Brooke Baldwin‘s weekday afternoons at the CNN anchor’s desk are primarily spent reporting breaking news, which these days concerns the neverending drama coming out of the Trump administration.
But Baldwin—who anchors CNN weekday afternoons 2-4 p.m. from New York—isn’t glued to her desk. Far from it. She has a new digital series out today, a project which has given Baldwin some time to get out of CNN’s Columbus Circle offices and out into the rest of the country to interview up-and-coming female politicians.
We caught up with the CNN anchor to learn more about her American Woman in Politics series, which candidate she really wanted to interview but didn’t have a chance to, fending off Trump’s attacks and future stories.
TVNewser: Tell us about your five-part series. What attracted you to the project, and what surprised you about your conversations with the candidates?
Baldwin: American Woman in Politics was the natural progression from Season 1 of my series. I wanted to tackle something super-relevant to the issues I tackle everyday on my show. The obvious answer—with midterm elections in November—was politics. I wanted to continue to sharpen my platform of empowering women, so we decided to profile women running for office. There is an unprecedented number of women on the ballot this fall and the potential for a number of them to make history. I wanted to get a jump start on showcasing that.
While I loved interviewing fashion/film/music icons for the first season, I was really excited to lean into women this season who are, what I like to call, “extraordinary, ordinary women.” These are women from all corners of the country whose names you might not readily know, but whose stories so many women will be able to relate. Some of these women have been homeless, single mothers, gun violence survivors, faced stinging discrimination in the South and hid their true selves under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” And yet these women pushed past adversity to be the change. To embody that famous Shirley Chisholm quite: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
What surprised me the most? Christina Hagan, the millennial Congressional candidate and ardent Trump supporter. I walked into her living room in rural Ohio one summer weekend with an open mind, and I’m grateful she offered the same in return. And what I walked away with was a real sense of how much of a struggle it is for Republican women to get the proper help/funding/support they need to get elected. I heard the same from a retiring Republican congresswoman. But to hear the stories from Christina about the “smoke-filled rooms” and “old white guys” and showing up at campaign events being asked by the men, “Where’s the candidate?” (Answer: “Um… you’re looking at her.”) It was stunning. Stay tuned for her episode… it will shatter any preconceived notions you may have.
Is there one candidate who got away? Someone you really wanted to include in the series, but just weren’t able to speak with?
Yes. Martha McSally who just won her primary in Arizona. She’s poised to become the first female Senator in Arizona. She’s the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat. And in her campaign announcement, she said “I’m a fighter pilot, and I talk like one. That’s why I told Washington Republicans to grow a pair of ovaries and get the job done.” She would have been perfect for our “Firsts” episode: women who could be making history in her state. We connected with her congressional office and campaign team, but they passed on my request for an interview. (Congresswoman, my offer still stands.)
The president and his supporters love to criticize CNN for how it covers the administration. We’re all aware of the “fake news” refrain. How do you remain focused on your job as an objective journalist in the midst of all these attacks?
Have you watched my show recently? I have no choice but to be 100-percent-focused. My two hours get blown up nearly every single day by breaking news. All too often the President/Sarah Sanders/Michael Cohen say something that leads to another day of a blank teleprompter and ad-libbing while political commentators are racing to my set. I have to be on my toes. As for being an objective journalist? That’s easy. I want what everyone else wants: the truth.
U.S. politics is front and center these days, and understandably so. But what are some other stories you’d like to tackle, outside of politics?
I tend to gravitate toward gender and race-related stories. We did a segment recently on the unprecedented number of African American women gracing magazine covers this month. I called out Samantha Bee for using the “c” word to describe Ivanka Trump. We booked the mother of Jordan Edwards, [who was] shot and killed by police, [when] the officer was convicted. I really wanted to ask her, before the segment got canceled due to breaking news, “How much of an impact does this conviction have on you as a black mother? Will black parents still have to have the talk with their boys? Did you?” Those are the sorts of stories I’d like to continue to embrace on my show at CNN.