch anymore, is a business as well as a insider group. It is their business to get people attached to the television for the specific purpose of allowing corporations to advertise to them. Through this the media has become complicit in stoking any fire that they could possibly add fuel to in order to obtain ratings. We are the consumer of the product, the more that they can gain our attention the more money that they can demand from advertisers. Rarely does media question their role in enhancing Donald Trump, in stigmatizing the black community, giving PR firms and propagandists a pulpit, facilitating corporate expansion into all realms of human activity, creating a population terrified of the next extremely low probability event, polarizing and monetizing our political system into a Ponzi scheme (billions of hours of personal time and attention so that politicians can spend 80% of their working hours pulling donations for the next election). Seems like one of the greatest Ponzi schemes in history actually. I find notions of integrity and care to be tertiary thoughts willfully ignored by most of media. Its all about gaining our attention so that they can increase their revenue. This once pillar of democracy is crumbling and sucking Americans of all varieties into its deteriorating foundation.

    1. Art Eclectic

      100% spot on. Thank you. It’s a business that sells advertising and needs buyers, I mean viewers, who just want to have their biases confirmed. Fox can only sell fear to those who are fearful. MSNBC can only sell outrage to those who are outraged. The more of any of this stuff someone watches, the stupider they become.

    2. Damson

      I ditched the idiot box years ago.

      I guesstimate my IQ has gone up two standard deviations.
      . :-)

    3. clarky90

      All the “news” is fabricated. This has always been true. History is written, (1) by the literate, (2) by the victors. We know very little about the USA in 1491. 99.99% of what we do know, has been written/explained/sanitized/rationalized by the literate, victors. 99% of the 1491 North American inhabitants just inexplicably, vanished?

      What would The History Books (MSM) say if Nazi Germany had won WW II? I guarantee that the CNN, MSBC, NYTimes, Washington Post etc, would be totally, enthusiastically, be on-board with the new “truth”. The disappearance of the hundreds of millions in the East, would be vague conspiracy rumors that were never spoken of, or considered, by polite people.

    4. wilroncanada

      We may be, in the old-fashioned sense of journalism, the consumer, but in television news, especially cable news, we are the product–the eyeballs sold to the advertisers. My daughter has been caught in this trap, a journalist, editor of a small community newpaper, sold three times since she started work there, until now it is part of a monopoly chain. She loves the work but hates her job. Where, in a small community, is she going to get other employment that will pay her mortgage, without having to commute to an unaffordable city 75 kilometers away?

    5. John Ware

      Right on. I always thought it was funny/strange that Neilsen Ratings were a much bigger deal for advertisers dollars than subscription rates for newspapers. The paper is just “out there,” you know? Anyone can buy a paper, pick one up in the barbershop, save it for a rainy day, whatever. But the TV eyeballs – down to the avg of 2.8 people watching any given show at any given time (in 15 min intervals, no less!) has always been suspect.

      I know Lambert doesn’t watch TV, but all anyone has to know about TV, especially the News divisions, is that Legal and Compliance don’t let ANY of their on-air talent stray too much, no matter how much “freedom” they think they have. For one, Matt Lauer – the highest paid network guy in news – is constantly being reeled in, contract be damned.

      So, no, don’t believe too much with what you see or hear. Lastly, I’ll make this comment: How many times have you seen a news anchor “interview” a President or a major news figure and not ask the “elephant in the room” question? “Mr. Trump, are you aware people say you lie like a rug?” or “Mr. Obama, everybody in the U.S. knows what the ‘red line’ in Syria is and, I’ll be danged if no one can explain it to me why the hell you let it go – wanna give it a shot at explaining it?”

      It’s just effing noise.

  4. Left in Wisconsin

    It occurred to me about a month ago that if I close my eyes and listen to Rachel, it is very easy to transpose Rush Limbaugh’s voice saying the words. I never listened very much to Rush but it seems that Rachel has just about copied his delivery into her own voice. And her info/scoops/etc seem to have just about the same qualities as Rush’s: over-hyped, conspiratorial, “you can’t trust them, only me,” etc.

    So I would say she learned well from Ailes.

    What kind of political entrepreneur is Maddow, then? Successful is only part of it. What is critical is success in defining/constraining the legitimate agenda, keeping that Overton Window from being dragged too far to the left. So I would say the important adjective is “centrist” or “conformist” in a modern, tolerant kind of way.

