By:
November 30, 2020

What in the world has happened to Maria Bartiromo?

Once a respected journalist who showed her chops as a top business reporter, Bartiromo has seemingly sold her journalistic soul to become a sycophant for President Donald Trump to help him push forward his baseless claims of voter fraud and a rigged election.

It has been a dramatic, steep and, frankly, embarrassing fall for Bartiromo.

The latest example came Sunday. Trump chose Bartiromo for his first post-election interview and one can understand why. It wasn’t an interview as much as it was an opportunity for Trump to spew his unproven election claims without even so much of a raised eyebrow from Bartiromo.

As CNN’s Brian Stelter said on his “Reliable Sources” show, “This was not hardball. This was not even softball. This was tee-ball.”

Stelter’s colleague, CNN reporter Oliver Darcy, added, “I was trying to think of a word that would describe that interview and I don’t think there’s a word in the English dictionary to describe how reckless and irresponsible and dangerous that interview was.”

The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr, who described Bartiromo as “one of the biggest backers of Trump’s presidency within the Fox News Media corporate ecosystem,” wrote that “Bartiromo’s questions were few and far between. … And, what few questions Bartiromo asked were not hard-hitting.”

HuffPost’s Hayley Miller wrote, “Host Maria Bartiromo, one of Trump’s most fawning cable news allies, mostly sat back and let the president peddle baseless conspiracy theories to her hundreds of thousands of viewers. When she did chime in, it was to encourage his defiance and sow doubt about the electoral process.”

Bulwark columnist and CNN contributor Amanda Carpenter tweeted, “Let’s be clear. Maria Bartiromo is not interviewing the President. She is providing him a free platform to feed his base talking points uncontested. (Yum yum!) This is propaganda.” She repeated that claim during an appearance on “Reliable Sources. And she also compared the interview to an “infomercial.”

HuffPost contributor Yashar Ali tweeted the “interview with the president is filled with so many lies and so much misinformation. Probably more than any interview during his presidency. And Maria has let him go unchecked on America’s number one cable network. It’s practically a monologue.”

In fact, at one point, Bartiromo went all-in with Trump, exclaiming, “This is disgusting! And we cannot allow America’s election to be corrupted. We cannot.” This is after she started the interview by telling Trump that the “facts are on your side.”

At no point did Bartiromo ask Trump to back up his claims. When Trump said he heard from world leaders who are criticizing the election, Bartiromo never asked which world leaders Trump has heard from. When Trump said ballot boxes were stuffed, Bartiromo never asked who, exactly, did the stuffing and how. This is Journalism 101. And yet Bartiromo wasn’t an interviewer, she was an accomplice. She actually called Trump “brave” during the interview.

Business Insider politics reporter Jake Lahut tweeted, “Maria Bartiromo went from being the first journalist to broadcast live from the floor of the New York Stock exchange to one of the last notable TV hosts still indulging Trump in his conspiracy theories to overturn the election.”

Vox’s Aaron Rupar went even further, tweeting, “Maria Bartiromo is basically a North Korean news anchor now.”

My take: Bartiromo’s change has been so extreme that it’s reminiscent of professional wrestling. Bartiromo has gone from a “good guy” to the heel — the bad guy, the villain. She has gone so far in the other direction that she has settled in with the likes of Lou Dobbs and Judge Jeanine Pirro. The problem? Professional wrestling is entertainment. It’s fiction. And no one ever took Dobbs and Pirro seriously. They are practically walking “Saturday Night Live” characters. But Bartiromo once had credibility, until she decided that supporting the president and his lies was more important than doing her job.

“History will not remember people like Maria Bartiromo very well,” Darcy said on “Reliable Sources.”

Carpenter later said on CNN that none of this is surprising. The right-of-center media has given in to Trump over the past four years, and allowed him to push his agenda with virtually no pushback.

As far as Sunday, Carpenter said on CNN, “This isn’t just Maria Bartiromo. The Fox News Network decided to give the president almost a full hour to lie. Not just a regular lie — but about our elections in a way that will affect the incoming administration. They are playing with our government and our politics.”

Carpenter is right. While Bartiromo’s so-called “interview” was a mess and the latest example of a career and reputation ruined, it’s not like she slapped this show together and bought air time on some cable-access outlet. This is Fox News — the most-watched cable news network on television. And they allowed it. By “they,” I mean owner Rupert Murdoch and his son, Lachlan, as well as Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and anyone else who is a part of the decision-making process at Fox News.

Sunday morning was a moment that will long be remembered as a low point. For Fox News and especially for Bartiromo, a once-respected journalist who can no longer be taken seriously.

