Abby Phillip, the political journalist been celebrated for her coverage of the Trump administration at CNN, never thought she’d be on TV. “Growing up, the news was not even on my radar as a possible career, so it didn’t occur to me that I would end up doing it,” she said one recent afternoon over the phone.
The Maryland native’s career began in print and web journalism, reporting at Politico and eventually The Washington Post. While at The Post, Phillip contributed here and there to CNN, shuttling back and forth between the two offices, until she joined the network officially as a correspondent in 2017. “It’s a really big platform and people consume TV news in a completely different way,” she explained of her decision to pivot to television full time. “I wanted to explore what that would be like: to have that kind of audience, what I could do with it, how I could reach people in a different way.”
At CNN, she has covered the Trump administration, co-moderated the seventh Democratic debate during the 2020 Presidential Election primaries, and hosted a documentary special on Vice President Kamala Harris. Next, she’ll take on the mantle as the host of Inside Politics Sunday, which airs on CNN every Sunday morning at 8 A.M. The reporter will be replacing John King, who hosted the weekend political talk show for 7 years—in its new iteration, Inside Politics Sunday With Abby Phillip will provide Phillip’s very own take on the news.
In just over 3 years at CNN, Phillip has also become a bit of a social media darling, building a following of nearly 700,000 on Twitter. Here, the 32-year-old reporter talks about how she handled the switch to full-time television reporting, unwinding with Real Housewives, and obsessing over Cardi B.
After you started at CNN, how quickly did it become clear to everyone that you should host your own show? Was that a goal?
People had been talking about it the last couple of months, but prior to that, not really. When you’re in this business, you recognize the value of having your own show, having a platform to be able to structure what you present and how you present it. By the time I got to CNN, it didn’t take long to recognize the value of that, but I always thought it would be down the road. You’re just living your life until you suddenly realize that you’re 32—the age of the people you used to look up to—and then your time comes.
On social media, I often see your reporting praised for bringing a younger person’s point of view to a medium that has been dominated by older voices for at least the past decade.
I have to take a step back and say, all of the work over the last decade or more has been building up to this moment, and I’m ready to do it. I’m excited about doing it. It’s a great time to be starting a new adventure like this, especially if we’re about to change an administration. With my generation, it’s our turn to have a voice in some ways. It feels fitting and it’s an honor to be able to do it at this time of my life, and do it on behalf of a lot of people who are coming from the same perspective, the same generation, having lived through a lot of the same things, and as a result of that, see the world in a unique way. For the people out there who are millennials and younger, we have come up in the world during a certain era and I’m happy that CNN has entrusted me and had the forethought to say, it’s time to lift up those voices and give those folks a platform, too.
What were the biggest adjustments for you when you switched from print journalism to television reporting full-time?
It’s a huge adjustment on so many levels. First, learning the mechanics of TV is a whole thing. There’s a big difference between delivering the news and trying to coherently explain things to people and just sort of answering questions. The 24-hour news network lifestyle is also something that takes a lot of adjustment—a lot of really early mornings and a lot of really late nights and around-the-clock coverage sometimes. It’s not always like that, but it can be, and [I had to] build the stamina to do that. And then hair and makeup is a completely different world.
You have to figure out when you have an hour to spend getting yourself together. And then you also have to learn how to get yourself together in 30 minutes or 25 minutes, because sometimes that’s all the time you have. We have a lot of help here at CNN with hair and makeup, which I’m really grateful for, but just psychologically, waking up every day and saying, “Oh, I need to think about what I look like” is definitely something that takes a little getting used to. And I think it’s obviously a particular burden for women on television. There’s a whole lot extra and it takes a lot more time. For every 6 A.M. start time on television, you have to get up two hours before that to get out the door and then get in here for makeup, plus being briefed on what you need to know before you can get on television. It’s a much more involved thing and it can be frustrating when you’re like, I just want to report! I want to be able to do the journalism part of it. But the presentation part of it is huge, too.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I’m sad to say I just roll over and read my email. I check to see if I missed anything between 5 and 7 A.M. A lot of times, I don’t know what’s going on in my day until I get an email saying, okay, this show wants you on. I’m looking for that, making sure I know exactly when my very first hit of the day is so that I know how to structure the rest of my day.