    All that said, the way MSNBC (with Rachel in the lead) has rushed to the defense of the intelligence establishment has been a bit shocking and very clarifying.

    1. fresno dan

      Left in Wisconsin
      May 28, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      Rachel Maddow is Glenn Beck BEFORE Beck got less worse….

  5. Olivier

    This is really on the money. FWIW I’ve used a similar formulation in my academic work on right-wing political media figures like Beck, Palin and now Trump. I’ve called them “media entrepreneurs” who accumulate media capital to make an end run around normal political processes and disciplines. Funnily enough Maddow seems to have stolen Beck’s shtick for a more liberal audience.

    1. hemeantwell

      “media entrepreneurs” who accumulate media capital to make an end run around normal political processes and disciplines.

      I’d suggest a tweak. Maddow is a media entrepreneur who can help political entrepreneurs in the catch-all parties make that end run. The more that they can seize on patriotic hysteria as a bludgeon, the less they have to worry about addressing substantive policy and risk losing viewers or voters.

      Thanks for the reveal of her tactful parsing of the charges against Ailes. Appalling. It’s like she took off the fighting liberal body suit to reveal an android. Like the science officer in Alien, she admires Ailes’ perfection.

  6. LT

    My take on that relationship (I saw the article on Daily Beast the other day) was that it showed how cable news is a duopoly reflective of the political duopoly.
    Call it cable news bipartisanship serving the same interests.

    And I don’t watch those shows either.

  7. Thompson, Twain & Twitter

    Long time reader, first time poster:

    If I may – I think the most heartbreaking thing about Maddow is that she absolutely knows precisely what she’s doing. It seems to me that a lot of ppl immersed in the American media environment have memories that struggle to keep pace with a goldfish but at one time, Rachel Maddow was almost radically left – with the caveat that what passes for radically left in the United States is essentially “a center-left liberal who donates to Greenpeace” in virtually any other western democracy.

    This I find is by an large the most nefarious aspect of Rachel’s career; much like Cenk from the Young Turks – she knows better; she just behaves this way because of the cheddar and that, as a diehard anarcho-syndicalist, is the biggest problem I have with her.

    PS – thanks for the heads up and posting the link to my article, I appreciate all that you’ve done to help people find my work here on this website. Much obliged.

    – nina

    1. HotFlash

      Hi Nina,

      You say “heartbreaking”. That really struck a chord. She could of been, almost was, so much better. When we needed her (and Digby and and and ) .

      One has to wonder, how are they suborned?

      ” I don’t know how someone controlled you
      They bought and sold you …

      I don’t know how you were diverted
      You were perverted too
      I don’t know how you were inverted
      No one alerted you.”

      1. neo-realist

        The problem is, if she was “so much better”, she wouldn’t have kept her present gig for very long and we all know that. As far as corporate news media, one gets the money, the adulation, and the job security by only pushing the TPTB narrative.

    2. Mike

      I dunno- what is it about Rhodes Scholars? And, why do people not know (or forget) that her father was military, her family was “very conservative”, and she has not once been negative about US military intervention anywhere??

      I also would love to say that Stalin came from a very conservative family, and was schooled and trained to be an Orthodox monastery monk. Parallels, anyone???

      My personal take on this is – “liberals” have always been conservatives (pro-capitalist, “responsible”) with a soft heart for the “downtrodden (as long as they stay downtrodden). Scratch their “identity” with staid middle-class values and threaten their intellectual ownership of the “mediating” process, and you have David Horowitz. Give her time to evolve.

      1. Jenny

        Have you read her book? She can be, and has been, negative about military intervention. I’ve listened to her talk about Ailes a number of times, and if you haven’t watched her show or listened to any of her speaking engagements then you are in no position to analyze anything. Get over it and move on.

  8. IowanX

    Don’t know much about network TV, but I got a pal who took the buyout from the [liberal] WaPo, and then hired on with the [conervative] WSJ. Cenk was conservative on TV before he became liberal on TV. People in the business help people in the business.

    Flexians gotta hang on by their fingernails, dammit, and both sides do it.

