On what drives the MSNBC star, and how she’s attempted to move her show beyond partisan shouting:
Back in 2008, shortly after Phil Griffin called Maddow and told her he was giving her a prime-time television show of her own, she inherited the staff of Verdict With Dan Abrams, a show that embodied the gimmicky emptiness Maddow detests. The Sunday night before her first show, her executive producer, Bill Wolff, threw a launch party at his apartment and invited the entire Verdict staff. When everyone was sufficiently liquored up, Maddow gave a speech. ‘The point was to get everyone excited,’ Wolff recalls. ‘“OK, go get ‘em, let’s go do this.”’ What Maddow told them, instead, was that they needed to forget everything they had ever learned – that this show would be completely different from the one they’d been working on, that they must forget all of the skills they’d spent their careers building.
‘That is crystallized in my memory,’ says Susan Mikula, Maddow’s partner of 13 years, who attended the party. ‘Everyone was pale. It could not have been more of a bummer. Or more quiet.’
Maddow knew she had blown it. ‘I think Day One I was a bummer,’ she says. ‘Forget everything you’ve learned! Which implicitly says everything you’ve learned doesn’t matter to me.’