Rachel Maddow Becomes First Out Lesbian to Host Prime-Time News Show

Openly gay political commentator Rachel Maddow, 35, is getting her own prime-time show on MSNBC, the cable news channel confirmed on Tuesday.

"This just completes our prime-time lineup," MSNBC President Phil Griffin told the New York Times.

Beginning Sept. 8, Maddow will replace commentator Dan Abrams in the 9 p.m. time slot. Her show will initially focus on the presidential race but will become more of a general news program after the election.

"This is great," Maddow told the Times. "Getting a regular cable show is something I’ve wanted."

Maddow will be the first out lesbian to host a prime-time news or political commentary show on American television, and one of the very few women ever to do so. MSNBC does not have any other news or political commentary shows hosted by women.

Maddow currently divides her time between Manhattan and western Massachusetts, where she lives with her partner of 10 years, artist Susan Mikula.

Maddow has hosted a popular liberal talk radio show on Air America since 2004. She has also been a frequent guest commentator on political talk shows like MSNBC’s Tucker and CNN’s Paula Zahn Now, and is currently a regular panelist on MSNBC’s Race for the White House With David Gregory.

Last year, Maddow told PageOne Q she believed her career in television hadn’t taken off, "not only because I am gay, but because of what I look like. I am not a Barbie girl with Barbie doll-like looks. Because in television, what you look like is a huge deal."

But if the events of Maddow’s career since then are any indication, perhaps America is warming up to women who are not "Barbie girls."

In April, Maddow began filling in occasionally as the guest host on the cable network’s popular show Countdown With Keith Olbermann, and her episodes quickly became the show’s most-watched by viewers ages 25 to 54, a highly desirable advertising demographic. Shortly thereafter, she became Olbermann’s official fill-in host.

Maddow on Countdown With Keith Olbermann, Aug. 14

Last month, MSNBC’s Griffin hinted that Maddow was at the top of "a very short list" to headline her own show, and he made it official this week.

"We’re hiring Rachel because she’s a smart person," Griffin explained to the Times. "Rachel goes far beyond politics. She’s an expert on military affairs. She was a Rhodes scholar.” Maddow was the first openly gay American to win a Rhodes scholarship.

When asked in a 2005 interview with Velvet Park magazine what it’s like to debate men like Pat Buchanan, Maddow responded:

They see me as a novelty. I’ve slipped through the cracks, this butch dyke. They always try to bring up gay marriage with me. We’re talking about Syria, Bosnia, Rwanda refugees on CNN and they’re like “Rachel, now how does this relate to gay marriage?” It’s also an interesting challenge to have to be so concise on TV, using language to bring people along with you and also to provoke them. People say, “Isn’t it hard to only have three minutes to argue against the death penalty?” But, don’t you rebel against the restraints, you work within them.

She also chalks up her debating skill to coming out at an early age. "You have to learn to survive and prosper in a hostile environment," she said in an interview with AfterEllen.com last year. "It’s kind of a talent that gay people bring to everything we do."

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