Rachel Maddow on the 'responsibility' of gay news reporters to come out, and Spike Lee's new MSNBC promos

Rachel Maddow gave an interview in the British Guardian newspaper yesterday in which the MSNBC anchor said many interesting, often amusing things. “I’m not an autocutie,” she said, referring to the tendency of American TV news organizations to fill some anchor positions with women who have what The Guardian described as “the helmet of blond hair and rictus smile.”

She also drew this distinction between MSNBC and Fox News, regarding that false-equivalency comparison that continues to be drawn between the two channels:

“Of Fox News, she says simply, ‘When it starts to seem like you have popped into bed with a specific party, it makes it difficult for people to believe you are not doing someone else’s bidding for them.’ At MSNBC, on the other hand, ‘there are people here who are identified as liberals, but there is no political agenda.'”

But the part of the interview getting the most attention here is this bit:

“Does she feel frustration towards an equally well-known news presenter who is widely assumed to be gay but has never come out? For the first time, Maddow pauses: ‘I’m sure other people in the business have considered reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing, but I do think that if you’re gay you have a responsibility to come out,’ she says carefully.”

There was such immediate speculation about the person to whom the newspaper and Maddow were referring that the openly gay Maddow felt obliged to put up a post on her MSNBC blog to clarify:

“Regarding The Guardian interview that’s getting a lot of pickup today: in that interview, I wasn’t asked about Anderson Cooper, I didn’t say anything about him, he literally was never discussed during the interview at all — even implicitly […] I don’t tend to be shy when I criticize — you wouldn’t have to read between the lines if that’s what I was trying to do.”

She emphasized: “I did not in my interview with The Guardian say anything about or to Mr. Cooper, nor would I. Although criticism of Mr. Cooper was intimated by The Guardian and picked up everywhere — I did not make that criticism in the interview, nor did I imply it, nor is it what I believe.”

By the way, MSNBC also unveiled new promotional spots yesterday for all its star anchors directed by Spike Lee. Here’s one featuring Maddow:

In her blog post, Maddow also offered her “three basic beliefs about the ethics of coming out”:

“• Gay people — generally speaking — have a responsibility to our own community and to future generations of gay people to come out, if and when we feel that we can.
• We should all get to decide for ourselves the ‘if and when we feel that we can’ part of that.
• Closeted people should reasonably expect to be outed by other gay people if (and only if) they prey on the gay community in public, but are secretly gay themselves.”

Of course, by writing about the interview and the reaction to it, I am, I suppose, contributing to the vexed dilemma of how to cover stories about the sexuality of celebrities (which includes both Maddow and Anderson, no matter how hard-news-journalist they may be). Still, the points Maddow raises are valid and thoughtful ones, and as is her usual style, they provoke discussion, not controversy for its own sake.

On another topic, Maddow also told The Guardian she was flattered to be referenced in a recent 30 Rock episode in which Alec Baldwin’s character said, “I have to talk to Rachel Maddow – only one of us can have this haircut”: “Maddow winces slightly at the insinuation that she is now a celebrity, but she does concede ‘it got me more pop culture cred from my friends than anything, ever.'”

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (138 total) Add your comment
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  • billk

    How about the responsibility to report the news and not promote their own lifestyle? One of the oldest rules of reporting is not to become the story!

    • M

      Promote their own lifestyle? What the heck? Do you consider being straight a lifestyle? If you turn it around the choice of words sounds idiotic.
      And she gave her opinion when asked in an interview. Nothing wrong about that.

      • sally

        Rachel Maddow is Gay?!? I never would have thought it. So I guess she just reports the news as it is, just the facts. Not like Fox.

      • leah

        Oh please sally… the part of the article I find hilarious “At MSNBC, on the other hand, ‘there are people here who are identified as liberals, but there is no political agenda.’” She lost all credibility right there.

      • Quimby

        Nice scam to have it both ways. First she openly criticizes Anderson Cooper, then she pretends she wasn’t talking about him (citing him by name, no less). Now she says gays should “have a responsibility” to come out. No one should be forced to accept another person’s beliefs by threat. She’s a petty bully and she’s justified her tactics by implying she’s got the moral upper hand here. She’s no better than those who attack homosexuals from the other side…in fact, she’s worse, because she should know better.

