Appearing on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on the night that ratings reports showed that The Rachel Maddow Show was the number one show on cable news, host Rachel Maddow speculated that the success of her show (and MSNBC as a whole) of late has a lot to do with how the Trump presidency has everyone looking for answers. Sure, the Trump enthusiasts at Fox News claim they—and only they—have those answers, shouting down anyone suggesting that the swelling number of scandals, leaks, gaffes, special counsels, investigations, shady business deals, and outright calls for impeachment and/or resignation are anything but a vast, frothing, left-wing media conspiracy out to undermine their guy, Donald Trump. But the fact that, for the first time in pretty much forever, Fox is getting trounced in the ratings of late suggests that, just perhaps, all this turmoil, confusion, and gnawing fear that the country might be in the hands of an unstable, incompetent would-be authoritarian and a White House full of racist henchmen has people looking for something more than fact-averse sneering. (Or maybe it’s all the sexual and racial discrimination and harassment lawsuits over at Fox. Hard to say.)
Colbert made the claim that Maddow’s methodical, evidence-based approach to the news of the day (also called “actual reporting”) is the reason for MSNBC’s resurgence. Likening Maddow’s method to watching her spread auto parts out on her lawn and then then meticulously and then clearly assemble a car, Colbert asks Maddow if it’s at all possible that the myriad, rapidly multiplying suspicious things being learned about Trump and his crew might turn out just to be a big heap of nothing in the end. Maddow, admirably measured in response, said that it’s possible the “million contacts” between the Trump campaign and Russia uncovered to this point could wind up being “a bizarre series of coincidences.” Which is some of that admirable, actually “fair and balanced” journalistic restraint that, during a Trump administration at least, apparently translates into big ratings.
As to whether, should the worst about Trump-Russia turn out to be true—you know, that an American politician conspired with a foreign power to steal a presidential election—the Republicans in Congress would put country over party and seek justice, Maddow, again, took a deep breath and stated that she believes they would. “We have to decide if we’re that country or not,” Maddow stated, perhaps optimistically, “and I don’t think we are.”