        1. Stephen Gardner

          Yes! Exactly. I hope Lambert follows your advice. It is critical to understand the flexian aspect to this. These guys are hired mouthpieces and it is important not to burn any bridges with the kind of intemperate talk that would come with real convictions. Rachel is a very intelligent person. It’s not like she doesn’t understand what is going on but she finds it much easier to live in her flexian bubble continuing to rake in the dollars. The subversive thing about these media mouthpieces is that they make the rest of us doubt that there is any virtue that can’t be bought. That is where the sadness comes for me. Abandon hope when you see these guys so clearly trade integrity for dollars.

    1. LT

      And didn’t Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck once work for Pacifica Radio? Can’t remember which one, but it was one of them.

      1. different clue

        Chances are better it would be Beck, if either of them. I don’t believe Limbaugh ever went very far West of his Cape Girardeau home.

          1. bob

            Fits nicely into the myth of “left” California though.

            The state that gave birth to Reagan and Nixon.

      2. Jim Young

        Rush’s show replaced Morton Downey Jr.’s show at 960 on the dial when “Clear Channel” got control of it according to a Truthout story “Clear Channel to Replace San Francisco’s Only AM Progressive Talk Station With Glenn Beck and Fox” in my opinion to get the more “morally righteous” and authoritative sounding, less abrasive, therefore more effective “persuader.”

        Glenn Beck seemed more like what we called “wrestler mouth” purveyors, though with a bit less personal trade offs as his career progressed (just a guess since I couldn’t begin to follow him enough to be sure about the personal counter-part frenemy that seemed part of his early career in Arizona, I believe).

        I knew an editor once in a small newspaper that wrote very successful editorials that expressed his views as honestly and completely as he could. They were so successful that the opposing newspaper’s editorial writer quit, and he was approached by that newspaper’s owner to ghostwrite opposing editorials to present as complete a picture as possible of both sides. To me, he did his best to represent both sides as well as Hubert Humphrey did (to my great frustration in my youth when I wanted something more like a attorney presenting the case for a plaintiff, and a separate attorney presenting the best case for the defendant).

        To me, I most appreciate (as hard as it is) the idea of the competing “news and views” personalities as something now more like the attorneys for opposite sides, wrestling promoters at one extreme making up artificial animosities, but mutual and secretly good friend profiteers from the shows.

        Some have little real principles they believe in, while others are willing to use similar tactics as the opposition to fight what they actually believe in. Some very slowly switch sides, perhaps rationalizing their changing beliefs a bit unconsciously influenced by the economic opportunities (like Newt Gingrich, to me, since he started out as more of a liberal, until he saw what possibilities Reagan opened up for southern style “conservatives”).

        I do appreciate that there is a range of counter-balancing “liberals” like Rachel Maddow as an example of one type of defense attorney, and have a greater appreciation than ever for Noam Chomsky as an example of a higher level of a defense attorney (though still providing the most favorable view of almost all information favorable to the defendant).

        Who would listen to Hubert Humphrey long enough for him to explain both sides as well as I remember him doing? Ronald Reagan helped destroy Democracy as I remembered it when he did away with the fairness doctrine, and let the persuasive orators like the morally self-righteous sounding Dennis Prager, and Reagan himself go relatively unanswered?

  9. LT

    “but I was consistently unable to corroborate quotes from the MSNBC transcripts, I assume due to ordinary randomness and/or Google’s crapification and/or a poor search function at the MSNBC site…”

    A good time to remind people to back up important info OFF LINE or don’t store it their in the first place.

  10. Arizona Slim

    Not watching TV is very good for one’s mental health. I highly recommend it.

    I’m also cutting back on social media. Really feeling​ a difference in my outlook on life.

    1. HotFlash

      Ab.So.Lute.Ly! No TV here, ditched FB, MySpace died on me (thanks, Bill!), never tweeted nor Instagrammed. An associate wondered how I got so much done, I had to tell her the truth, “I don’t do Facebook and I don’t do housework.” My heirs and assigns will just have to rent a dumpster when I die :)

  11. ewmayer

    Thanks for this, Lambert – this strikes me as an MSM analog of the GWB/HRC hug at Nancy Reagan’s funeral – “whatever pro-wrasslin-style vitriol we hurl at each other in public, behind the scenes we’re all pals.” A.k.a. “it’s a small club, and you ain’t in it”.

    And at the risk of sounding ungrateful, 2 style niggles:

    1. ‘caveat’ != verb
    2. The inline timestamps – as opposed to just ones preceding each transition between interviewer and interviewee – are *really* distracting.