      • Rick F

        I agree with Leah completely. Maddow has ZERO CREDIBILITY after her ridiculous statement, “At MSNBC, on the other hand, ‘there are people here who are identified as liberals, but there is no political agenda.’”

      • JML

        Hum, Morning Joe anyone ???????

    • Kiki

      Once the question was asked, she had two choices: answer it or say, “No comment.” Either answer would result in media attention, as I’m sure she knows. She chose to answer.

      HOW is that promoting her lifestyle?

      Or is it that whenever a gay person talks about or reference their orientation, that somehow promotes it?

      And how does one promote sexual orientation anyway? Give out toasters?

    • Leithen

      The implicit assumption by the use of the word “lifestyle” is that being gay is a choice.

      I do not believe that it is. In my opinion, being gay is not a lifestyle for gay people. It’s just life.

    • Susan

      You do NOT get it. Its not that she is trying to promote herself or her being gay…but to be her “real” self. Gays owe it to eachother to stop hiding…its about the greater good for all. The greater good do gays do not have to hide and the greater good so straights know they already love us…but are afraid to be judged themsleves. It is the responsible thing to do so gay children will know self worth and straight children will know their brothers, sister and friends are good people to…even if they are gay. Its about the greater good…not about one person. But it happens one person at a time….get it now? You yourselves need to grow to understand that….its the very same as prejudice of blacks and Jews…..wrong not to demand change…we are indeed all people. Talking and being public is change for the greater good.

      • Alex


    • Ryan

      There is a extreme political agenda at MSNBC! BTW who cares if Rachel Maddow or Anderson Cooper is gay, neither one is attractive. Now Rob Marciano I would visit in the closet anytime.

      • Soap On A Rope

        Isn’t he currently a contestant on Survivor Redemption Island? I thought he was married to Amber.

    • Mike

      Your response shows me you have credibility at all.

    • Color Me Impressed

      Ms. Maddow seems to be forgetting something: AC has class! Hes a top-notch journalist, and all journalists worth a d*mn make sure to never make the news about them!

  • Brett

    So, in her own blog, she is revealed as a hypocrite. If the individual should be allowed to decide the “when and where” he or she must fulfill the Maddow Directive to come out of the closet, then that right comes into conflict with those who seek to “out” closeted gays (regardless of the reasons or motives of those doing the “outing”).

    • E.B. Berman

      Well, sure, there is a bit of a conflict there. But do you consider anyone a hypocrite who says something like, “Killing is wrong. But killing in self-defense or in war, or using capital punishment against a murderer is acceptable?” Probably not. Even if you do, most people don’t consider qualified statements to be hypocritical. Most people have general rules of conduct for most situations, but allow for deviations from that norm under special circumstances. Hypocrisy is something else.

      • Rex

        She lacks credibility as much as Fox. She implies AC is gay, then disingenuously acts as if because she didn’t mention him by name, you can’t prove she was referring to him. She thinks gays shouldn’t out others, yet she subtly does just that. And to act like Fox & MSNBC are not flip sides of the same coin is like denying the earth is round. Moderate people can’t tolerate either network for any length of time. People like her, Olbermann, Hannity, Limbaugh, et al, make it difficult for any type of honest analysis of political policy because they are blindly partisan. Let’s hope her pop culture fame is fleeting.

    • Flyer

      She isn’t a hypocrite – you’re putting words in her mouth. What she said was that gays should have the right to decide if/when they come out, EXCEPT that they basically forfeit that right if they prey on the gay community. It’s the old “if you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones” principle.

  • Sean


    • Fauxlivia

      AtlKen has done it “over here”, but he hated it. Too much of “over there” he doesn’t trust Sam Weiss for some reason.

  • Julian

    Did you people even read the article? A) She was asked her opinion in an INTERVIEW and she gave it.
    B) Being gay isn’t a LIFESTYLE anymore than being straight is a LIFESTYLE and
    C) Outing homophobes who are themselves in the closet seems a perfectly justifiable way to defend our community from continued discrimination. And you want to talk about hypocrisy?

