Liberal news icon Rachel Maddow rushed on Monday to clear up an assertion by Fox News that she once applied for a job at the network.
After a Fox News spokesperson told the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz that Maddow had once applied for a job at the news network many consider to be unabashedly conservative, the host of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show sent an email to Politico's Michael Calderone.
"I never personally applied for a job at Fox," Maddow wrote Calderone. "I have an agent who I assume talks to everyone on my behalf, so I have no reason to believe that Fox's claim that they were approached on my behalf is false, even if I never knew anything about it at the time."
The controversy began Monday in Kurtz's profile of Maddow, which focuses heavily on her championing of the issue of gays in the military.
[Maddow] rejects the notion that she's explicitly pushing for change: "I think of it more in the tradition of muckraking. A lot of the best reporting since time immemorial has been driven by outrage about things not being the way they should be, by the shock at shameless, lying hypocrisy."
She adds: "For me it's a question of whether you're doing advocacy journalism or not. It's not activism -- you see a lot of that at Fox, using news coverage to inspire political participation."
Immediately below that passage, Kurtz quoted a "Fox spokesperson" as saying, "These feelings that she experienced about Fox News didn't stop her from applying for a job here."
That stand-alone comment spurred a flurry of media interest, with the gay-issues news site Advocate.com reporting on it.
Some bloggers and commentators, writing before Maddow's explanation, implied that the famously liberal news host may have acted hypocritically in applying for work at Fox News. J.R. Russell at LezGetReal suggests Maddow's meteoric rise from local radio in Massachusetts to national TV star may have had as much to do with ambition as it did with any personal convictions.
According to a source in Fox News, Maddow applied for work as a “talking head” with Bill O’Reilly back in 2007. Fans and critics alike of the out lesbian, very liberal, former AIDS activist could be forgiven for being a little bit taken aback by this revelation, but should we be?
There is a certain myth that surrounds 36 year-old Rachel Maddow, that — plucked from her bucket-washing job in rural Massachusetts — she, a radical liberal, was an unlikely but instantly recognized broadcasting talent. The myth continues that her ascent was as smooth as it was inexplicable, unaided by ambition, guided only by those who would discover her next...
Maddow’s real career in life has been winning, and she’s good at it.
Jamison Foser at media watchdog MediaMatters questions why the Post's Kurtz would have inserted a comment from an anonymous Fox News representative, and not followed up on the claim. Foser concludes Kurtz inserted the comment to "impugn Maddow's credibility."
Wait, what? A Fox spokesperson says Rachel Maddow applied for a job at Fox News? What does that mean? How long ago? What were the circumstances? Howard Kurtz doesn't explain; he just leaves it there. That's more than a little odd, particularly since the claim is meant to impugn Maddow's credibility.
After mentioning Maddow's response to the claim, Foser writes, "Good thing -- for Fox, that is -- Kurtz didn't ask for an explanation."
Maddow, who has a doctorate from Oxford, began her media career when she won a contest to be a new on-air personality at WNRX radio in Holyoke, Massachusetts. She spent several years at that station and another local station before being hired to the liberal start-up radio network Air America in 2004. She landed the 9 p.m. ET time slot on MSNBC in 2008, after guest-hosting Countdown with Keith Olbermann on several occasions.