Soledad O'Brien

Soledad O'Brien
Soledad O'Brien

O'Brien at Marquette University, February 7, 2008
Born María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien
September 19, 1966 (1966-09-19) (age 45)
St. James, New York, United States
Education Harvard University (A.B.)
Occupation Broadcast journalist
Family 3 sisters, 2 brothers
Spouse(s) Bradley Raymond (1995–present)
Children 2 daughters, 2 sons
Notable credit(s) Anchor of CNN In America Author of Latino in America, Penguin Books 2009
Soledad O'Brien Official website

María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien[1] (born September 19, 1966) is an American Broadcast journalist. She is currently the host of the "In America" documentary unit on CNN, and is best known for anchoring the CNN marquee morning newscast American Morning from July 2003[2] to April 2007, with Miles O'Brien. Their common surname is coincidental.


Personal life

O'Brien's parents, both immigrants, met at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland in 1958.

My parents were both immigrants—my mother from Cuba, my father from Australia. Both attended daily Mass at the church near campus. Every day my father would offer my mother a ride. Every day, she declined. Finally she said yes. One year later, the day after Christmas, the two of them were married.[3]

O'Brien's parents married in 1958 in Washington, D.C. Her father Edward, an Australian (from Toowoomba, Queensland)[4] of Irish descent, was a mechanical engineering professor.[5] Her mother, Estella, who is Afro-Cuban, was a French and English teacher.[5] O'Brien is the fifth of six children, who all graduated from Harvard College; O'Brien attended Harvard from 1984 to 1988, but did not obtain a degree until she returned in 2000.[6] Her siblings are law professor Maria (born 1961); corporate lawyer Cecilia (born 1962), businessman Tony (born 1963) - who heads a documents company;[4] eye surgeon Estela (born 1964); and anesthesiologist Orestes (born 1967).[5][7]

At the time, interracial marriage in Maryland was illegal, so O'Brien's parents married in Washington, D.C. where marriage laws were less restrictive. The newly wedded O'Briens then moved to the Long Island community of St. James, on the affluent North Shore, where O'Brien was born and raised. O'Brien graduated from Smithtown High School East in 1984.[8] On the NPR quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, O'Brien explained that in Spanish her full name means, "The Blessed Virgin Mary of Solitude". When she started working in TV, many people recommended that she change her name, but she refused.[9]

Despite her partial Hispanic heritage, O'Brien does not speak Spanish fluently. That has resulted in some awkward exchanges with people who assume she does, including former US Vice President Al Gore.[10] Since 1995, O'Brien has been married to Bradley Raymond, co-head of investment banking at Thomas Weisel Partners. Together they have two daughters and twin sons: Sofia Elizabeth (born October 23, 2000); Cecilia (born March 20, 2002); and Charlie and Jackson on August 30, 2004.[11]

Television career

Soledad O'Brien began her career as an associate producer and news writer at WBZ-TV, then the NBC affiliate in Boston. She joined NBC News in 1991, and was based in New York as a field producer for the Nightly News and Today. O'Brien then worked for three years as a local reporter and bureau chief for San Francisco NBC affiliate KRON. At KRON she was a reporter on "The Know Zone." The program later moved to CNET without O'Brien.

O'Brien was featured on a regular segment of the Discovery Channel program The Next Step, holding the position of "Sun Microsystems Infogal."

NBC News

O'Brien then anchored MSNBC's weekend morning show and the cable network's award-winning technology program The Site, which aired weeknights from the Spring of 1996 to November 1997.

O'Brien co-anchored Weekend Today with David Bloom beginning July 1999. During that time, she contributed reports for the weekday Today Show and for weekend editions of NBC Nightly News, and covered such notable stories as John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crash and the 1990s school shootings in Colorado and Oregon.


American Morning

O'Brien moved to CNN where she joined Miles O'Brien to co-anchor CNN's flagship morning program American Morning from New York City in July 2003. In 2005, she covered the Hurricane Katrina aftermath in New Orleans, where she interviewed then head of FEMA Michael Brown. On April 16, 2007, reportedly due to lagging ratings, O'Brien was replaced by former Fox News anchor Kiran Chetry (O'Brien's co-host at the time, Miles O'Brien, was replaced as well; former co-host Bill Hemmer had previously moved to Fox News).

Post-American Morning

O'Brien has recently completed a documentary entitled Latino In America documenting the lives of Latinos living in America. She continues to work as a reporter for CNN,[12] mainly hosting "In America" documentaries and occasionally filling in for Anderson Cooper on Anderson Cooper 360. She also anchored exit poll coverage during CNN's coverage of the primaries and caucuses in the 2008 United States presidential race. She also has filled in for Paula Zahn on Paula Zahn Now whenever Zahn was unable to make the broadcast (Zahn has since stopped working for CNN as of August 2, 2007).

O'Brien anchored a CNN special, Black in America, in July 2007. The program documented the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families forty years after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. In the first installment, Soledad O'Brien investigated how James Earl Ray, an armed robber and escaped convict, had already spent a year on the run just a month before his path collided with Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee. In "The Black Woman & Family," O'Brien explored the varied experiences of black women and families and investigated the disturbing statistics of single parenthood, racial disparities between students and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS.

