Maria Bartiromo on Stocks, Politics and Punk Rock: 'I Would Not be Betting Against America'

In 1995 while working for CNBC, Maria Bartiromo became the first journalist to report from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and did so for the next two decades—oftentimes being referred to as "The Money Honey"—before joining Fox Business Network in 2014.

At FBN and the Fox News Channel, Bartiromo hosts three shows and is on the air for 17 hours a week, more than any female anchor across all television and making her one of the nation's best-connected reporters on Wall Street. That's not a bad place to be considering the recent, wild gyrations in the market. Thus, Newsweek figured it was a good time to pick her brain for a prediction or two, and to reminisce about her historic contribution to financial reporting.

Maria Bartiromo on NYSE floor
Maria Bartiromo reports from the floor of The New York Stock Exchange in 1995. Courtesy of Fox Business Network

The markets were at historic highs but now have been correcting for several days. Is this the beginning of a bear market?

You hit it on the nose when you said "historic highs" because this market has been climbing for three years, so there was every expectation for selling; the trigger being that technology stocks have gotten exceedingly expensive. Look at Tesla. That and others were poised to come down, especially since there is uncertainty with earnings in the face of the coronavirus.

To me, it feels like the internet bubble of 2000, which led to a bear market. But you don't think we are headed for that sort of crash and think it's just a blip?

I do, because we have an economy that is recovering and interest rates are at rock-bottom lows, so there are very few alternatives for people's money. You're not finding yields anywhere except for stocks and real estate. I can't imagine a sustained sell-off in equities.

Is there a comparison now to markets of the past?

I can't compare it to anything because this was a forced shutdown—this was the government telling small businesses that they cannot operate because we need to deal with the virus scare. So I don't see this as a fundamental break in the economy but as an interruption, though there will be retailers and restaurants and other casualties due to a lack of foot-traffic. But several industries related to digital and healthcare have seen real growth, whereas when you look at the dot-com era, fundamentals didn't match reality, where clicks to a website were considered more fundamental than earnings. That's not what we have today.

Was there ever an incident where you interviewed an analyst or trader and just shook your head because you disagreed with their stock recommendation?

I don't give stock tips myself but I'm in touch with so many sources that I have a lot of information flow across my desk. People invest for different reasons, some for the long term and some to ride the momentum, so I don't judge them.

So what are you hearing from your sources now? Where should people be investing?

Like I said, I don't give stock tips, but I'll say this: I would not be betting against America. This, too, shall pass. At the end of the day, freedom, liberty and independence will win out. The best place to invest is in America compared to the rest of the world, particularly as we come out of this shutdown.

What has changed on the floor the NYSE since 1995?

When I first got down there, there were 5,000 people in five rooms; today it's fewer than 500 people in one room, so the digital transformation has been dramatic.

What is the worst, most difficult anecdote you can share about reporting from the floor of NYSE?

Obviously the saddest day for all of us was 9/11. I watched the second plane go into the second building and ran for my life when the buildings collapsed, then reported until 9 that night. I lost friends, and mourned with friends. Being right there on the scene was very moving.

I've seen you attacked on social media. What's that about?

I don't know exactly what you are referring to, but I know there's a lot of hate. I try to avoid it and just report the facts. But certainly in an election year, there are people who don't like an interview or the way I asked a question or whatever.

Which presidential candidate are you supporting?

As a journalist, I'm not. My value is to discuss the economic policies of both candidates and how they will impact markets.

Well, you have a book coming out that has "Trump" in the title. Is it pro-Trump or anti-Trump?

The book is called, The Cost: Trump, China, and the American Revival, and it chronicles the last, extraordinary four years and Trump's unconventional leadership, based on my access to the White House and Congress. So I analyze things that are measurable, like the economy and the lifestyles of the American people.

What's one revelation from the book?

Some of the successes the president has had that are in plain site but not discussed, as well as the resistance movement, which is far and deep. People need to understand what took place during the coup that tried to take him down. It's the biggest political scandal we have seen.

