Liberal MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow included some surprising praise of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson during a discussion on the current state of the cable news industry in an interview published Sunday.
While Maddow’s and Carlson’s views are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, she nevertheless gave a positive appraisal of his rise to ratings dominance.
The remark came in response to an interviewer’s point that MSNBC lacked an obvious successor for Maddow’s time slot after she recently stepped back from nightly hosting duties in primetime.
“Like, Tucker’s doing great right now, but look at Tucker’s career,” Maddow told Vanity Fair. “The first show I worked on was his 11 o’clock show on MSNBC that nobody remembers. But he was always kicking around the business and has always been talented. It just — this turned out to be his moment.”
The interview was Maddow’s first since she shifted earlier this year to a once-per-week schedule in the key 9 p.m. ET primetime weeknight slot as part of an agreement to focus on other projects.
MSNBC recently tapped longtime anchor and correspondent Alex Wagner to host the other four nights of the week. The network’s ratings have noticeably slumped on nights when Maddow isn’t at the anchor desk.
When asked how she viewed the success of Carlson and other right-wing hosts despite their disagreements on politics, Maddow likened her stance to that of an athlete studying a rival’s techniques.
“If you think about baseball players, who are extremely competitive and who are fighting to win and who have rivalries, and some of those rivalries are bitter rivalries, that doesn’t mean you don’t study the pitching technique of their star pitcher,” Maddow said. “It doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate whatever they’re doing in terms of, you know, where they put their shortstop in order to give them a better defense.
“There’s a sort of, like, respecting the game, in terms of people who are doing well and people who are good at it,” Maddow added.
Maddow, 49, received one of her first big breaks in cable news as a panelist on Carlson’s old MSNBC show “Tucker” from 2005 to 2008. The role was Maddow’s first paid TV job, according to Vanity Fair.
She told the outlet that she recently ran into Carlson at an event and it “was really nice to see him.”
Maddow’s public commentary about Carlson has remained largely positive in recent years.
In 2013, Maddow wished Carlson well when he was hired as a weekend anchor on “Fox and Friends.”
“Tucker and I agree on just about nothing, but he has always been kind to me, and a fun person to fight with. I wish him all the best,” Maddow told Salon.
“Tucker Carlson Tonight” has emerged as the dominant program in the 8 p.m. primetime time slow, while Carlson has frequently rankled critics with his combative views and broadcast style. Prior to joining Fox News, Carlson hosted programs on MSNBC and CNN.