Steve Kornacki was a breakout star of the 2020 election season, with his slightly disheveled yet fashionable look, wearing his signature khakis and often with a pen in his mouth. #TrackingKornacki became a trend on Twitter and he made data hot, so much so that he was No. 13 on People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” list.
With the 2022 midterms looming, Kornacki will get another star turn, but since his 2020 stardom he has broadened his NBC portfolio and is now involved in many of the networks big sports events, including the NFL regular season and playoffs, Super Bowl, Olympics and horse racing.
Kornacki, 43, is openly gay and a big sports fan, the latter making his move into sports a natural. When he discusses the NFL playoff scenarios or the Olympics medal odds or dons a top hat and tails for the Royal Ascot horse race, he does so with the grounded knowledge of someone who loves and follows sports.
But politics are his bread and butter and Tuesday (and the days following as vote counting continues) is his Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and World Series rolled into one. With 435 U.S. House races, 34 Senate and 36 governor’s contests on tap, Kornacki will be a busy man, and his frenetic yet insightful style will once again launch a thousand memes.
Kornacki has become so central to MSNBC’s election night coverage that he is often shown in a small screen in the corner when he’s not presenting data. A profile in the Washington Post described the evolution:
Kornacki is on a monomaniacal quest for clarity, regarding both the returns and what they mean about the country. Watching him seek answers is so addictive that MSNBC delivers a constant stream of it on election nights: He appears in a square in the corner of the screen even when he is not addressing the camera or doing anything that would traditionally appeal to an audience, such as “not texting.” “We were doing one of the congressional primaries, and it was the first time we all felt like — I personally felt like — we can’t take Steve off the screen,” Greenstein says of the 2018 election coverage. “And I remember kind of middle of the show, we changed our strategy and we basically put … the little box of Steve in the corner of the broadcast — the ‘Kornacki cam,’ essentially, before we formally had it. And it was just because it was so riveting just to see what he was doing, to see him trying to search for new data, to search for those storylines.” Kornacki has inspired a chastely titillated following that found him in the pages of People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue and led to many tweets and online stories calling him “Map Daddy” and referencing his khakis. “It makes me feel a little uncomfortable,” Kornacki says, with much less ease than he projects as he illegibly scribbles on the Big Board.
Kornacki, a Massachusetts native who lives in New York’s East Village, came out as gay in a Salon interview in 2011, but he has not publicly discussed it much since. In a 2014 profile in Out magazine, he talked about how his coming out to his family, though fraught with anxiety from his end, went smoothly.
“The biggest revelation has been just how much of a nonissue this is to just about everyone else,” he says. “It used to be that when I was around people, I was constantly on guard not to say or do anything that would make them suspect I was gay. It was a little scary to realize just how ingrained in me that kind of deception was. It’s a pretty big relief not to think like that anymore, and now I understand what I just couldn’t believe for all those years: that it really isn’t a big deal.”
Kornacki is right — it’s not a big deal and yet it’s still cool to see someone who is out become such a face for a big event such as the election.