On the surface, they couldn’t be less alike — a good-natured meteorologist, a hardball journalist, a glamorous veejay, and a tabloid-talk hothead. But Al Roker of Today, Tim Russert of Meet the Press, Daisy Fuentes of MTV, and Geraldo Rivera of — duh — Geraldo do have one thing in common: All are launching second careers as hosts of CNBC talk shows debuting this month. We decided to ask each of them the same 10 admittedly dumb questions and compare their responses to see how disparate they really are — and how good they are at predicting the future. (Note: These interviews, conducted separately, took place before the Super Bowl and Groundhog Day.)
What’s the difference between CNBC, CNN, and C-SPAN?
Roker: After you get past the C, we’ve got different letters.
Russert: CNN is focused on breaking news, C-SPAN is focused on Washington, and CNBC is the best of both worlds.
Fuentes: CNBC is more experimental. They hired me.
Rivera: C-SPAN is Beltway babble, sometimes grossly in need of editing. CNN is the network of record for hard news. CNBC is a talk-host potpourri.
What’s the difference between CNBC and MTV?
Roker: MTV’s much easier to dance to.
Russert: CNBC doesn’t have music, right?
Fuentes: Al Roker.
Rivera: Demographics is one of the major differences. Sobriety is another.
Who’s your favorite current talk-show host other than yourself?
Roker: Donahue and Oprah. Phil can go from nuclear proliferation to Chippendale’s strippers. Oprah is a person of the heart.
Russert: David Brinkley and Bob Scheiffer. I’m a devotee of Sunday-morning TV.
Fuentes: David Letterman, because he doesn’t care about pleasing anyone.
Rivera: Donahue and Koppel, but Ted might bristle at being called a talk-show host.
Who’s your favorite member of The McLaughlin Group?
Roker: The audio person. McLaughlin yells a lot, and he’s the only buffer between us and our speakers blowing out.
Russert: Jack Germond. He’s blunt and overweight and doesn’t look like a typical TV person.
Fuentes: I’m not really familiar enough with the show to say that I have one.
Rivera: I like that guy from the Baltimore Sun [Germond]. He seems the most sober.
Who’s your favorite member of the Beatles?
Roker: Ringo. I identified with him. He wasn’t the cutest or the most talented. In fact, he was pretty goofy-looking.
Russert: John. He was the most talented.
Fuentes: Paul, because I still like the music he’s doing now.
Rivera: John Lennon was my close personal friend for many years.
If you could be any other kind of animal, what would you be and why?
Roker: A giraffe. In this business, you stick your neck out anyway.
Russert: An eagle, so I could soar and have a good perspective of the big picture.
Fuentes: A lion, because they’re strong, beautiful, and powerful. And they get a lot of respect.
Rivera: A junkyard dog-a greasy, banged-up old German shepherd with a limp, but nobody will mess with him.