Rachel Maddow Is Still Waiting for a Republican to Say Trump ‘Didn’t Do It’

Rachel Maddow, broadcast journalist known for her MSNBC slot “The Rachel Maddow Show,” says the secret to successful journalist is simple: “Life is short. Tell the truth and see how it lands. That’s it.”

This year, Maddow is being honored with the 2023 Variety and Rolling Stone Truth Seekers Award. She sat down during the Truth Seekers Summit, presented by Showtime, with Variety’s co-editor-in-chief Ramin Setoodeh to talk about her extensive career, the current landscape of journalism and the very recent indictment of the 45th president.

On the heels of Donald Trump’s third indictment, Setoodeh asked Maddow to share her views on the latest loop in the former president’s political rollercoaster.

“The linchpin there is that the justice department won’t indict you while you are in office as President committing crimes, they will wait until you leave office,” she said. “But when your crime is designed to keep you in office indefinitely, you can see the loophole, you can drive a U-Haul through.”

As the country has seen over the last decade, truths put forth by journalists are often eagerly subverted by large sects of Americans with their own ideas about what is fake journalism. Maddow says she doesn’t like to pay attention to these people because, well, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it believe that it’s really water.

“We need to do work as a country in terms of whether or not people believe in the scientific method, but that’s not necessarily journalists’ work. You have to just keep telling the truth and know that it’s the right thing to do,” Maddow said.

Setoodeh asked how Trump’s success as a potential 2024 presidential candidate affects her coverage. Does she revoke airtime dedicated to him? Is she afraid discussing him to any extent would just add fuel to the ongoing fire? She believes how the Republican party reacts to the criminal charges against the former president is the real story worth covering.

“For me, it means that the most important thing right now for the future of this country and our system of democracy is not the person of Donald Trump, it’s how does the Republican party contend with this as one of their leaders,” she said.

“I keep waiting for a Republican to say, ‘He didn’t do it,’” she added. “They’re not saying he didn’t commit these crimes, they’re just saying criminal charges and the legal constraints which we all operate within shouldn’t apply to him because he’s our leader.”

So as the 2024 election encroaches, Maddow hopes journalists continue to observe and report on how the Republican party continues to back him. “That’s news,” she said.

Maddow’s love for truth telling began as an activist for AIDS research and prison reform. As she worked on finishing her dissertation at Stanford, she took odd-jobs to stay afloat, and one of those was “news girl.” She auditioned live on-air and got hired on the spot: a match made in broadcast heaven. She ended up at MSNBC in 2008 when “The Rachel Maddow Show” replaced the “Verdict with Dan Abrams” in the network’s 9 p.m. slot.

Maddow got into the habit of opening her show with a long-winded note about a pertinent topic, a segment she coined “the A-block.”

“I do feel like I need to go back to the beginning, so that’s why those A-blocks are long, because I need a point of entry. Whatever it took me to understand it, I believe my audience might benefit from the same process,” she said. “Causation and context is everything.”

Today, Maddow appears on MSNBC on Mondays for a weekly broadcast, while also running three podcasts, one of which was optioned by Steven Spielberg in late 2022. “It’s really flattering and I hope it works, but I don’t understand the movie business at all,” she said.

Watch the full conversation above.

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