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Rachel Maddow on TV Success: “It’s Like Winning an Ego Lottery”

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In what is believed to be the 432nd profile of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (okay, we’re exaggerating, but not by much) New York Magazine’s Jessica Pressler delivers some new Maddow nuggets, including the fact that Maddow’s Air America producer sits in on her MSNBC staff meetings and that her partner, Susan Mikula encouraged Maddow to wear makeup on the show. Without it, “she looked like a dead person,” says Mikula.

At 4,200 words, the profile analyzes the good, the bad and the ugly times that have led to MSNBC finally becoming competitive in prime time.

Before the network hired Maddow, MSNBC had started to seem like a fight club, where hosts regularly sniped at each other on-air (Keith Olbermann telling his gushing Republican colleague Joe Scarborough to “get a shovel”), made sexist comments (Tucker Carlson saying he “involuntarily crossed his legs” whenever Hillary came onscreen), and fueled rumors of power struggles in the press.

And Maddow’s big break:

Her break came when Carlson’s show was canceled last year and Olbermann asked her to appear more frequently on Countdown. He admired the way Maddow had excoriated Carlson on his own turf, punctuating her arguments with a friendly laugh, like an athlete offering her hand to the loser after a winning game. “We were friends from the start,” says Olbermann. “Our worldviews overlap.”

And, after the jump, who’s responsible for Maddow’s MSNBC show anyway?

According to MSNBC insiders, as Olbermann’s ratings have risen, so has his level of power at MSNBC. “Phil Griffin didn’t hire Rachel,” says one person who works at the network. “He didn’t want to hire Rachel. Keith hired Rachel.” Olbermann plays down his involvement: “It was nothing more sophisticated than being the person who nominated her for membership in the club.”

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