In Defense of Rachel Maddow

After Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C., last year, Rachel Maddow convinced Stewart to sit down with her for over an hour to discuss politics and the media. She dedicated her entire show that night to the interview. I don't see how anyone could have come away from that interview thinking Maddow had not given serious thought to the state of the media today and her own role in it.

So you can imagine my astonishment when The New Republic listed Maddow on their list of Washington's 10 "over-rated thinkers." But sure enough, alongside Newt Gingrich and Ayn Rand, there she was:

Maddow is a textbook example of the intellectual limitations of a perfectly settled perspective. She knows the answers even before she has the questions. The truth about everything is completely obvious to her. She seems utterly incapable of doubt or complication. Her show is a great tribute to Fox, because it copies the Fox style exactly.

TNR seems to have missed the Stewart interview, as well as the important work that Maddow does. As Jonathan Cohn pointed out in his own defense of Maddow, she doggedly goes after important stories such as the proposed law in Uganda that sanctioned killing gays and lesbians. Maddow brought the issue to the fore when no one outside the LGBT community was paying attention.

My own favorite example of this is from this past spring. Maddow traveled to Lawrence, Kansas, where she broadcast several shows on the anti-abortion movement. She arrived for the ethics hearings of former Kansas attorney general Phill Kline, who abused the powers of his office to go after Planned Parenthood and the late Dr. George Tiller. While in Kansas, Maddow interviewed Tiller's lawyer, who talked about the state's relentless attempts to shut him down. She also spoke with a former abortion-clinic staffer about what it was like to live in fear of being murdered. As someone who covers reproductive rights, I had never seen anyone in the mainstream media cover the issue with such dedication.

Is Maddow polemical? Often. Does she have opinions? Obviously. Is she anything like Fox News, where making up facts and promoting a partisan agenda is all in a day's work? Anything but. She carefully uses her pulpit to push important issues that the rest of us often leave behind.

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