What are you saying was a coup?

A massive effort over a four-year period to take down Donald Trump, starting with Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee and their report, called "the dossier," that was used to wiretap the Trump campaign and how the intelligence agencies were used to take down a president. It's amazing so many in the media aren't covering this.

Are you saying the accusations of Russian collusion were a hoax?

That's exactly right. We know that from the Mueller report and from the Justice Department's Michael Horowitz and now we're waiting on a criminal investigation that U.S. Attorney John Durham is conducting, and you wouldn't know this if you're watching the mainstream media because they're refusing to cover this, but it's real. It's a massive risk to turn our intelligence agencies into political weapons.

Maria Bartiromo on set
Maria Bartiromo on the set of "Mornings with Maria." Courtesy of Fox Business Network

And what's a success you are referring to that is under the radar?

Before the COVID-19 disaster, the employment rate was down to 3.5 percent and the income gap was narrowed, which was extraordinary, because wages were going up for the lowest earners, which was something we hadn't seen for a long time. Plus, this is the first president to push back against China, including its surveillance of Americans.

Is China a threat to the U.S.?

A very serious threat, because the Chinese Communist Party has made no secret of the fact it wants China to return to its glory days, and that's at the expense of America because they're not doing it through innovation, they're actually stealing, which is why there has been a string of indictments of Chinese nationals taking advantage of the visa program here to transfer data to the Chinese Communist leadership — military, nuclear, they were just caught trying to steal data for a COVID-19 vaccine. This is not about the Chinese people; it's about the CCP.

What's the opinion of the traders, economists and CEOs you interview when it comes to opening up the country? Are they all in on more mask-wearing and shutdowns?

They're adapting to a new normal and business leaders are recognizing that things are working, with employees more productive than they ever have been. I know of a lot of CEOs who are looking at renegotiating their real estate costs as they let more employees work from home, because it's working.

What about the protests and civil unrest? Will that impact the economy?

Peaceful protesting is always good. One of the issues is that people need to feel safe in their community. If there is vandalism and rioting, small businesses will not come back. I think most people want to see law and order and they want both candidates to focus on that.

What was a personal trial or tribulation you had to deal with as the first reporter on the NYSE floor?

I was a woman in a man's world and I was walking around with some people who just didn't want me there and tried to make my life miserable, but that's okay. I had a guy say, "Get out of the way; this isn't for your little TV show." Unfortunately, he died, may he rest in peace. Another time a guy didn't like what I was reporting about AIG and he slammed this massive electronic machine into my back, and I had to go to medical and he was suspended. But I'm so grateful for an incredible career there and for my incredible relationships and camaraderie; it's just that, in the early days, it was tough for a woman not to feel outnumbered.

And then there was the incident with the ball and chain?

I was about to get married, so when I was talking to one of the traders, unbeknownst to me, someone put a ball and chain on my ankle, and it made me feel so great, like I was a part of the crew, because it's one of the exchange's traditions. Usually they also dump a bucket of water on your head but they spared me that because I was about to go on the air.

And the punk band The Ramones turned you into a song. How did that happen?

Joey Ramone used to email me all the time to ask me about stocks, and I'd respond, but I didn't know it was him; I thought he was just another viewer. Then he started calling me and that's when I realized who he was. He told me he wrote a song about me and invited me to CBGB, a nightclub, to watch him perform it. I told him I couldn't be at CBGB at midnight because I was on the air at 6 the next morning, so I sent a crew to tape him and I was absolutely floored — the song is amazing; I love it so much. Then we made this whole plan that he'd come to the New York Stock Exchange and sing the song, but he never told me how sick he was. He had to cancel, then he passed away and, I tell you, this is one of my biggest regrets: That I didn't just pull an all-nighter and go to CBGB. Most people don't know what an incredible investor he was. It was an honor to know him.

Who nicknamed you "The Money Honey"?

I think it was the New York Post. It never bothered me at all. In fact, I just felt grateful to get noticed. I'm not sure anyone calls me that anymore.