BULLISH ON FOX

Maria Bartiromo’s Strange Trip From ‘Money Honey’ to One of Trump’s Top Boosters

Once a titan of apolitical financial reporting, Bartiromo has made an unmistakeable pivot toward conspiratorial and occasionally alt-right-assisted Trump cheerleading.

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

“President Obama politicized all of his agencies: the DOJ, the FBI, the IRS, the CIA—they were all involved in trying to take down Donald Trump.”

That was what Fox News and Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo said last week on FBN, directly echoing President Trump’s own conspiracy theory that he was illegally spied upon by his predecessor.

And on Wednesday afternoon, while guest-hosting Your World on Fox News, Bartiromo spent 10 minutes fawning over goofy pro-Trump YouTube duo Diamond & Silk, allowing them to repeat the false claims they were censored on social media, and that Roseanne Barr calling Valerie Jarrett an “ape” was not racism.

It’s perhaps final confirmation that Bartiromo, infamously dubbed the “Money Honey” for her fierce financial journalism at CNBC, has completed a metamorphosis into a leading booster of all things Trump.

To be sure, she has not reached the dizzying level of sycophancy seen in Fox colleagues Sean Hannity or Lou Dobbs—she still hustles to secure big-name guests and focuses a significant portion of her morning show on the markets.

However, her political transformation is so astonishing that ex-Fox News star S.E. Cupp remarked on Wednesday: “Who is writing the story of Bartiromo’s spectacular career turn? It. Is. Stunning.”

Bartiromo—who hosts Mornings with Maria for three hours on Fox Business Network and Sunday Morning Futures on Fox News—jumped from CNBC to Fox in 2014 at a time when she was still largely regarded as a titan of financial reporting.

She was the first reporter to broadcast live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and maintained one of the top-rated shows on CNBC because of her ability to book big-name executives. Multiple Fox insiders told The Daily Beast of how FBN staff was thrilled when she joined the network, believing it added much-needed credibility to their financial reportage.

Bartiromo was tapped to moderate one of the earlier Republican primary debates in 2015 and impressed viewers with fair-minded and focused questioning. (She even drew boos from the GOP crowd for daring to say Hillary Clinton had an “impressive resumé.”)

But within months of that November 2015 debate, Bartiromo adopted an overtly friendly tone toward one GOP candidate in particular: Donald Trump. She’d often hail his candidacy as a positive presence in the Republican field, and in return, the then-nominee gave multiple of his precious few TV interviews to her—typically resulting in softball-fest conversations via telephone. When she did criticize Trump, it was in a tepid or jovial manner.

And Bartiromo’s ratings—previously flaccid—soared as she and the majority of the Fox Business Network took a conspicuously pro-Trump turn around the 2016 election.

As that success continued, so progressed Bartiromo’s embrace of Trumpism and the more rabid, alt-right elements of his fanbase. Her Twitter feed often veers from retweeting crudely made pro-Trump and anti-immigrant memes, to alt-right conspiracy theorists like Paul Joseph Watson and Mike Cernovich, to liking uncouth tweets such as one mocking the physical appearance of MSNBC host Joy Reid by calling her a man.

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When not sharing Fox content, Bartiromo posts articles almost exclusively from pro-Trump outlets like The Daily Caller, Breitbart, Hannity’s go-to pro-Trump “investigative reporter” Sara Carter, and Zero Hedge, a financial blog often described as “conspiratorial” and unabashedly pro-Russia.

That coziness with Trumpist media seemingly reached a climax when, shortly before the election, she twice promoted a pro-Trump troll’s completely fabricated smear that Clinton referred to Muslims as “sand n---ers.” She eventually deleted the retweets and responded to the ensuing outcry by blocking the reporter who’d first called her out.

But despite that embarrassment, Bartiromo continued trafficking in content more befitting of a fringe talk-radio host than a business-hours financial news anchor.

The same week her Fox News colleague Sean Hannity repeatedly boosted an unfounded conspiracy theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered by Democratic apparatchiks for talking to WikiLeaks, Bartiromo quietly did the same online.

“Let’s not ignore this,” read a tweet from Twitter user “Deplorable Taz,” which Bartiromo retweeted. The post linked to an article headlined “Report: Seth Rich Sent More Than 44,000 Emails To WikiLeaks Prior To His Murder,” from far-right clickbait site Western Journalism.

And two days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, Bartiromo retweeted a pro-Trump troll posting a picture of Hillary and Bill Clinton walking with White House deputy counsel Vince Foster. “President Clinton fired his FBI director on July 19th, 1993. The Day before Vince Foster was found dead in Marcy Park. #ThursdayThoughts,” read the caption, referencing the debunked yet persistent right-wing conspiracy theory that the Clintons had their top lawyer murdered.

Fox News publicity often emphasizes a distinction between its news and commentary operations, but Bartiromo isn’t the first case where that supposed firewall has been completely obliterated. Last year, White House correspondent Kevin Corke was caught mass-deleting positive tweets about and retweets of conspiratorial far-right personalities like Alex Jones, Watson, and Cernovich.

Former Fox Business and Fox News brass suggested to The Daily Beast that Bartiromo’s head-spinning pivot represents a response to Trump-era media market forces.

“She was never a political being until she got to Fox,” one former Fox executive told The Daily Beast. “I think the whole part of why she does this is because she knows the best way to move up the ladder at Fox News is to keep saying far-right bullshit.”

Indeed, in recent months, as multiple scandals—including special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign—have heated up, so have Bartiromo’s rhetorical flourishes in defense of the president.

“There’s a cabal that wants to destroy Donald Trump,” she said in April, dismayed by the withdrawal of a Trump Cabinet pick over misconduct allegations. “They want chaos around him.”

“It sounds like either President Obama or Hillary Clinton were sort of masterminding all of this,” Bartiromo recently said on Fox & Friends Weekend, dabbling in a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign.

“There are no allegations against the president,” Bartiromo bizarrely declared during a November 2017 segment on the sexual harassment that ended Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s career. Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 16 women, all of whom he has repeatedly characterized as liars.

“Obviously, I am aware that there are several women who accused the president, then candidate Donald Trump, during the election, of misconduct,” she later backtracked. “We were talking about the here and now, the news of the day, and that’s what I was referring to when I said there are no allegations,” Bartiromo continued.

Two sources told The Daily Beast that Bartiromo initially signed a six-year contract in 2014, meaning that she could be back at the negotiating table with executives at both networks in the coming year.

Not all Fox executives are thrilled with Bartiromo’s on-air presence, however. An inside source with direct knowledge told The Daily Beast that newly instituted CEO Suzanne Scott has been particularly underwhelmed with the performance of Bartiromo’s Fox News weekend show, Sunday Morning Futures.

In a statement, a Fox News and Fox Business spokesperson denied it: “Sunday Morning Futures has been the number one show in its timeslot since launching four years ago and is often the highest rated show in cable news on Sundays. Maria is integral to the success of the show and we’re thrilled with the performance of all three of her programs… she’s an incredible talent.”

But there is one eternal Fox News presence who would enjoy her unmistakable turn toward Trumpism. According to sources familiar with negotiations at the time, the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes—a longtime friend of Bartiromo’s from their days together at CNBC—was initially wary of bringing her over to Fox, believing she was too liberal and “too Wall Street” for some of the network’s more populist sensibilities.

If only he could see her now.