Fishbowl5 With Karen Finney: the Anti-Parrot

Finney.jpgIf you don’t know Democratic pundit Karen Finney you’ll want to get acquainted, because if you’re on political talk TV you’ll likely appear alongside the new MSNBC contributor somewhere down the road. Asked about the toughest part of being on TV and she mentions having to get up at ungodly early hours. “For early morning hits you really have to get up a couple of hours ahead of time just so you look and sound like you’ve been awake,” she said. “4:30 am can be brutal!” Most recently she was spokeswoman and director of communications at the Democratic National Committee. Finney is a former scheduling aide to former President Bill Clinton. She also worked as deputy press secretary to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton and was an aide on her Senate campaign. She now writes her own talking points. “It’s definitely a challenge to say something different from what everyone else is saying so you don’t sound like a parrot but get your points across,” she said. Her thoughts on former V.P. hopeful Sarah Palin’s new role as a FNC contributor: “There’s no shame in using note cards. “I like them all” is only going to cut it a few times as a response, so get questions in advance when you can, and write key phrases from your answers.”
Ouch. Let’s continue…

1. How did you end up becoming a pundit? In some ways it’s a natural progression from talking with reporters as a press person. Started making the shift when Hillary’s book, “Living History” came out and was one of the few Democrats willing to go on Fox. Once you show you can defend yourself without getting boo’d as the lone democrat in front of a live studio audience of 150 people who all disagree with you, you are on you’re way.

2. What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever said or done on TV? This was more frustrating than embarrassing but there was a time during the campaign I had to go on TV to talk about a right-wing book of lies about Obama but was given talking points that were not nearly as tough as I wanted to be.

3. You look very relaxed on air. How do you achieve this? I love to talk politics, so I try to approach it like a conversation on a topic I love just with lights and cameras and worry less about trying to spin or hit all the talking points. But I’ll admit I do get nervous sometimes.

4. What’s your tactic when you’re being hammered by the other side on air – do you fightback or do you listen? A little of both, most of the time the arguments from the other side are so predictable I have a sense of what they are likely to say. I try to wait my turn before hammering back – but when it’s clear the other person is parroting talking points or flat out lying – that’s when I just can’t help but interrupt.

5. You worked for both President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton in various communications roles. What can you tell us about the Clintons that we may not know? Ha. Unlike most folks in this town I don’t dish on the people I work for! They are both pretty good – Hillary especially – at the electric slide. A little dance party broke out in the East room after the Mandela state dinner.

An extra question (come on, it’s about her Mom):

You mentioned your mother on air in your recent appearance on Washington Journal. Do you let her critique your work – does she comment on your hair or clothing? If you’ve met my mother – it’s not really a question of “letting” her critique me. Actually, it’s very sweet, she’s very diligent about watching and either calling or emailing me her feedback. Most of the time I agree with her. Courtney Hazlett actually emailed me one time to tell me I needed more powder, which was great!