CNN's Bakari Sellers on Being Friends With Trump Supporters and Eyeing the South Carolina Governor's Mansion

Bakari Sellers - Getty - H 2016
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The rising progressive star has had a whirlwind 18 months as a cable news pundit.

One of the younger voices with a seat at the cable table, Bakari Sellers has become a familiar face to CNN viewers. An attorney in South Carolina, Sellers is a progressive, but you may be surprised by a couple of his closest friends and colleagues from the other side of the aisle.

Another answer to put a pin in, Sellers has his eye on a particular piece of prestigious real estate. We may be referencing back to this article as a bit of an announcement in a few years.

Best of luck, Sellers.

Age: 32

Current City of Residence: Denmark, SC

Education: B.A. Morehouse College (2005), J.D. University of South Carolina (2008)

Political experience: South Carolina House of Representatives, 2006-14; Democratic nominee for SC Lt. Governor, 2015; CNN political commentator, 2014-present

Political persuasion: Southern Dem

Which networks do you appear on primarily, and why? 

I have been a CNN political commentator for the last year and a half and I have also appeared on The Steve Harvey Show.

How do you prep for appearances?

I attempt to consume as much information as possible, from various outlets, including print, other news networks, social media, and I look at the work of other thought leaders. I do not constrain my research material to just liberal outlets or talking points. The 24-hour news cycle moves so quickly that I spend more time on my phone gathering information than normal. My favorite remains print though, the WSJNYTWashington Post, and the Post and Courier are the best.

How are you booked and how is it decided when they go on?

It’s honestly pretty fluid. These days it's sometimes daily but definitely multiple times a week. I do my own “scheduling.” But when I'm asked I do my best to never say no. Every chance I can lend my voice is a blessing. Scheduling for me is a bit chaotic because I am a lawyer by trade (I have to pay my student loans). If I'm not in a courtroom, I'm on CNN.

Are there any shows you can’t or won’t go on?

Contractually I don't appear on any other networks. However, on CNN, there aren't any shows I won't go on. I do appreciate my sleep so I try to avoid the 2-4 a.m. shows, but will do those if asked. There are many late nights and early mornings during this season. I rest when I can.

What is a common misconception about being a pundit?

I think people believe that our political views dictate our personal relationships. For example, I’m friends with Kayleigh McEnany and Corey Lewandoski, both avid Trump supporters. But even more, we are not a part of some large media conspiracy. I don't consume pages and pages of Clinton talking points before I go on. I want to stay true to myself and my family.

What are the most valuable appearances for you / which are the spots you really want to do?

Primetime election night coverage and election special coverage is amazing. The energy, the production, the viewership. I’ve been fortunate to play a role in some CNN election coverage specials (primary results/debates).

What was your most memorable appearance so far? Any notable / memorable moments that got especially heated, went viral?

I remember my first political segment on SOTU. After Sanders and O'Malley stumbled at NetRoots, I had the opportunity to defend and define Black Lives Matter. Also, before Christmas in 2015, on SOTU I challenged Hillary Clinton not to pander but instead speak to issues that directly affect the black community. Challenge met!

Others include, post-convention coverage of my debate with Trump Supporter Pastor Darriell Scott. And taking on Kayleigh McEnany on AC 360 discussing Trump and the black vote.

Whose show is your favorite show to appear on?

I truly cherish every opportunity. Don Lemon gives me flexibility to go through my range of emotions and thoughts, and Don has become a great friend. State of the Union gave me my first chance to talk politics and I'm forever grateful to Jake Tapper and his team. But, I must say Anderson Cooper and Wolf are legends! And they are even kinder than famous, and more professional than one could ever imagine.

After the election, where would you like to see yourself next?

Still with CNN giving my perspective and giving a voice to the voiceless. My hometown has three stoplights and a blinking light. CNN during this time has given me the opportunity to make so many proud. I've dedicated my life to being a change agent, CNN has allowed me to further that objective.

Next? The Governor of SC has a nice home.