    • Effie

      Heterosexuality IS becoming a lifestyle. I’ve read several articles over the past few years about women choosing not to marry, to stay single–maybe have children–and these women are straight. Since, I think, so many are choosing to have a “Single” lifestyle regardless of their sexuality, heterosexuality is becoming more about choosing marriage. I think “choice” is becoming more important than tradition, hence the necessity for nomenclature.

      • Flyer

        Interesting idea, but in your example, the women’s choice of “lifestyle” has nothing to do with their sexual orientation – it has to do with their choice of embracing or avoiding societal conventions like marriage. Hetereosexuality isn’t a lifestyle. Choosing to remain single IS a lifestyle, and it can be adopted by both straight and gay people.

      • Effie

        @Flyer maybe heterosexuality & homosexuality are *becoming* outdated terms. Labels that don’t mean what they used to mean. Post marriage era … That’s how I’m thinking of it, right or wrong.

      • lg-va

        Close but the logic here is not sound. Like Flyer said, your example does not address sexuality but a true lifestyle choice (staying single, having children). The single woman can be hetero-, homo-, or bi-sexual and make the lifestyle choice of becoming a single mom. Another way to see this is if you were to take four different gay people (or four straight people) who all practice a different lifestyle. One could be a vegan, another a nomadic musician, another a celebate monk, and another a socialite. These would all be considered lifestyles, none of which have anything to do with sexuality.

  • e4ia

    Of course someone’s sexuality is their own business and can be very personal. But in Anderson Cooper’s case, he is in a long-term relationship (a boyfriend of several years) and, unlike his straight counterparts, avoids any reference to his relationship status which makes it seem like he’s ashamed and frightened of it. He’s so well respected as a journalist (and 90% of America already knows that he is gay) that just an acknowledgement of who he is wouldn’t have any significant negative affect on his career. And it would go a long way in providing a positive gay model to younger people who are struggling to accept who they are.

    • Maybe he just wants to be a journalist and keep his personal life private. He’s doing his job and he shouldn’t be forced to talk about his private life, as a journalist he reports the news not who he is going out with.

      • e4ia

        I’m not saying that he should be forced out or obligated to come out. I’m just saying that, especially how vocal he has been against bullying gay teens on his show, it would mean a lot to show proof that someone can be gay, successful, well respected and lead a fufulling life. Almost all other news pundits like him (CNN, MSNBC, FOX) occassionally refer to their relationships or immediate family and how it relates to the subject that they are discussing. He completely avoids doing that which indicates that he is still ashamed of who he is.

      • I do agree with you that it would be great for gay teens to have someone like that to look up to. And yes other journalists/pundits might refer to their relationships, but I don’t think that means that everyone should. I don’t know him so maybe he is ashamed but I think he really just doesn’t want to talk about his private life, he just wants to do his job.

    • Brenda Barrett

      I agree. I have a lot of respect for Anderson and enjoy his work. I believe he could help both gay teens struggling for self-acceptance and the population at large if he came out. As a straight woman, prejudices against and judgments of gay people is something that makes me irate. People fear what they don’t understand; being gay is as ‘normal’ as being straight.

    • JBL

      I am a male. I must be in the 10% because I never cared to think about it. Who cares? Rachel is gay. Too bad. She looked great in her high school photo that was displayed.

      • JBL

        This is atypical of her. She usually makes to godammned much sense!

    • MaryJane

      I don’t give a frig about whether they are gay or not. I’m only interested in the news that they cover. Why can’t people stop being so hypocritical and move on, this so not a story. Maddow gave her opinion, end of story.

    • Mitch Logan

      If 90% of America already knows he’s gay, then how can you say he is NOT already being a positive role model.

      • Ruby

        Because he won’t admit it.