    1. Jessica

      Recursive niggle:
      If language = English, then “caveat” != Verb
      If language = Latin, then “caveat” = Verb

      1. ewmayer

        Zounds! I see the depth of your recursive stack and deepen it by 1:

        Re-recursive niggle:
        If language == English, then “caveat” != Verb
        If language == Latin, then “caveat” == Verb


  12. craazyboy

    I realize the video was of some daytime faux Rapper Head news show, but Maddow is going over the top butt kissing when she wears some dirty, black, worn out, Keds tennies obviously sourced by her wardrobe “people” [probably Stanford biz major interns] at the Harlem Goodwill Online Store.

  13. marym


    “But you know we talked, I talked [3:04] technical stuff with him, literally I [3:06] talked about the color of my set and [3:08] that my angle toward the camera…”


    “The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

  14. Duke De Guise

    She apparently went to school and remains friends with the execrable, Cory Booker.

    But you already kind of sensed that, didn’t you?

    Also, as Susan then Other points out, she super annoying.

    1. Stephen Gardner

      Of course. After all, the education at elite institutions is not about education as much as making contacts for your flexian post university existence. The word “elite” in “elite educational institution” does not refer to the education itself, that is just as good at a small less prestigious liberal arts institution or at a large state university, it refers to the fact that elites and those who wish to become elite go there.

  15. Bob Swern

    There were many times in the late 80’s and very early 90’s where my family holiday get-togethers became quite divisive between my older brother and yours truly. And, that was due to the basic fact that I was–for an extended period, early on in my career–fairly extensively involved in Democratic Party-related campaign media consulting work. (Lots of names could be dropped here, but I’ll refrain, other than to say that many of these folks are/were VERY well-known on the Democratic side of the business. Never mind the much lengthier list of well known pols/clients that are on it.)

    Long story short, my older bro is someone whom I’ve always considered to be a typical neolib Independent type. So, we naturally are on opposite sides of “the argument” concerning a myriad of topics. But, what made our conversations interesting was the reality that he was part of a small (5-8 person), independent television production crew that happened to be Roger Ailes’ go-to group for George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, not to mention many of the now-well-known senate and gubernatorial campaigns of that era. And, yeah, I heard more than a few sleazy stories from him during that time; but, truth be told, I witnessed some on my side of the political spectrum, too.

    Anyhow, the last time older bro and yours truly talked politics was on the phone the day Ailes passed away. And, my brother basically repeated the same sentiments (which he has been reiterating for many years), earlier this month (not quite identical, but pretty damn close to verbatim) as Maddow (older bro’, like Maddow, was quite in awe of Ailes’ professional/technical skills):

    [MADDOW:] But you know we talked, I talked [3:04] technical stuff with him, literally I [3:06] talked about the color of my set and [3:08] that my angle toward the camera and my [3:10] tone of voice and the deal– I mean we I [3:12] went to him as somebody who I felt like [3:14] was very skilled on that stuff to hear [3:16] what he thought and he was [3:18] basically a professional enough to talk [3:20] to me in constructive ways about that [3:21] stuff, and I always felt like that was [3:23] that was a stand-up thing to do. Again, I [3:26] don’t want to dismiss and all right the [3:28] serious allegations are made against him [3:29] that resulted in him being fired from [3:31] that job, but there were other things to [3:33] know about him too, and my experience [3:35] with him was professional and supportive [3:38] and interesting.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Even Hannibal Lecter had fine taste in wine and a gourmet sensibility, and a great knowledge of physiology…

      As my Grannie said, “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, best say nothing at all. “

      1. Stephen Gardner

        Saying nothing at all would have been fine but Rachel had to go over the top with praise for a man who did a lot of harm in his day. It’s never necessary to praise the evil dead, one may just keep silent.

    1. Stephen Gardner

      Yeah, that was pretty coarse and over the top but you have to listen to her rants on Trump and Putin. There is a lot more profit in “foaming the runway” for an impeachment than there is for pissing on an unsuccessful presidential candidate.