Biden picks historic communications staff

New White House press secretary Jen Psaki (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Jennifer Psaki will be Joe Biden’s White House press secretary. Her selection means all of the senior staffers in the communications department will be women — believed to be a first among a White House administration. The department will be headed up by Kate Bedingfield, who was Biden’s campaign communications director. She has been named White House communications director. (The Washington Post’s Annie Linskey and Jeff Stein broke the story and have a good breakdown of the Biden communications staff.)

In a statement, Biden said, “Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better.”

Psaki sent out a series of tweets about the news on Sunday, including one that said, “We can’t wait to share what we are thinking as we get closer to inauguration, but (deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre) and I spoke just this (morning) about taking the next few weeks to think outside of the box about how to ensure we are making the Biden-Harris agenda more accessible from the podium.”

Here’s a thought: How about having regular press briefings without lies? That would be a major step up from the Trump White House press secretaries, such as Kayleigh McEnany, Stephanie Grisham, Sarah Sanders and Sean Spicer.

Psaki was Barack Obama’s traveling press secretary during his 2008 presidential campaign and served as his White House communications director from April 2015 until Obama’s second term was up in January 2017. Before that, Psaki served as a spokesperson in the U.S. State Department and as a deputy communications director and deputy press secretary in the Obama White House.

For the past two years, she has been a CNN contributor, but left that post to join the Biden-Harris transition team. She’s a 2000 graduate of the College of William & Mary.

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Nicest moment

Here was a nice sentiment passed along from Chuck Todd to Dr. Anthony Fauci during Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” Todd told Fauci, “Every day when I make a right turn to come into the office, there’s a big sign that says, ‘Thank you, Dr. Fauci.’ Let me just say the same thing right now: Thank you, Dr. Fauci.”

But on the serious side …

“Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd on Sunday. (Courtesy: NBC News)

Todd opened Sunday’s “Meet the Press” with sobering comments. Here’s a lightly-edited version of those grim words:

The U.S. has 4% of the world’s population and 19% of its COVID deaths. This is hardly what people mean by American exceptionalism … and no amount of gainsaying or presidential tweeting that increased testing is to blame can wish away this dubious honor.

This weekend, tens of millions ignored pleas from health experts and government officials to avoid travel and instead spend time at home with their immediate families. The result may well be a COVID surge beyond the record numbers we’ve seen.

How did we get here? Did we lose faith in our government because our government gave us reason to lose faith in it? Was it a decades-long assault on science and objective facts by some on the right? Was it a fractured media environment that invites people to seek alternative facts that fit their personal worldview?

Or are we just fed up, done with months of Zoom meetings and closed stores and kids home from school that we’ve simply had enough? Enough that millions feel it’s worth taking a risk to have a brief sense of normalcy?

Whatever the cause, the results are clear: Millions are being infected, hospitals are near their breaking point and health care workers are paying the price.

‘Assume that you’re infected’

Did you go away for Thanksgiving or gather with a big group for turkey, stuffing and the works?

Well, assume you’ve been infected with the coronavirus and you should get tested. That was what Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said during an appearance on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.”

Birx told moderator Margaret Brennan, “We know people may have made mistakes over the Thanksgiving time period. If you’re young and you gathered, you need to be tested about five to 10 days later. But you need to assume that you’re infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask.”

Birx also said it’s up to every American to protect themselves and their families and seemed to be critical of elected officials who aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously enough. Birx said, “To every American, this is the moment to protect yourself and your family. So if your governor or your mayor isn’t doing the policies that we know are critical — masking, physical distancing, avoiding bars, avoiding crowded indoor areas — if those restrictions don’t exist in your state, you need to take it upon yourself to be restricted. You need to not go to these places. You need to protect your family now.”

Fauci had a similar warning during his appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” saying, “That may be when you go back to where you’ve came from, if it’s possible, to quarantine yourself for a period of time, or even get tested to make sure that you’re not bringing infection back to another place, be it another home, or another family.”

Fauci also had another dire warning on “This Week,” saying the holiday traveling could lead to problems.

“We may see a surge upon a surge,” Fauci said. “You know, we don’t want to frighten people, but that’s just the reality. We said that these things would happen as we got into the cold weather and as we began traveling. And they’ve happened. It’s going to happen again.”

Media thoughts that popped into my head

CBS NFL analyst Tony Romo. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)

  • For as much as President Trump criticizes Fox News while pumping up the likes of OAN and Newsmax, when it came time to give his first post-election interview, he turned to his old reliable — Fox News.
  • Now that Trump has given his first interview since the election — 26 days after the election and 22 days after networks called the election — will that break the dam? Will he now start appearing more regularly on TV? And if he goes back to Fox News, will anyone there stand up to him?
  • Not exactly breaking news, but I was reminded again on Sunday that there is no one even close to being as good as CBS’s Tony Romo is at analyzing an NFL game.

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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