    • tg

      It is not usual for straight national news anchors to talk about their dating life publicly. Anderson Cooper is dating a guy, they’ve been together a couple years but they aren’t married or raising kids or anything. A major national straight news anchor in his shoes would not be incorporating a partner into their public persona yet, straight national anchors wait to be safely married before that since they need to maintain an image of respectability and don’t want to invite the public to witness boyfriends/girlfriends passing through their life or tabloid coverage of potential messy break ups.

  • LOL

    GOP fears Maddow.

    • GOP

      No I don’t, you twit. Madcow fears me. EW.com = foxnEWs.com.

    • GOOP?

      isn’t that Gwenny? oooooo…. GOP, now I get it.

    • Ruby

      Fears? Lol…NOT.

  • Jennifer

    I read the article, and certainly Rachel Madow is entitled to her opinion. Just as any prominent news person, regardless of sexual orientation, is entitled to keep their private life private if they so choose. No-one has a responsibilty to any particular community to air their sexual/romantic life in public if they don’t want to do so.

    • JP

      You’re white and straight, aren’t you?

      • Brian

        You’re black and gay, aren’t you?

      • Jennifer

        None of your business one way or the other just like Anderson Cooper’s (if that is indeed who Rachel Maddow meant) is none of mine. The private lives of news reporters are irrelevant to their jobs, and that is the only part of their lives which interest me: their professional work.

      • Helenann

        Why would you assume that?

      • JP

        Actually, I’m white and gay. My comment was simply to point out that most people that don’t see the importance of successful members of certain communities to showcase themselves as role models is mainly because their own community isn’t lacking such members.

      • @jp

        I’m not saying it isn’t important for prominent members of any community to be good role models for young people, but it isn’t a responsibility to come out for that reason. If a prominent gay man or lesbian choses to keep their private life private, that’s their choice and one that is just as valid as coming out.

      • JP

        I don’t disagree with this one bit. No one could have gotten me to come out before I was ready, nor should anyone unless it is his or her decision. Perhaps the ‘responisibilty’ to come out is to show that closeted isn’t the only way to succeed.

      • tg

        @JP Anderson Cooper has had a news career for about 20 years and he has been out within the industry throughout that. He’s never issued public statements identifying his sexuality, but he has been an example for all those years that one can climb the news ladder and succeed while living a normal gay life, being out at work, and not publicly lying about sexuality. That’s more than plenty of gay people in news and its an example Rachel Maddow doesn’t provide since she has no news background and jumped in at the top of TV news for a commentary show instead of climbing the ranks.

      • JP

        WOW! Perhaps I shouldn’t have commented in the first place, but since I did….I wasn’t talking about Anderson Cooper (was really trying to keep things in a general sense). I’ve never met him, but I hope you have to state such “facts” about him. Although, if these are indeed true, all the more reason for him to come out now. Between the recent gay teen suicides, DADT, DOMA, etc. for someone who has risen to prominence in a career that broadcasts truth – it is almost (as Maddow said) a responsibility. Would it affect someone like Anderson Cooper’s career to come out at this point? Probably not. Would it have affected his career 15 years ago? Most certainly.

      • Color Me Impressed

        And whats so wrong about that?

  • Jessica

    At MSNBC, on the other hand, ‘there are people here who are identified as liberals, but there is no political agenda.’”…the most amusing part of her interview.

    • Jessica

      Also….where is the Fringe recap?

      • @ Jessica

        The Fringe Recap is UP! Get your head out of your bunghole!

    • katie

      Yes, so hilarious. I don’t see how these MSNBC people can say things like that with a straight face.

    • Helenann

      That made me laugh, too. You can shellack a turd any way you want to, Rachel, but it still smells like ____.

    • Orac

      You have only to look at the firing of Keith Olberman to see that this is likely true.

    • bah

      thank you!!! what a hypocrite!

    • Ruby

      Agreed. Her comment was pretty hilarious.

      • Ruby

        P.S. I would also like the Fringe recap, please!

    • Lanie

      I know, so ridiculous! MSNBC has as much or more of an agenda than FOXNEWS, and that’s saying something!

  • Brian

    I always thought the long-term same-sex relationship that Anderson has been rumored to be in was with Rachel Maddow.