  16. Bukko Boomeranger

    There’s a good documentary from 2014 titled “The Brainwashing of My Dad” (trailer at hyperlinky) on the phenomenon of formerly mellow-minded older people who have been made fauxbic by too much Faux Nooz. I think of it as “Fox News Kidnapped my Father.” It follows the arc of a female’s filmmaker’s fa’ who went from warm ‘n fuzzy to sharp ‘n snarly because of Limbaugh, Ailes et. al. (Spoiler alert — he gets better after he has a stroke and some dementia, which allows his long-suffering, left-leaning wife to reprogram the channels on their cable TV away from reich-wing news, so the old duffer’s psycho-political infection was no longer replenished with fresh thoughtgerms.)

    This has happened to my own mother (minus the redemption). She turned from a pleasant person who was kind to gays, blacks and family members to a suspicious soul who’s alienated everyone except the people she pays to take care of her. I have other rellies, such as my Christaliban farmer cousin who used to have a crudely painted “OBAMA IS THE ANTICHRIST” sign in his front pasture along the county road, who no longer talk to the secular side of the family. FWIW, I can’t claim to be much better because I self-exiled from the U.S. for political reasons during the Cheney Regime. But at least I talk to people on the other side, in my smirky, self-righteous leftie way, which annoys them no end. This division in American society, which has always been there (see Know-Nothings, Civil War, KKKin the 1920s, Hardhat Riot under Nixon…) seems to have become more a part of more peoples’ core self-concepts under Fux than it was before.

    But yeah, Lambert, even good liberal that I am, I can’t tolerate watching Maddow, Michael Smerconish and their ilk on TV when I’m in the U.S. or YouTube when I’m not. While I find them to be more reality-based than right-wing bloviators, they’re still more about the LEFT side of the bright shiny object of the day (Russia! Tax returns!) than they are about an honest critique of where the world is heading (Peak Oil! Eco-collapse!) REAL doom doesn’t bring eyeballs for the adverts, while noisy distraction does.

      1. Bukko Boomeranger

        I’m FROM the U.S. but I immigrated to Oz. Twice, hence the “Boomeranger.” (Although I am an angry Boomer.) Strewth, mate!

  17. WeakenedSquire

    This shouldn’t be shocking news. These folks are in the entertainment business.

    1. JTMcPhee

      And it should also be commonplace and unexceptionable that banksters and other bezzle-grifters roam, free-range. Just have to accept it, I guess, us sophisticated worldly people have mastered the art of swimming in these waters… ho hum…

  18. different clue

    I watched Ailes a few times and Maddow a few times. Ailes was more fun to listen to. Maddow would go on and on, saying little or nearly nothing. But just talking and talking and talking . . . I turned away. To me Maddow is just boring. A little Ailes could be entertaining. Also a little Limbaugh also.

    1. RenoDino

      The interesting common ground for Rush and Maddow, and the secret of their success, is that EVERY statement they make contains some form of a lie. It’s a form of self expression that requires the mastery of a particular rhetorical style that conveys certainty while relying on complete falsehoods. When done properly, the listener is convinced that the argument being made is beyond reproach though it is completely lacking in empirical evidence, and relies, instead, on lies and false assumptions.

      Obama was the political master of this approach, using a similar train of thought that sounded convincing while relying on a completely false premise. At the end of his term in office, EVERY sentence he spoke contained a lie while, at the same time, he was being heralded for his truth and honesty.

      Is this a gift or does it reflect a conscious effort to master this particular form of public speaking. In any case, the rewards for such grand mastery are enormous.

  19. RickM

    I stopped watching television news, and most television, during the 1992 campaign between Clinton LLC and Bush LLC, and except for a short period when I was renting a furnished apartment I’ve stayed off the sauce. I don’t even know what some of these people sound like, and that is good for mental health. But that rental coincided with the beginning of TRMS. Ms. Maddow was as predictable as Rush, and we should always remember that Rush (and Beck, Hannity et al.) would be parroting a different tune if that were where the money is. They are at heart disc jockeys, and the format is chosen by Management. Rachel of Stanford and Oxford wouldn’t be as obvious, but she is not all that different.

