Maria Bartiromo Talks Fox Business Move and Her One Big Issue With 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

Fox Business Network
Maria Bartiromo

The cable net's new face of finance tells THR about taking umbrage with the politicizing of journalism and what she hopes people will realize about Martin Scorsese's Oscar-nominated film: "That movie doesn't know the first thing about Wall Street."

After two decades on CNBC, Maria Bartiromo turned quite a few heads in November when she departed the fiscally focused cable network for its younger, smaller competitor: Fox Business Network.

One of the most recognizable faces in American financial reporting, Bartiromo's new gig has her holding down two hours every weekday on FBN and, to really sweeten the pot, her own Sunday morning show on parent net Fox News Channel. The latter won't debut for another month, but earlier this week, but the 46-year-old finally launched her new daily, Opening Bell With Maria Bartiromo.

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After several months of planning, Bartiromo spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about what viewers can expect from her two different shows -- and why politics will never be on the table. She also takes The Wolf of Wall Street to task for implying that the real-life stockbroker played by Leonardo DiCaprio is anything more than a "wannabe on Wall Street," though she is a fan of the film.

Why was now the time to move?

I had the greatest 20 years of my life there. I really did. But when my contract was coming up, I decided to take it to the end and talk to others. Roger [Ailes] and Fox made this fantastic offer. It was just such an exciting opportunity to have a bigger platform.

How do you want the weekly show to differ from typical financial reporting?

On Sunday mornings, you go around TV and it's all politicos talking about the issues of the country. At the end of the day, it's all talking points. Very rarely do you ever hear anybody connect the dots … that it's about the economy, it's about business, it's about creating new jobs and growth. I plan to hear from the person on the front line, the CEOs and business owners, who can say in practical terms why tax reform and immigration reform need to happen. There's an enormous void on Sundays.

NBC News and Fox News are largely considered to be on opposite sides of the spectrum. Is there a noticeable difference for you?

I'm getting this question a lot. I'm all about business. I'm not about politics, so when you look at the commentators.… that's different. They're not expecting me to have an opinion. It saddens me to see how journalism has changed so much. Politics has clouded up the room. Most people, when they watch a reporter or read the newspaper, they just want the facts. That's why, more than ever, I'm going to stick to that. I haven't seen any change or bent any one way or another, because I'm at Fox Business -- and I'm all about business. It's measurable. It's gaugeable. If the market is up four percent, you can't make an opinion about that.

Did you see The Wolf of Wall Street?

I did, and it stayed with me for days. I had a couple reactions. At first, I was really mad because I felt like they were glamorizing a crook. My second instinct was "No, this is not glamorous." That's the whole point. They're showing how ugly it really is. And then after digesting it even more, I decided that The Wolf of Wall Street was not about Wall Street. That movie doesn't know the first thing about Wall Street. I've covered Wall Street for 25 years, and there's no throwing people around and the massive sex and drugs going 24-7. That was a guy in one pump-and-dump shop on Long Island who was a wannabe on Wall Street.

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Had you known much about Jordan Belfort going into the film?

I remember that Fortune magazine cover, but no. When I first got into the business, you had a lot of situations like this in Long Island. These were small firms, pushing penny stocks, taking advantage of people who'd worked hard their whole lives. That's not the Merrill Lynchs, the JPMorgans and the Bank of Americas. It's just not. This is a firm that took advantage of people and they did so by buying into the dumbest companies that had no prospects whatsoever. Wall Street is about raising money and lending money to viable companies. I want to be on the record saying that the film is the farthest thing from it.

But did you like it?

I did! I thought it was very entertaining. Martin Scorsese is a genius, and Leo [DiCaprio] did an amazing job. All of the actors did. It was terrific -- but for much of the movie, my mouth was wide open.

What is the most underreported story in business?

Probably the fact that we're all living longer, and we're not saving at all. As a country, it's a fantastic change that our children will probably live to 100, but people are not connecting the dots that if you're living longer, you're going to have to outlive your money. It's a crisis.

How will you cover something like that?

Under that same umbrella, I think there's a huge revolution going on in health care and technology right now. We know what tech can do on the consumer and business side; we haven't even scratched the surface of what it's doing on health care. Qualcomm is in a clinical trial where you insert a sensor in your bloodstream, and it's going to send you an email two weeks before you have a heart attack that says, "Go to your doctor, your arteries are clogged." This is really happening. That's the kind of stuff you're going to see on the show.

The allure of Wall Street has diminished a lot since the recession. How has the culture changed since you started covering it?

For a long time, Wall Street was the industry that paid. Instead of going to Procter & Gamble out of college, to make something, you went there. Things change, and you're seeing people increasingly go to entrepreneurial. Young people today, if they're going to go work for you, they want to know you have a purpose. They don't care as much about salaries as they do about the whole package. Yes, they want to make money, but they also want to feel good about the company they work for. I think that's why you're seeing a bit of a shift.

Does the label "Money Honey" ever bother you?

I feel delighted to have been noticed. Twenty years ago, when I first started broadcasting from the floor, the tabloid newspapers decided to come up with something that rhymed. I wasn't insulted by it then, and I'm not insulted by it now. And I don't take myself that seriously.