Maria Bartiromo has had an interesting election season, to say the least. The longtime business anchor never expected to be the topic of conversation on social media for her fashion choices. But the Fox Business Network anchor found herself there, in the center of the storm, after she wore a low-cut red ballgown to the televised Al Smith charity dinner last month.
Seated behind the speaker’s podium, Bartiromo quickly became the star of the dinner on Twitter — so much so that she even addressed it the next day on her show “Mornings With Maria.” Citing a scene from “Erin Brockovich,” Bartiromo brushed it off with a laugh: “Let me quote Julia Roberts. ‘They’re called boobs, Ed.’ It’s not that big of a deal.”
But the topic of her looks is nothing new for the reporter, who was dubbed “The Money Honey” in the Nineties when she began reporting from The New York Stock Exchange floor for CNBC. Following a 20-year stint there, the anchor moved to Fox Business to cover economic issues, including the presidential election.
Here, Bartiromo talks about her career as a female business reporter, how the outcome of the presidential election could influence the markets, and of course, the boobs.
WWD: What do you think the markets will do after the election on Tuesday?
Maria Bartiromo: Obviously, it depends on who wins the election. The traditional thinking has been that the stock market likes certainty. They sort of see Hillary Clinton as the status quo, more of the same, which is why the market is expected to rally should she become president. Donald Trump is more of the unknown. We could see an initial sell-off. Longer-term or midterm, their economic plans are very different. It looks like Trump’s plan has the potential to actually move the needle on economic growth because he wants to lower taxes and lower regulations. That would be very powerful in terms of creating jobs. Longer-term, I think the markets would rally under a Trump plan and sell-off on a Clinton policy. Clinton wants to raise taxes, raise wages and she wants to do things like put caps on drug prices.
WWD: What about the global markets?
M.B.: He’s talking a lot about redoing trade and that’s the area that is getting globalists nervous. Number one, they want certainty. They do not want to see a disruption in trade. He’s promising to rip up NAFTA, redo NAFTA. He’s not going to do the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP trade with Asia. I think the global markets will probably be selling off with a Trump presidency because he has promised to re-do trade deals.
WWD: Trump’s rhetoric has been so inconsistent, why do you think the U.S. market would think he’s going to do what he says and rally in the long-term?
M.B.: He’s been very consistent on trade. What he has put up for question is this idea of tariffs. Initially, he said if China won’t stop taking advantage of us and manipulating their currency, then I will put tariffs in place. That spooked everybody because if you charge China a fee and an extra tariff for anything they bring into the United States, what’s going to happen is that companies carrying those goods are going to raise prices. It’s going to be expensive for people. People got scared of that, but then he walked that [idea] back. I don’t think anybody is expecting heavy tariffs on anything. He basically has said, ‘No it’s more of a threat than an actual reality.’ I do not think we’re going to see tariffs put in place, but that would be the worry.
WWD: Clinton’s plan mirrors a lot of what the current administration has in place, but the U.S. economy is in a slow recovery from steep declines of the recession. Why would the market dip in the long-term, then?
M.B.: I think that in the last eight years, we were averaging economic growth of about 2 percent. It’s not good. It’s very slow. It’s a slow pace. People are expecting that pace to continue if Hillary Clinton becomes president. She has promised to build on President Obama’s policies. That means build on Obamacare, build on Dodd-Frank, build on the regulations coming out of the EPA. If that’s the case, that will not be good for the economy. I’m not expecting a big sell-off but I do think that if we don’t have a move toward economic growth and policies that will promote economic growth and get us out of this 2 percent world — we really need to see 4 percent, 5 percent — to see jobs created, and if we don’t see that longer-term, yeah the market will sell-off…[but] I do think things are getting better. It’s just been very slow.
WWD: Let’s talk about the Al Smith dinner. When did you realize people were paying more attention to you on social media than what the candidates were saying?
M.B.: I was texting and looking at my phone. About 10 minutes [into the dinner] my sister texted me and said, “Maria, I just wanted to let you know that you’re on TV live. You’re front and center.” I thought, ‘Oh God, I’m right behind Donald Trump and in the camera shot. After that I stopped moving. I just sat there. It was funny. I was delighted that people noticed my white gloves. It was a white tie dinner, for the dais you had to be in white tie. If I can’t channel my best Sophia Loren glamour for a white tie affair, when can I? I thought it was an excellent opportunity to wear the white gloves. My stylist chose the white gloves and I think she did a spectacular job….I couldn’t believe the stir my gloves were making at the dinner.
WWD: It wasn’t the gloves, Maria.
M.B.: Well, a lot of people were talking about the gloves [laughs]. By the way, when you see me on the air, I always have jackets on. I like to think I have a flair and a style but I’m always in a business look. I was at a white tie affair. I’m not going to apologize for having a dress that is a white tie affair dress. I’m sorry if people were upset about it.
WWD: I don’t think they were upset. You have interviewed both Trump and Clinton, who was the harder interview and why?
M.B.: Both candidates stick to their talking points. Hillary Clinton has not done an interview with me during the campaign season. I spoke to her years ago but not this season…so I don’t want to misspeak. Donald Trump has come on a lot and I think one of the hardest parts of my job is digging down beyond their talking points to get them to say something that people actually want to hear rather than what they’ve come to the interview with, and that is difficult. That’s a reporter’s challenge, as you know.
WWD: Let’s talk media for a second and the potential AT&T acquisition of Time Warner. Will we see more of the telecommunications companies buying media firms?
M.B.: AT&T recently announced it will be acquiring Time Warner but we don’t know if the deal will go through because regulators have been raising the red flag, saying, “We don’t know if we want these two big companies together.” So, we don’t know if that deal will take place, but I think what it shows you is something we knew 10 years ago, and that is content is king. What has taken place over the last decade is there are a whole host of new places to distribute information and content. You have seven billion screens on the planet, that means seven billion iPhones, iPads, Blackberries, etc. What is happening now is that producers are trying to figure out new ways to distribute that content. Phone companies recognize that the pipes are not enough anymore. You need something to go through the pipes. You need content. I think the consolidation will continue. A huge development is mobility. We want the content where we are….producers need to be where the consumers want them to be.
WWD: Do you think Disney is going to buy Vice Media?
M.B.: All of the traditional players out there are looking at these newer, emerging players like an Amazon and like a Vice, and saying, “Wait a minute, do we need more?” I don’t have any [specific] intelligence about a Vice-Disney deal, but I do know that everybody’s nervous about these emerging players, who can come in and have enough attractive, original content to take market share.
WWD: You have been a female journalist in the male-dominated world of business for some time. Has the environment changed, and more broadly, how has your career progressed?
M.B.: I’ve been a woman in a man’s world now for 30 years. I was the first person to broadcast from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and that was just all suits all the time. It didn’t really affect me in any way. I have been incredibly proud and incredibly humbled to have had a front-row seat in covering this election. I’m working the hardest I’ve ever worked. I’m on the air six days a week…covering this election has been historic and amazing, and it has helped me grow so much [as a journalist]. I was at CNBC for 20 years. I felt really great about covering the stock market, being on the floor, watching the daily knee-jerk reactions to the stock market..but the last three years, being at Fox, I’ve grown. I’ve learned more…I’ve been able to stretch myself, covering policy, looking at tax reform, looking at the broader economy. It’s no longer [just] about the stock market. I’m having a ball. And, the glamor of TV also makes it fun.