  20. Chloe

    I recently had to end a budding friendship with a woman in her late 60’s, mainly because her brain is the product of Fox News programming. She and her husband are very wealthy and college educated. They hoard much of their money in a safe, in gold bars, because they live in fear of a currency collapse. They have many guns, and are both well-trained to shoot intruders. They are exceedingly fearful of immigrants, to the point where they won’t even hire foreign born people do do their gardening or clean their houses. They blame “the other” for many of our country’s ills. They believe Obama is a Kenyan born Muslim, of course, and are not even open to discussion on that point. They believe that Michelle Obama is transgender; I don’t think this theory arose from Fox, but perhaps from Alex Jones. Again, they are recalcitrant in their resistance to reason on this point as well. Obama’s complicity in “Fast and Furious,” another Fox News conspiracy that gained traction among its brain-dead viewers, is one more debunked topic to which they cling tenaciously. The friendship became untenable for me when Trump’s budget was introduced and this couple thought it was too lenient, saying that Federal government spending on social programs must be further slashed in favor of an even bigger, shinier military

    Rachel Maddow’s viewers are equally unhinged in a different way. They’re so hateful of Trump that they can barely pronounce his name without spitting. They’re irrational to the point where they actually believe that the theocratic, militaristic Pence would be an improvement. They’re Russia/Putin/Trump obsessed.

    Fox and MSNBC are toxic purveyors of dangerous propaganda; Maddow and Ailes are equally guilty for destabilizing the country.

    1. Tinky

      Wait – you consider a fear of a currency collapse and skepticism of bank safety to be “unhinged”?

      Would that be because America is exceptional, and “it could never happen here”, or because you believe such fears to be premature?

      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        It’s ‘unhinged’ because the subjects’ response is unhinged, not because collapses are impossible. Hiding gold bars and cash on your property (along with some guns and ammo) when you are in your 60s, and have let casual friends know about what you’ve done, is unhinged. It’s stupid. It indicates these people are truly just entertaining themselves – they don’t at some level truly believe they are in existential danger. Or they can’t even fathom existential danger.

        If you truly want to protect yourself in a dangerous social-political period you don’t do what these ex-friends of hers were doing. To the extent that you do any of it, you keep it entirely to yourself, with perhaps only your spouse in on the details.

        1. Tinky

          Say what?

          It may be imprudent to tell others, but “unhinged” is ridiculous characterization.

      2. Stephen Gardner

        Hoarding gold is unhinged. An individual has to be able to protect that gold and a couple in their sixties would not be able to protect and use that gold in a way that would make them any better off than any of the rest of us in a currency collapse. People who think gold is a valid option are deluding themselves. Money, even in the form of gold, is not protective in a collapse. This older couple will have to hire someone that they trust to help them protect and transport their gold. Their storage location will always be threatened by those who want their gold. In a collapse, there is only one protection–community. And all the gold in the world won’t buy real protection in a collapse. Communities that band together and share resources (not individuals hoarding them) may survive. We Americans have an ill-founded but boundless faith in lone wolves and money. Money, even gold, only has use in a society that is sufficiently functional to permit goods exchange that nurtures the entire community.

    2. Pespi

      You’ve got it right.

      MSNBC finally gets to do the sort of fact- free hate spinning that Fox News used to consistently win the ratings battle with. Maddow and the so blatantly false that debating it with adherents is useless, Trump is Putin’s Slave story, spins hysteria and fear into ad revenue.
      The democratic party is going to die a shrieking and embarrassing death. There’s no fixing it.

    3. bob

      “They’re irrational to the point where they actually believe that the theocratic, militaristic Pence would be an improvement.”

      This is the scary part. Dogs laying down with cats. Pence- an improvement. Wasn’t he hired on to be the reasonable, principled Republican? To appeal to the family values vote?

      Trump again unites the alt-fringe.

  21. Alex

    What intrigued me most about her praise of Ailes is that it is primarily about his skills as a media manipulator. Nothing about him being a kind or even honest person. Revealing.

    1. JustAnObserver

      What gets to me about this is that Rachel Maddow felt she had to say anything at all. Let alone this ugly and weird sort of half-a-hagiography.

      If for some reason she felt she could not condemn him why not just go for the “silence that shouts” approach ?

  22. Emma

    One has to be careful of not perpetuating an echo chamber for there appears to be a greater propensity to dogmatize than analyze. And look where things are now. Besides, why dogmatize when dogs lick their own balls so well?! That’s surely enough ball-licking in our world. For if we can’t avoid fetishizing conflict or consensus, it just gets ones balls in a twist! And that’s not what life is really about, is it?