How do you get your news?
The first thing I do is scan my inbox for CNN’s latest reporting and news alerts to see what I’ve missed. Then I go to Twitter. I have lists of the best political reporters at major news outlets and I check to see if there are any stories I missed or didn’t have a chance the read the night before. Then I’ll scan the major newspapers for their top stories and I’ll keep reading throughout the day (and night!).
What time do you usually wake up?
I try to wake up around 7 A.M. It depends. There are times when I do our early morning show and those days, I’m getting up more like 5 A.M.
Are there any good books on your bedside table?
I’m still making my way through Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste right now. I’m also writing a book, so I’m reading a lot of newspapers. But I’m also on the hunt for a good fiction book—I need something a little lighter and I haven’t quite found that yet. I’m very late to this book because I’m just not on top of the latest things, but I started Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. I’ve been enjoying that as an audio book when I can listen to it.
Who are your favorites to follow on social media?
I love following Cardi B! She’s, I think, one of the most hilarious people, and I always get a good laugh out of pretty much everything she does. I’m a big scroller—I’ll just scroll through Instagram and like what I need to like, but I’ll stop for Cardi B and actually listen to what she is doing in her videos, because generally speaking, it’s worth it and funny. I always turn the volume up, which I never do for anybody. When I’m on Instagram, I do not listen to audio because I’m almost never in a place where I can. But I will listen to audio if it’s Cardi B.
What was the last thing you Googled?
I Googled these Bose sleeping headphones because I heard an ad for them. Sleep is a big thing for me because I spent a long time doing an early morning shift and sometimes I’d have to go to bed at 7 or 8 P.M. I use earplugs a lot, especially when I travel, but these are specifically for sleeping. I didn’t even know that was a thing. So after I heard the ad, it worked on me. I might get them.
Have you binge-watched anything good on TV lately?
I just finished binge-watching Bridgerton. It was great. [Laughs.] Very entertaining. It went by very quickly, which is kind of sad. That’s the problem with binge-watching! I’m a big Bravo Real Housewives person. Real Housewives of Atlanta is still happening right now and I just started Salt Lake City, so I’ve been keeping up with those shows. Those are my guilty pleasures for when I want to watch something mindless.
Do you remember the last movie you saw in theaters?
Hustlers, the movie with J.Lo. That was a good one. And Cardi B! I really enjoyed that movie. My husband is a big movie person, but I’m too busy to go to the movies all the time, so we rarely go.
What’s the last song you had on repeat?
I’m currently obsessed with Jazmine Sullivan’s new album. I’ve been listening to “Girl Like Me” featuring H.E.R. And she has this really great song with Ari Lennox called “On It” and I’m also obsessed with it.
What’s the last concert you went to?
I think it was Drake and Migos. That was really fun—it was my first Drake concert, and it was great. I remember when Drake first came out, I was a Degrassi fan so it was just weird to think the guy from Degrassi was suddenly trying to be a rapper. And here we are 10 years later! It just goes to show, anything is possible!
Are you into astrology at all?
Sort of. I can’t say that I’m the most knowledgeable. I’m a Sagittarius and I am 100 percent a Sagittarius. I think people who know me in casual settings might be surprised, but if you’re my husband or someone I’m very close to, I think the parts about Sagittarius that are very direct and down to business—they’re very big-hearted but also like, “This is right and this is wrong”—I’m kind of like that. People who don’t know me that well always say I’m nice, and I am, but if you do something that I think is not good, I’m going to tell you.
What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?
I usually just say good night to my husband and my dog. [Laughs.] Our dog Booker is very spoiled and sleeps in our room every night. So usually it’s “Goodnight, Booker.” He’s like an only child who needs a lot of attention.