There are meteoric rises, and then there’s Bash, who has watched more than one coworker climb the ranks faster than she. This might seem somehow uncouth to point out, were it not for the fact that Bash herself is glad to talk about it. “I didn’t begrudge those people,” she tells me. When she first started at CNN, she didn’t think she wanted to be on TV at all, preferring to remain behind the scenes as a sourced-up producer. And once she did move in front of the camera, she tried to keep her head down and focus on making the most of the opportunities she did have—moderating presidential debates, landing ever more impressive interviews, breaking as much news as possible, impressing the higher-ups when she filled in for Jake Tapper on State of the Union. (He is now her cohost.)
When she wonders aloud during our interview whether people who were promoted ahead of her just had a better knack for the job or more obvious talent, she doesn’t sound like someone rooting around for a compliment. She sounds like a person who knows what she’s best at—outworking the competition and learning from them too. She points to the next generation of talent—women like current CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins and Inside Politics host Abby Phillip. “I have seen them, not just on air but behind the scenes, demonstrate an inner confidence that I did not have when I was that age,” she explains. “And that has helped with their rises. It’s earned,” she hastens to add, but it speaks to a skill set she felt it took her longer to develop. She could not have done what they’ve done.
If Bash took a more winding path to the top, it’s in part, she thinks, because she needed the time to build up a sense of herself that criticism and blowback couldn’t shake. In the end she didn’t read one great self-help book or have some incredible revelation. She just forced herself to do it—to stand up at press conferences, to ask the questions. The more she did it, the more confidence she had. The more experience she got, the more comfortable she felt at work.
Still, she is conscious of the forces at work that no amount of confidence can overcome—the ones that keep women from reaching their full potential. And even now, with her name on the marquee, she leans on the women who came up alongside her more than ever. She rattles off the names: Gloria Borger, Brooke Baldwin, Brianna Keiler, Poppy Harlow, Alisyn Camerota, Erin Burnett. “I just feel like I have a net because of this female camaraderie that exists and, to be frank, a place to bitch sometimes. Because it’s still a man’s world.” There are careful, unfair calibrations that women must make in the hope of navigating professional quandaries that Bash knows men don’t have to deal with—how to “not be seen as the whiner, as opposed to the go-getter,” how to not be perceived as a “diva,” when a man’s demanding behavior might be lauded as ambitious or passionate.
The women’s active group texts must have been a particular source of comfort during the last administration, when, in addition to the usual high-wire juggling act that exists for women in the workplace, Bash had to perform the added ritual of waking up in the Trump era: Get out of bed, look at the president’s now-defunct Twitter feed, and wonder, “Who is he attacking? Is he attacking me?” Some fretted over what would become of journalism once Trump left office, since the former president drove so much of the conversation, but Bash feels “reborn.”