    What certainly shouldn’t be ignored either, is the importance, indeed, necessity, of two quite dissimilar individuals in TV (a major conduit through which Americans still go for news and entertainment) with truly opposing political views, maturely managing their interactions with one another, sufficiently so, that it helped to form the basis of their alleged friendship as perceived by Maddow.

    Would it have been far better for America if Ailes had invited Maddow to work for him, and Maddow had accepted ? Yes, I really do think so. For mutually respectful disagreement increases the potential for real knowledge exchange and this is how constructive progress is achieved. But Ailes apparently wasn’t the gentleman to ultimately either tolerate or value such an approach.

    And, by often appearing quite cynical, Maddow, in her own way, has perhaps been almost as detrimental as Ailes. It’s all very well wearing the glasses and thinking we see things as they are, but it’s a whole lot better when we see how things ought to be………

  23. skippy

    Remember watching some – stuff – a few years back where the producer of the show Cops responded to a line of question about it normalizing anti social behaviors….. response was “people watch it” and whom can deny the ratings numbers…. PROFIT

    disheveled…. drops mic and heads off to private health facility… maybe the SAS boys that rotate in and out will need another for the exclusive chess comp…. JK… chortle….

  24. Hayek's Heelbiter

    “Personally, I’ll never forgive him for the effect his network had on my grandparents in the last years of their lives. They were enthralled by Fox News, had it on day and night, whenever they were awake, and it infected them with paranoia, anger and most of all, fear.”

    I cannot recommend highly enough the film THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD by filmmaker provacateur Jen Senko (prod. Matthew Modine), about the effect Ailes et al. in the right-wing media had upon an average American family.

    Featured interviewees include Noam Chomsky, Jeff Cohen, Oxford neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor, etc.

    Despite the incisive, gloom-and-doom analysis, the documentary has a happy ending, when Mom (then in her late eighties) figures out an ingenious way to save the day.

  25. Steely Glint

    I listened to her radio show before she got her slot on TV. Her radio show was always a little zany, lots of whistles, bells, animal sounds, etc. which I found annoying, but she was very good at analyzing and connecting the dots. I suppose she had more time to do this on the radio than on the TV. I found her transition from radio to TV interesting, and I would imagine there was a steep learning curve; therefore, why not reach out to Ailes? I’m more of a radio person, but the times I have watched her show, she seems to have remained true to herself. Must be a hard balancing act between wanting to contribute to the national discourse from a center left perspective, and keep eye-balls from the corporate news perspective. Some people play the game and win, others lose. Just ask Ed Schultz.

  26. LAS

    I like Rachel Maddow. I would not call her “full service news” but rather a “news analyst” who focuses on a few issues at a time. Some of her analyses have been very prescient.

    Is she a “political entrepreneur “? What TV news personality on the cable channels is not? So what’s the point of singling her out? She’s certainly much better than most and I’m definitely going to keep watching her.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Yaas, the “new normal.” Shows to go us that there ain’t no vector of decency and sanity and honesty that might move the body politic in the direction of what I, personally, in my own tiny circumscribed little Loser’s Weltanschauungen,, and personal preferences, of course, would consider to be “good,” as even in the formulation “greatest good for the greatest number…”

      But what do I know, after all, then…? After all, by all the cultural and Econnomic metrics, Maddow is a “success…”

    2. Donald

      Here is an example of Maddow being especially bad–

      There is a link to a three minute clip of her show from last October. The problem is that you would have to know something about what we have been doing to Yemen for the past two years to realize just how disgusting her piece is. What we have done is help the Saudis commit war crimes and plunge the country into near famine conditions. Maddow leaves out all of that in order to make a cheap partisan point. But if you didn’t know any better, you might think you were getting smart analysis. If the term ” fake news” means anything, this was fake news.

      But I understand why people like Maddow. They think they are getting analysis from a smart progressive, but the problem is sometimes you are getting something that amounts to Fox News for liberals.

      1. LAS

        A 3-minute clip of any show is not likely to replace a detailed history volume. And just when was this made the criteria for what I might choose to watch on TV? And your right to look down on me for watching it?