O'Brien drew criticism from on September 8, 2008, for making a false assertion during an interview with a McCain campaign spokesperson, claiming that vice presidential candidate Palin, as the governor in Alaska, had slashed the special education budget by 62%,[13][14] when, in fact, she had increased it.[15][16][17] O'Brien was also criticized for these claims by other sources,[18][19][20][21][22] including the McCain/Palin campaign.[23]

Honors and recognitions

O'Brien's work has been honored several times, including a local Emmy for her work co-hosting the Discovery Channel's The Know Zone.

In 2007, O'Brien was awarded the NAACP President's Award.

She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, which named her the Journalist of the Year 2010 [24] and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She is a member of the Board of Directors of The After-School Corporation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding educational opportunities for all students.She also serves on the board of directors of The Harlem School of the Arts.

She was named to Irish American Magazine's "Top 100 Irish Americans" on two occasions. She is also on Black Enterprise magazine's 2005 Hot List. Also in 2005, she was awarded "Groundbreaking Latina of the Year" award by Catalina magazine.

O'Brien has given several keynote speeches over the years, including the undergraduate commencement at Bryant University in May 2007, where she was presented with a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree,[25] the convocation speech at Cornell University's Commencement in May 2007, a speech at Binghamton University commencement in December 2007, and the keynote speech at the 2008 annual National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Conference in Boston, MA in March 2008.

In April 2008, she became the first recipient of the Soledad O’Brien Freedom’s Voice Award, an award created in her name by Morehouse School of Medicine. "The award was created to recognize her accomplishments and willingness to be a voice for the voiceless in our society, and her determination to cover stories that might otherwise go untold. It will be given annually to mid-career professionals who serve as catalysts for social change in their given fields."

She has been named in People's 50 Most Beautiful in 2001 and in People en Español's 50 Most Beautiful in 2004.

In November 2008, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health awarded CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien the Goodermote Humanitarian Award for her efforts while reporting on the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Asian Tsunami.[26]

“Ms. O’Brien has shown the world tragedies of human conflict, natural disasters, chronic and infectious diseases,” said Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “In addition to focusing attention on the people impacted, she has shed a light on how humanitarian efforts can help alleviate suffering and where current efforts have fallen short. Ms. O’Brien has challenged all of us to think and act in ways that offer humanitarian answers to the problems of the moment and the problems of the century, including public health issues.”

During a panel discussion for the 50th National Convention for Delta Sigma Theta sorority in New Orleans, LA, O'Brien announced that she would be inducted as an honorary member of the sorority in February 2011. She was inducted on February 7, 2011 during the Sorority's 22nd Annual Delta Days in the Nation’s Capital.

Career timeline

November 2010 "The Next Big Story: My Journey Through the Land of Possibilities" written by Soledad O'Brien and Rose Marie Arce published.


  1. ^ Edelhart, Courtenay (October 24, 2005). "CNN's O'Brien embraces her own diversity". Indianapolis Star. Archived from the original on 2005-12-24. Retrieved April 2, 2006. 
  2. ^ "Anchors & Reporters Soledad O'Brien". Retrieved April 22, 2007. 
  3. ^ "The Church Across the Street" Guideposts, April 2004
  4. ^ a b Soledad O'Brien Unofficially
  5. ^ a b c Hispanic - June/July 2005 - Cover Story
  6. ^ Harvard Alumni Directory 2000 (Cambridge: President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2000, vol. I, p. 1038, vol. II, p. 300
  7. ^ "Behind the Scenes: Black and shopping in America". CNN. July 24, 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Soledad O'Brien - Pride of Smithtown". Smithtown Alumni Association. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me". NPR. August 19, 2006. Retrieved August 19, 2006. 
  10. ^ O'Brien encourages diversity in journalism Butler University Dawgnet, October 30, 2005
  11. ^ Soledad O'Brien Unofficially
  12. ^ CNN Flips American Morning: Soledad, Miles O'Brien Out; John Roberts, Scorned Fox Newser Kiran Chetry In MediaBistro, April 4, 2007
  13. ^ CNN transcript from September 4, 2008
  14. ^ CNN comes up short on reporting Palin bikini photo fraud and other rumors,, September 10, 2008
  15. ^ Sliming Palin, September 8, 2008
  16. ^ Alaska Legislators Overhaul Funding, Education Week, April 29, 2008
  17. ^ Sliming Palin, False Internet claims and rumors fly about McCain's running mate, Newsweek, September 8, 2008
  18. ^ Newest Palin Smear: She Cut Special Needs Budget, The Weekly Standard, September 4, 2008
  19. ^ McCain Camp Fights Sarah Smears, The Rush Limbaugh Show, transcript, September 9, 2008
  20. ^ Not again: Palin “slashes” another children’s program…by increasing funding, Michelle Malkin, September 4, 2008
  21. ^ CNN Contradicts and Their Own Reporting on Palin, NewsBusters, September 9, 2008
  22. ^ Reporters’ fuzzy math, Carolina Journal Online, September 4, 2008
  23. ^ ICYMI: "Sliming Palin",, September 9, 2008
  24. ^ "CNN's Soledad O'Brien Named Journalist of the Year by Black Journalists Group". 
  25. ^ Sweeney, Tracie (August 16, 2007). "Bryant University Commencement 2007". Bryant University. Archived from the original on November 18, 2007. Retrieved January 2, 2008. "Soledad O’Brien will deliver the ceremony’s keynote address." 
  26. ^ Bloomberg School Awards Goodermote Humanitarian Award to Soledad O’Brien, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, November 18, 2008
  27. ^ a b "Anchors/Reporters: Soledad O'Brien". CNN. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 

External links

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