When House of Cards premiered, it came across as a dark, political fantasy about what may happen if a megalomaniac made his way into the White House. In 2017, however, the show comes across more as "The Upside Down" of the real United States, complete with funhouse-mirror versions of what appear to be real political personalities. A long-time presence in the series, makes a return in Season 5 in a sequence that may have viewers wondering if Kate Baldwin is based on a real journalist. (Spoilers for House Of Cards Season 5!)
Kate spent much of Season 3 criticizing Frank Underwood in the press, and got involved with Tom Yates, speechwriter and frequent Claire Underwood fling, in Season 4. Now, in Season 5, she's unknowingly playing right into the Underwoods' hands by helping them trap the House of Cards equivalent of Edward Snowden, Aidan Macallan. She tries to secure an interview with him to get information about the Underwood administration's illegal activities, which is willing to expose. Kate goes all the way to Russia — where Aidan has been offered asylum by President Petrov — to secure the interview. While the she comes close to landing the first and possibly only interview with Aidan while he's hiding out from the US, plenty of real journalists have made the trip to speak to former NSA employee Edward Snowden.
Kate's list of accomplishments set her apart from most of the real reporters who who sat across from Snowden; she's won a Pulitzer and a Peabody during her career. Her closest comparison in the real world may be multiple Peabody-award winner Katie Couric, who in December 2016 interviewed Edward Snowden about the recent election of Donald Trump and his own actions. Despite Couric's prestige, she was far from the first person to land an interview with Snowden post-leak.
The famous first interview with Snowden came from some relatively unknown journalists on behalf of UK publication The Guardian. Credited to Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, and Laura Poitras, the first interview with Snowden following the leak, featured Snowden telling the reporters, "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong." Poitras later directed the Academy Award-winning documentary Citizenfour with Snowden's participation, and also featuring Greenwald and MacAskill. Luckily for everyone involved, none of Snowden's interviews have ended as disastrously as MacAllan's interview ended up going.
While Snowden has since given many interviews and been a constant presence in the global conversation about government surveillance, Aidan Macallan never gets a chance to do much more than sit down for his initial interview. Soon after receiving a phone call that cements his fate, Macallan averts capture by the Underwoods by (apparently) committing suicide. Kate, in yet another attempt to let the air out of the Underwood administration, falls just short yet again and is unable to give Macallan the protection he so dearly needed.
Kate may be a stand-in for the many interviewers that have spoken to the most famous American whistleblower, but it would be shocking if there were any real-life journalist whose relationship to the presidency were as messy and personal as hers.