Forty Under 40: Media
BY Advocate.com Editors
May 06 2009 12:00 AM ET
Rachel Maddow | Television & radio host | 36 | New York City
When Rachel Maddow scored her own MSNBC show during prime election season last September, she was the youngest anchor on the network. She was also the only one who was openly gay. But viewers quickly demonstrated that was fine by them -- in her first month she doubled the audience for the 9 p.m. hour. Fans enjoy her infectious personality, wry humor, and encyclopedic understanding of domestic and foreign policy. Maddow -- a Rhodes Scholar and onetime AIDS activist and morning radio sidekick -- delivers news analysis that reveals the mind of a junkie who not only loves politics but wants others to love it too.
Maddow gets plenty of antigay hate mail. "On any given right-wing website or blog, somewhere in the comments section someone is threatening to kill me because I'm gay," she says, calling it "part and parcel" of the routine since her first job in the media. But, she adds, she makes no special effort to emphasize gay issues on the show. "I was essentially a full-time activist or an activist and student or an activist and radio host for 14 years," she explains. When she started working at Air America radio in March 2004, Maddow sent an e-mail to all the prison reform and AIDS policy mailing lists in which she participated, saying, "I am dropping out of activism for a few months because I'm moving to New York and taking this job in media. Hopefully I'll be back in a few months when everything gets settled." The return never happened. "I am definitely not an activist now, and I miss it," she says, adding that she may go back one day. "I think it is possible to be an activist broadcaster. I just choose not to be."