    • Perfect!

      and when will these people accept that I don’t care who they have sex with? don’t like to think about her having sex at all actually. ick.

  • stevenjaba

    What does it make a difference what the sexual orientation of the person delivering the news is? Ms. Maddow is an idiot.

    • Well…

      It makes a difference as the more public figures that come out, it becomes more “normal” for people that aren’t gay resulting in less homophobia, less bullying, less teen suicide. It is not important to the way she delivers the news, it is important in the larger, general sense.

      And she is far from an idiot.

      • Brenda Barrett

        Well said, Well…

      • katie

        But don’t you think it’s someone’s personal decision whether or not to come out publicly? Anderson Cooper considers himself a newsman, and I think (if he is in fact gay) that he would be reluctant to make himself into a news story.

    • Mother Nature

      She is clearly not an idiot. You may disagree with her on any topic you choose, but she is intelligent and reasoned by anyone’s standards. You can hate gay people, too, if that’s your choice, but that won’t change anything except intelligent people’s opinions of you. She was asked a question; she answered. I assume you’d tell people you’re a hetro-GOP-loving-Fox news watcher if someone cared to ask.

      • stevenjaba

        You are making incorrect assumptions about me. I simply don’t believe that a person’s sexual orientation should influence what we think of them as a professional. In fact, employment law in the US would call that discrimination. Anderson Cooper was hired to deliver the news – not to influence public opinion on gay issues. So, I think that, in fact, Ms. Maddow’s reasoning on this subject is idiotic. All this said, I am now going to out myself as a massive Anderson Cooper fan. I respect him as a reporter and news anchor, and my opinion won’t change if / when he ever comes out.

  • esquirrel

    Maybe she is talking about Robin Roberts? Wait, she is on ABC and possibly gay. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

  • robert s

    I completely adore Rachel.

  • Rachel

    Rachel Maddow, is an attention seeking hypocrite. We all know that she was implying that Anderson Cooper was gay. Why do gay people find it necessary to out other gay people? Now, before people start calling me a homophobe; I am for gay marriage because I don’t think that it is my place to decide whether someone else can have the same happiness as me.

    • MaryJane

      My… Rachel, aren’t you the name caller. So, Maddow expresses her opinion and she’s the hypocrite? Can you say…meowww?

    • Luddite

      Except she wasn’t asked about Anderson Cooper. And until it turned into a big to-do, she didn’t mention his name. Read the article again, and pay attention this time.

    • jury’s out

      If someone else publicly brought up his name that’s one thing. But if not, she never should have mentioned his name. If no one asked her about him directly, that was her sly way of saying he was in the closet.

      • jury’s out

        If it was saying she outed him in the Guardian and she didn’t, she had a right to defend herself. I’m half asleep.

    • Tableforone

      I am against gay marriage. I am also against staight marriage. When do we vote!

  • gypzyjedi

    At first, I did not want to like Rachel Maddow, not because of her sexual whatever (I do not care one way or the other), but because I was sick of “talking heads” shows period. However, her style of reporting is just straight to the point, inciteful, and fun to watch. Even my otherside of the aisle friends watch her show and then we tussle via e-mail and happy hour.(I refuse to facebook or tweeter ) Of course, then I was made to watch a Foxnews infotainment show, to be fair, (but that show is being canceled!YAY! I can start saving on Advil.)

    • MaryJane

      I agree with you gypsy,Maddow is straight to the point, and she doesn’t tell just the one side of things, either. It’s great to have an intelligent commentator who knows what they are talking about on tv, unlike that other network with all of the clowns on it.

      • gypzyjedi

        My Mom hates political shows of any kind, gay people make her nervous, but likes that “Maddow girl”. Rachel is however, guilty of making my want to drop some money on having more of a bar my rum and coke. I am always tempted to make one of those fancy drinks she makes.

  • Toby

    I never knew it was even a secret that AC is gay. I though she was talking about Asian reporter Tricia Takanawa.

    • I thought

      Shep Smith. Go figure.

      • nichole

        i swear i thought Shep Smith until i saw Anderson Cooper’s name. But he’s HOT so maybe i’m partial

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