THR's 35 Most Powerful People in Media
“Hollywood wants to reflect our times,” says Griffin of the rough-and-tumble 2008 election that sent the nation’s first African American to the White House, minted GOP rainmaker Sarah Palin — and had MSNBC’s lineup of liberal hosts playing themselves in numerous film and TV projects (Game Change, The Ides of March). “Much of the debate about our times is going on in cable news. We’re part of the national dialogue,” he says.
MSNBC’s brand of political talk and the dramatic presidential election propelled it past rival CNN in 2008, firmly establishing the network as the progressive counterweight to juggernaut Fox News Channel. Yes, star host Keith Olbermann abruptly broke with MSNBC in January 2011, but Rachel Maddow has inherited the role as the marquee personality ushering in a more reasoned and erudite discourse at a time when the debate in Washington has taken a nasty turn. “Anger and belligerence doesn’t work today,” says Griffin, 55, a married father of two teenagers.
This year, the MSNBC president launched four new shows hosted by Al Sharpton, Huffington Post columnist Alex Wagner, The Nation editor Chris Hayes and Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry, who got her start filling in for Maddow. Says Griffin: “You’ve got to find a different way. That’s what Rachel is doing, and that’s what you’re seeing with our new programs: really smart, deep dialogue.”