When Soledad O’Brien brought one of her “PowHERful” summits for young women to St. Paul’s St. Catherine University, I did an interview with the Emmy-winning broadcaster and CEO of Starfish Media. O’Brien is in her third season of “Real Sports” on HBO and her “Matter of Fact TV” show has been renewed for a second season. Matteroffact.tv has all the listings.
Q: Have you ever had a sexual harassment situation like the one Gretchen Carlson described?
A: The industry per se, TV news, is full of many icky people. But I’ve never had a sexual harassment case or even an experience I was thinking about bringing as a case. I’ve definitely had experiences where bosses, or people I worked with, were just gross in the way they treated women, generally. I had a guy I worked with who used to tell me how he hired people. He showed me how he’d turn the sound down [on their video] and if he thought they were hot, that’s how he made his hiring decisions. He didn’t want to hear what you sounded like; he didn’t want to hear your voice. If he was attracted to you, then he’d hire you. That’s not sexual harassment, but God. So you hire the hot chicks?
Q: How about hostile women?
A: I have found just hostile all of the above. I’ve had bosses who were horrible who were men and women. I’ve had more friendships with women in the newsroom, so probably for every horrible female boss, I had 10 really great women who were mentors and advocates and people whose shoulder you could cry on, etc. etc. I don’t think the math was way more women were awful bosses than men. I’ve had a lot of jerky men bosses. First off, there were many fewer women working in executive positions, in my experience. So numbers-wise it was probably the same as horrible guy bosses. I recall many great women who were high above me in the hierarchy who went out of their way to be helpful, and that has always surprised me.
Q: That’s probably why you like mentoring people now?
A: I do feel those people had tremendous confidence about how well they were doing. Their life was good so they didn’t feel, “I’m not going to share my stuff because I don’t want you to take it.” [They were more thinking], “My life is good, let me tell you what I’ve learned. Here are the mistakes I made.”
Q: Do you believe the very quotable Donald Trump or his accusers?
A: The thing that is challenging for Donald Trump is what he has said is clearly what people are claiming. It’s not the reverse. He clearly on tape laid out his strategy with women. I’m not sure I need to argue with his own words, in a very quotable and colorful way. That gives credence to the, what is it, now 14 women who came to say that.
Q: I know learning sign language was not optional for you after you found out you had a child who had a hearing problem, but did you learn it with ease?
A: No. It’s so hard. I’m terrible at sign language. It turns out Jackson is a very good lip reader and so it [diminished the need] to learn sign language. He’s great at sign language but he doesn’t use it a lot. He has a lot of language because he lost his hearing late in life — he was 7. We try to get him to read lips more because there aren’t that many people who know sign language. I’m just so slow. [Then she demonstrated.] Sloooow, and I’ve never gotten faster.
Q: How many of your four kids are we going to see in TV jobs in 10 years?
A: I don’t think a single one. The better question is how many of my nieces and nephews. They don’t really live it. It’s Aww, auntie has a cool job. My children have zero interest. Now they’re young, so I don’t know that they have interest in careers, unless going to the mall is a career. I think my nieces who are now in their early 20s have really started reaching out; two of them work in journalism. My kids are just too little. [The eldest just turned 16] and her conversation is all around, Can I drive? Can I drive your car? How late can I drive? Can I have some money so I can go do something when I drive?
Q: With whom would you rather have dinner: President Obama or FLOTUS?
A: I can only pick one? I’ve gotta say FLOTUS would be a really fun dinner. POTUS would be really interesting conversations about policy.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show” and “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.