You might think you know a lot about your favorite political commentators. They wear their ideological views on their sleeves. Maybe you’ve seen photos of their family on social media. And you’ve probably read all their books.
But whether it’s a hidden talent, a secret scandal or just a funny anecdote, you don’t know it all. We’ve dug up some details we think might come as a surprise to even the most die-hard fans.
Who are America’s favorite political commentators?
Pundits are a common feature on cable news shows. They also are responsible for many of the Op-Eds in newspapers and books on shelves. But there are a select few who rise to a place of real prominence. Here are a few criteria we used to determine which individuals to include.
- They have a wide audience. Whether your favorite political commentators have their own TV show, podcast or anything else, you know where to find them. So a wide and recognizable platform is one necessity for our list.
- Easily recognizable views. We don’t mean you will know where they all stand on every issue, but on the big liberal vs. conservative scale, it’s easy to pin them down. Even the ones in the middle make it clear that’s how they feel. And whether you agree or not, you can probably describe their opinions.
- A proven history. There are some great young pundits with a lot of promise, but our favorite political commentators have been in the game for a while. Maybe their views have shifted, but their ability to articulate an argument has stayed sharp.
1. A Democratic senator helped Glenn Beck attend Yale — briefly
Conservative radio host and publisher Glenn Beck has publicly addressed his past alcohol abuse. When he was coming out of that period in the late ’80s, he got to know Sen. Joe Lieberman. The Democrat was running his first campaign for office when Beck got involved. The Connecticut senator later wrote a recommendation that helped get Beck into Yale’s divinity school. Now one of the nation’s favorite political commentators, he admitted he was not a dedicated student. Beck said he “took one class, early Christology,” before dropping out of Yale.
2. James Carville has the acting bug for a very specific character
James Carville has created quite a reputation for himself. First of all, the “Ragin’ Cajun” led a series of candidates — most notably President Bill Clinton — to office. Then, he went on to appear on a variety of shows as a Democratic pundit. He’s also famously married to longtime conservative commentator Mary Matalin. In addition to those claims to fame and a series of books, you might have seen him elsewhere. In a variety of television and movie appearances, he has portrayed characters based largely on his own persona. You might have seen him in “The People vs. Larry Flynt” or the HBO series “K Street.”
3. Bill Maher grew up Catholic
If you’ve watched Bill Maher on stage or on screen, you’ve probably heard him speak of his agnosticism. It is one of the many strong views the liberal has expressed throughout his career. But as a preteen, he and his family were practicing Catholics. It was around the age of 13 that his parents decided to leave the church over its stance on birth control. At roughly the same point in Maher’s life, his mother gave him some more religious news: He found out he was also part Jewish.
4. Ann Coulter is a longtime friend of Maher’s
You probably know Ann Coulter as the controversial conservative firebrand. In some ways, she might be seen as the opposite of Bill Maher. Both are brash and often turn off members of their own political teams. But as the adage goes, opposites often attract, and both have publicly discussed their unusual friendship in the past. Rumors that they were a romantic couple often hovered around their relationship, but were not confirmed.
5. Tucker Carlson had second thoughts about his ‘DWTS’ gig
You might know Tucker Carlson from his Fox News Channel show. Or maybe it’s from his time at The Daily Caller or on “Crossfire.” But “Dancing with the Stars” fans might know him best from the 2006 season of the show. While Carlson was excited to give it a whirl, he later questioned its impact on his career. Nevertheless, he said his “only criterion is the interest level.” The conservative pundit said he was “psyched” to do something he was “not good at.”
6. A subway stumble made it hard for Keith Olbermann to drive
Keith Olbermann has had a long, often tumultuous career in left-leaning politics and sports commentary, but it was a ride on the subway that really upset his life. Olbermann was entering a subway car when he hit his head and damaged his equilibrium. Since then, he has had trouble driving. The injury limited his ability to judge distances at high speeds.
7. Laura Ingraham dated Olbermann for a while
Here’s another tale of political opposites attracting. Laura Ingraham and Keith Olbermann dated, albeit briefly, despite their deep ideological differences. The liberal Olbermann said it wasn’t politics that drove a wedge into his relationship with the conservative pundit. “There were a few things that I could see were going to be impediments,” he said. “Oddly, they were not political things.”
8. Ted Nugent has made a couple of appearances on “The Simpsons”
He first became a household name as a rock star, but like many favorite political commentators, Ted Nugent had more to say. And in two episodes of the long-running animated series “The Simpsons,” he said it in two dimensions. Specifically, he was written into the show’s script in seasons 19 and 23. He even expressed political ambitions in one of the episodes, and Homer Simpson gave the Nuge an endorsement in his presidential bid.
9. Rachel Maddow once had surgery live on the air
Most of our favorite political commentators have had a variety of unusual experiences and assignments. But for Rachel Maddow, one radio broadcast was particularly notable. She had laser eye surgery during a live show. The segment came to an early end, though. “I said, ‘I can smell my eyeballs burning,’ and they cut to commercial,” Maddow said.
10. Jon Stewart’s television career dates back to 1971
First Jon Stewart made it big in stand-up comedy. Then he became one of the nation’s favorite political commentators with Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” But before it all, he had a part on a kids show called “Captain Noah and His Magical Ark.” The year was 1971 and Stewart was just 9 years old. During his performance, he played a trumpet to show off his musical talent.
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