Sources say it is Maddow rather than Phil Griffin who provides MSNBC’s editorial direction, and that she also holds considerable sway over personnel decisions. “I know I’m never going to get freakin’ talking points from Phil,” Maddow told The New Yorker last year. “Can you imagine? Like, what would they be?”
Behind her back, colleagues call her “the queen,” a not so subtle suggestion that Maddow gets what Maddow wants. And what she wants is a network filled with young wonks such as Chris Hayes, Ezra Klein, Alex Wagner, and Harris-Perry, whose highbrow intellectualism can, she hopes, push the Democratic party, and the country, to the left. On Twitter, Harris-Perry’s show proudly uses the hashtag #nerdland. Alex Wagner’s move to the 4 p.m. hour, where Bashir’s show once aired, has Maddow’s fingerprints on it.
Griffin, who came of age as a sports producer at CNN and then as a booker on the Today show, is, according to a former colleague, “utterly non-ideological.” “He makes decisions,” says the former colleague, “based on 30-day trailing numbers” and lacks a strategic vision. Maddow, who came aboard in 2008, has filled the ideological void. “Alec Baldwin and Martin were outliers; they weren’t part of her inner circle,” says a television insider. “Bashir’s contract was up, he was twisting in the wind when this happened, and he was out of sync with Rachel’s ideology.”