Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) dismissed liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and other media members's coverage of her prior conservative views, rejecting their characterization in an interview published Wednesday as "talking points from the Republican Party."
Gillibrand shifted from being a Blue Dog Democrat representing an upstate New York district in the House of Representatives to being one of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate after being appointed to her seat in 2009.
The New York Democrat, who has formed an exploratory committee and has effectively been running for president since January, was asked by New York Magazine‘s Gabriel Debenedetti about whether she expected that particular focus from the press in the nascent stages of her candidacy.
"When you went on Maddow after announcing you were going to run, her intro to the interview was all about how you were once fairly conservative on a whole range of issues — prominently on guns and immigration — and how you’ve shifted left on all of them," Debenedetti said. "That theme has been pretty front and center in a lot of the early coverage. Did you expect that?"
"Well, it’s certainly the talking points from the Republican Party. It’s what they’re putting out there. But, you know, my background, and where I’m from, is very much part of my story. The fact that my first campaign was in a two-to-one Republican district, and I was able to win that against an entrenched Republican incumbent who’d been in Congress for eight years is part of who I am," Gillibrand said, going on to recount her 2006 House victory.
Gillibrand said this week on CBS that the notion posed by Gayle King that she seemed to "go with whatever the wind is blowing" was "certainly not my record, not who I am."
In their Jan. 16 interview, Maddow laid out Gillibrand's prior "conservative bona fides" in the lead-up to their interview, noting her prior "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, desire to make English the country's official language, and her usage of terminology like "illegal aliens."
"Senator Gillibrand has had a transformation. She has changed a great deal on policy in the decade since she was a card-carrying member of the Blue Dog Democrats," Maddow said. "She has been on her own party's right. She has been on her own party's left."
Gillibrand, as she has frequently done, apologized for being "wrong" and "callous" on guns and immigration, respectively.
Maddow is MSNBC's top-rated host and occasionally has the highest ratings of anyone in cable news. The Rachel Maddow Show has been a must-stop for prominent Democrats running for president. In 2019, Maddow has already interviewed Gillibrand, Sens. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D.).