Rachel Maddow Biography

News Anchor, Talk Show Host, Radio Talk Show Host (1973–)
Liberal political journalist Rachel Maddow is best known for hosting MSNBC's 'The Rachel Maddow Show.'

Who Is Rachel Maddow?

Rachel Maddow was born on April 1, 1973, in Castro Valley, California. In 2005, Air America offered her her own liberal political radio program, The Rachel Maddow Show. In January 2008, Maddow signed an exclusive contract with MSNBC as its political analyst, and she went on to earn a slew of awards through the televised version of The Rachel Maddow Show.

Early Life

Political journalist and TV/radio host Rachel Maddow was born on April 1, 1973, in Castro Valley, California, to an attorney, Robert, and a school administrator, Elaine. Maddow showed an interest in journalism at an early age. She started reading the newspaper when she was only seven, concluding her cover-to-cover reading sessions with pertinent questions about what she had read.

As a teen, Maddow competed on the swimming, volleyball and basketball teams at Castro Valley High School, but a shoulder injury prompted her to abandon sports. Maddow devoted the opening in her schedule to volunteering at a local AIDS clinic, though she opted not to tell her conservative parents, who had recently learned she was gay.

In 1994, Maddow received a bachelor's degree in public policy from Stanford University. After graduation she moved to San Francisco and became an activist for the AIDS organization ACT UP. Her work earned her a Rhodes Scholarship, making Maddow the first openly gay U.S. resident to win the award. Maddow applied her scholarship toward attending Oxford University, where she obtained her doctorate in political science.

In Radio

In 1999 Maddow landed a job as co-host on WRNX Radio's The Dave in the Morning Show. Her next job was a two-year stint as host of WRSI's morning show Big Breakfast. In 2004 she auditioned for Air America, a newly founded liberal radio network, and held a co-host position until the show was cancelled in 2005. 

The cancellation turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Maddow, as Air America gave her the chance to fly solo with The Rachel Maddow Show. It served as one of Air America’s highest-rated programs, until the network folded in early 2010.

On Television

In 2006, Maddow managed to parlay her radio career to cable television when she became a regular on the MSNBC show The Situation with Tucker Carlson. She was also a recurring guest on CNN’s Paula Zahn Now during the 2006 midterm elections.

In January 2008, Maddow signed an exclusive contract with MSNBC as the station’s political analyst. That September the launch of her nightly cable television program, also called The Rachel Maddow Show, marked MSNBC’s most successful show debut to date. She became the network's most prominent public figure, serving as a champion of liberal ideals as the partisan divide became more pronounced on cable TV news.

In June 2018, Maddow drew attention when she became too emotional to read a breaking news report about the separation of children from parents who illegally crossed the Mexico-U.S. border, forcing her to pass on the responsibility to fellow MSNBC broadcaster Lawrence O’Donnell. Maddow later apologized on Twitter for being unable to relay the report, which described how three shelters were set up in south Texas to hold preschool-age children.

Awards and Book

Maddow has garnered a slew of accolades for her news work, including multiple Emmy and Gracie wins, the Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award, the John Steinbeck Award from San Jose State University and a GLAAD Award for outstanding journalism.

Additionally, Maddow became a best-selling author with the 2012 publication of Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, which examined American policy and legislation in that area from recent decades. 

Personal Life

Maddow came out about her homosexuality when she was a 17-year-old freshman at Stanford. She met her partner, artist Susan Mikula, when Maddow was working odd jobs in Massachusetts while finishing her dissertation. In 1999 the pair moved into an old farmhouse in rural Massachusetts. In recent years, Maddow has divided her time between her homes in New York and in Massachusetts, where she has continued to reside with her girlfriend Susan and the couple's Labrador retriever.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!