The White House said Rachel Maddow was “desperate for ratings” when she released President Trump’s 2005 tax return, and whatever her motives, she definitely scored viewers — the episode earned “The Rachel Maddow Show” its best ratings ever.
The MSNBC host hauled in 4.1 million total viewers. Her previous high-water mark was January 10, 2017’s 3.2 million overall audience members, which means the tax return episode eclipsed that by 28.1 percent.
In cable news’ key 25-54 demographic, “The Rachel Maddow Show” landed 1.4 million viewers. That beat her previous demo record (October 29, 2008) by an average of 100,000 adults.
The much-hyped Maddow hour crushed its cable news competition: Anderson Cooper on CNN put up 1.1 million total viewers, with 396,000 coming from the main demo. Tucker Carlson on Fox News Channel posted 3 million total viewers at 9 p.m., with 594,000 in the demo.
Tuesday was also MSNBC’s second-most-watched regularly scheduled show of all time — an episode of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on Oct. 29, 2008 averaged 4.2 million total viewers.
Maddow sent Twitter into a frenzy shortly before her show started, tweeting out that she had President Trump’s tax return. She later clarified that it was his 2005 form 1040. Democrats and reporters have been trying to get the former “Celebrity Apprentice” host to reveal his tax returns since his campaign kicked off.
Presidential nominees have released their taxes for decades, in a spirit of transparency. But Trump has more complex business relationships than any past president.
Maddow spent about 20 minutes explaining why Trump’s taxes were important before introducing journalist David Cay Johnston, who explained that someone had anonymously mailed him the returns. As Maddow later acknowledged, they didn’t contain any major “bombshell.”
“I have no idea where they got it but it’s illegal and they’re not supposed to have it,” Trump told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. “It’s not supposed to be leaked and it’s certainly not an embarrassing tax return at all, but it’s an illegal thing they’ve been doing it. They’ve done it before and I think it’s a disgrace.”
Maddow and Johnston insisted on Tuesday that they had a First Amendment right to report on the return, and said they had not stolen it since it was mailed to Johnston.