        1. Donald

          You are missing the point and have apparently decided that if someone thinks Maddow was acting like a hack on an issue that involved US complicity in war crimes that this is about you. It isn’t. You said you like Maddow because she provides news analysis, so I linked to an article about Yemen because it is a horrible example of US policy that is typically glossed over by much of the mainstream. The article explains this and links to Maddow’s clip, which was clearly intended to give her viewers an overview of the situation that was misleading propaganda. It wasn’t a case of Maddow being forced to omit facts to squeeze things into a three minute segment.

          What you choose to watch is your business, but if you come online and tell people Maddow is giving intelligent political analysis don’t be shocked if people counter with specific examples where she did just the opposite.

          1. FidderHill

            Thank you. I watched Maddow at the beginning of her career and found her smart, likable, refreshing. And then as she shaped her own show, her real self began to show through — sarcastic, smug, superior. When she progressed to character assassination accompanied by smirking laughter, I turned her off.

  27. Optimader

    I’ll offer two comments
    1.) There is no particular honor for those that preface observations with “..but I don’t own/watch a TV..”

    It is just another piece of technology that offers a discretionary venue to content. No minimum use, required content, and with the advent of HD digital antenna it is free of a subscription charge.
    In tbe Chicago area at least, some excellent content delivered via digital antenna, particulary (for me) foreign (ex-US) news outlets and a smattering of foreign social/cultural content. In particular, it is very interesting to see what makes the relevance cut in the news roundup in different countries.

    2.) Skimming through the observations made above, I am surprised no one noted that RM is a self described “Performer”.
    Her success she attributes to being all about the “Performance”.
    Conversely, I did not see any attribution to “factual vetting” “accuracy” or “journalistic integrity-excellence”. It’s all about tonality, inflection, angle to the camera and the set/prop design. In essence all about presentation that optimizes viewer scoring.

    For fun, for you’all with no access to a TV, look online to find the NKorean News! Same deal as RM describes, just culturally re calibrated.

    1. Pat

      Labeling yourself a “performer” means that even perfunctory rules about broadcasting do not need to be followed because you aren’t supposedly really doing news. Which is somewhat contradicted by those defending her and calling her an analyst. It is a bull means of having things both ways.

      See, I immediately discount anyone with a regular show whose show is over 50% commentary on todays events aka news especially when they seek to report or investigation those events calling themselves an entertainer, and even sometimes just when they stick their toes in it. That excuse was already on thin ice when Limbaugh spent years using it. By the time Oprah Winfrey did a one hour advertisement for her friend Maria Shriver and her husband Arnold Schwarzenegger during his initial run for governor and called it entertainment so she would not have to give an hour of her program to every other candidate running…well that was that.

      I do not discount that she is a performer, just that when you are performer working on news network, pretending to report on the issues of the day – Trump’s Tax Return, and offer supposed news analysis, especially when you know they would seize on the legal protections for the press, you also are a journalist. And in Maddow’s case primarily one.

      Or shorter – she isn’t doing stand up.

  28. Jess

    Going back to read the post now, but first I had to comment on the title:

    LOL. Awesome.

    Now, looking forward to the take down.

    Way to make my Monday, Lambert. (It’s a holiday, but it’s still a Monday.)

  29. Susan Helf

    I have the same problem with Tom Hartman, who goes on an on about what the Democrats should do, as though there is any hope for them. He is another neo-liberal tool. Too bad he uses up so much time on my local alternative radio station.

  30. Skeptical One

    I found the article, and comments interesting, however, and it’s a big one;
    The written transcript only contains part of the interview of Maddow. As such, in my opinion, it misses context, and does her a great disservice.
    I recommend that anyone listen to/watch the entire interview, if they wish to be fully informed at: OR

    1. Outis Philalithopoulos

      Lambert provided a link to the full interview above, and so it’s not clear why you found it important to provide not one, but two additional links to the interview.

      Your comment provides no details on what sort of additional context you thought might have been helpful in appreciating Maddow’s comments, and so it’s not possible to respond to your remarks absent mind reading.

      In the future, please try to think more about what kinds of comments are likely to foster meaningful conversation.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        The rest of the transcript didn’t concern Ailes, so there’s no issue with taking material out of context. Readers can see for themselves by clicking YouTube transcript link (at the three dots) that I provided.*

        There’s no reason for me to transcribe material about Greta van Sustern or Maddow’s ratings.

        * Adding, that’s why I provided it.

    2. Optimader

      Just watched vi
      Why dont you transcribe the portion that provides context to rhe BS that flowed from her?

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