Q&A with with Erin Burnett

Earlier this year Erin Burnett moved from NBC and its cable affiliates to CNN, and this week she launches her new show, “Erin Burnett OutFront.” The one-time Goldman Sachs financial analyst spoke to The Hill about her new venture, which airs daily at 7 p.m.

Q: Tell me about your new show, “Erin Burnett Outfront.”

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We built it from scratch, from title to concept to everyone on the staff, from zero to where it is now … It was an incredible experience for me in terms of being an entrepreneur.

We have this show name that is really a mission statement for exactly what the show is. We know who we are, which is not something every news show can say.

Q: What are some news stories that you’re really hoping to pursue for the show?

We did [a rehearsal show] the other night. Everyone’s talking about [New Jersey GOP Gov.] Chris Christie. Is he going to run for president? We took the time to look at Christie’s record. If you actually go through it, he’s for civil unions, believes people are born gay and his state has some of toughest gun-control laws in the nation. 

So we’re answering, who is Chris Christie, and what does he stand for? Really producing stories like this in a clear, precise way is something that I think will distinguish us.

We like to call it “From bottom line to front line,” which encompasses the broad nature of news we’re going to cover … but if you look at facts and numbers, it’s amazing the conclusions you can make and the point of view you can have. And you can do that without coming out on the left or the right.

Q: What’s your show’s approach to Washington news going to be?

Obviously, it’s the election, it’s CNN. Politics matter. So we’re going to be doing a lot of politics. I think we are in the sweet spot. I love and enjoy politics; I’m most known for business. I think right now, for the economy being the most important issue in America and with a few foreign issues also taking precedence, that’s where I’ve done a lot of my time.

I think if you can say there’s serendipitous timing, we’ve benefited from it.

Q: How do you feel about shifting from specializing in economic news to taking on more politics and general news stories?

It’s fun. I have to say, it’s being able to spread my wings. For example, legal cases and legal stories that I like — I grew up in a family of lawyers, which is probably a negative thing … but it’s a great opportunity. For instance, I think the underwear-bomber story is really fantastic. I was in Nigeria covering that. 

I’m interested in that case, and that case is starting [this] week. At CNBC, they would’ve said, “Why does Erin want to cover the underwear-bomber trial?” That’s just one example of things we can do on the show and why CNN is a very good place for me right now.

Q:What are you going to be focusing on as the 2012 campaign season progresses?

I think the Republican Party’s efforts to once again be invigorated as a big-tent party is fascinating to watch, because you’re seeing this tension with these huge issues, like [how Texas Gov. Rick] Perry’s held firm on immigration. We’re watching a real development in the Republican Party.

I think the fact that we have a wide-open race is not just fantastic for ratings and TV, but really exciting as an American.

I also think the role of government in our lives is as relevant as it has [ever] been before — not just from a business point of view. I think that this whole conversation about government in our lives is really exciting. It’s being made exciting because all [of a] sudden you’re having these passionate, strong speakers, and people really care about it at home. It’s nice to care. 

Q: What’s your most embarrassing on-air moment?

It depends on how you define it. I have no shame about the bra. I don’t regret that. [Editor’s note: In December, Burnett received a bra that doubles as a gas mask as a gift from CNBC co-anchor Mark Haines, and put it over her face on air to demonstrate its use.]

And by the way, you know, that bra was real. It was a joke gift from Mark … It actually does impact and protect you from radiation.

I feel like you just have to relax. I believe that people know that people on TV are people. Growing up, I thought Dan Rather was a god. I thought Tom Brokaw was a god. People don’t think that about people now. They know that they’re people, they make mistakes, So sometimes it’s OK to be embarrassed about yourself. You just gotta be yourself. And if you do something that comes off the wrong way, you have to be prepared to apologize.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

I really love to read. I track all the books I read. I prefer fiction to nonfiction, but not 100 percent. And I like to travel. I’d like to go to Chilean wine country and New Zealand. I want to go to north Finland in December. They have that ice hotel. I’ve been there around Christmas.