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The votes are in, and Mediaite has chosen nine TV talkers -- three from each of the major cable news networks -- who it says are rising above the whiny wasteland of cable news. And the LGBT contingent has made a strong showing.
Four of the nine personalities picked by Mediaite are women, three are gay men, and one is a lesbian -- and is not Rachel Maddow.
The staff of the politically left-leaning website for news media gossip and criticism wrote that they selected these nine men and women because they "significantly increased their profile over the past year, while raising the bar for others," in a medium that is "chock full of heavily-recycled talking heads, non-stop shoutfests, and a general lack of progress in terms of better reporting, punditry, or interviewing."
MSNBC regular contributor Jonathan Capehart was cited by the website as someone who "can always be relied upon for some cogent analysis." In June, Capehart was called on to comment on a crude statement by Texas governor Rick Perry, equating homosexuality with alcoholism. Capehart told viewers, "This is the way God made me." Capehart, a Washington Post columnist, also served as a guest host for Melissa Harris Perry this year. He won compliments for his deft handling of an interview with outgoing U.S. attorney general Eric Holder, particularly in regard to the crisis in Ferguson, Mo., as well as for his open letters. One he wrote to evangelist Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham, calling his support of antigay Russian president Vladimir Putin "breathtakingly offensive." Another open letter was to Republican congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Capehart took Ryan to task for comments he made on a conservative radio show, in which he blamed the "tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men not working" for society's ills.
Steve Kornacki is a weekend MSNBC host, who Mediaite praised for "his non-demagogic reporting on the sub-scandals within Gov. Chris Christie's so-called 'BridgeGate' controversy," adding, "Kornacki's show, Up, boasts 'wonks and reporters' rather than 'pundits and bloviators,' a reflection of Kornacki's own priorities." He joined MSNBC in 2013, two years after coming out. An Out magazine profile described him as a "lifelong wonk" who through his "mix of nerdsmanship and old- fashioned shoe leather" is "dispelling the tired myths of what it means to be a gay man or woman." Plus, he "will kick your ass at the game show of your choice."
Fox's Richard Grenell is a gay conservative talking head who Mediaite suggests is one to watch in 2015 and beyond. Grenell, who was George W. Bush's spokesman at the U.N., recently re-upped with Fox News Channel, the site noted. Mediaite called Grenell "one of the network's top-level pundits for the next election cycle" and a relentless critic of the news media. Grenell, a fellow at the Project to Restore America, was cited by the site "for what he sees as double standards and unchecked errors." He is perhaps most famous for resigning as Mitt Romney's foreign policy adviser. He openly supported marriage equality and claimed that his sexual orientation wasn't a problem for Romney and his team, but Grenell quit the campaign about two weeks after signing on in April 2012, under pressure from what The Washington Post called "anti-gay conservatives."
Sally Kohn, a fixture on CNN, is a die-hard progressive who "never shies away from saying what's on her mind, even if it stirs controversy," according to Mediaite's editors. Kohn, the founder and chief education officer of the Movement Vision Lab think tank, previously appeared on MSNBC and on Fox News, where last year she went head-to-head with Bill O'Reilly on the subject of "gay fascists." Conservative critics dubbed her an "obnoxious maladjusted lesbian." Kohn and her partner have a daughter; following the success of the movie Frozen, Kohn tweeted, "Ain't it finally time for a kid's film where the princess marries a princess?!" She is also a columnist for The Daily Beast.
The other five cable TV personalities cited by Mediaite as rising stars are Jedediah Bila and Harris Faulkner of Fox News, Kate Bolduan and Drew Griffin of CNN, and Ari Melber of MSNBC.
Mediaite, founded and owned by ABC's chief legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams, and bills itself as being located at "the intersection of politics and media." Its motto is "We watch cable news so you don't have to."