And he's even a mainstay for those who don't do cable news; Cooper also had a short-lived syndicated daytime talk show and has, since 2002, co-hosted a televised New Year's Eve party with the often ribald, sometimes gossipy comedian Kathy Griffin that's generated its own headlines and buzz. Oh, and he's been a correspondent on "60 Minutes."
Cooper, unlike most of the people on stage at this evening's debate, began his life rich and relatively famous. And that's been his family's condition for many years.
Cooper was born in New York City, and his father was the author and screenwriter Wyatt Cooper, who died before Anderson Cooper reached his teens. He is also the son of artist, socialite, designer and octogenarian sharer of highly personal details Gloria Vanderbilt.
Cooper's mother, of course, is the only child of a New York millionaire who was heir to a gargantuan bequest. That's the wealth of one Cornelius Vanderbilt, the shipping and railroad magnate who amassed one of the largest personal fortunes in U.S. history. Cornelius Vanderbilt gave the money to found Vanderbilt University but also ranks among the men that many refer to as "robber barons." Another one of Cooper's ancestors was by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's side when Sherman leveled Atlanta during the Civil War.
Cooper had an older brother, Carter Cooper, who died in a suicidal jump from the balcony of their mother's apartment. He also has two older half-brothers. Cooper has told more than one reporter that the loss of his brother, Carter, ignited his interest in journalism. It left him fascinated by questions connected to survival and resilience and drawn to stories filled with pain.
Personal tragedies aside, there's a lot about Cooper's life that betrays deep multi-generational privilege that rarely surfaces when Cooper is on air.
Cooper graduated from the prestigious and private Dalton School in New York and eventually earned a degree in political science from Yale University at the tail end of the 1980s. While in college, he interned with the CIA.
He began his journalism career as a fact checker at Channel One, an in-school television network. After a friend created a fake press pass for Cooper on what the journalist has described as a Mac, a 23-year-old Cooper took a self-financed trip to Burma (also known as Myanmar), where he reported and eventually sold those stories to Channel One. After Burma, Cooper spent a half-year studying language in Vietnam, followed by reporting in most of the world's conflict hot spots in the 1990s. That list includes Somalia, Thailand, Rwanda and Bosnia. And yes, he covered the Rwandan genocide.
By 1995, Cooper was a correspondent for ABC News, where he hosted the overnight newscast and did work for the news program "20/20." That grind was hard enough that Cooper briefly gave up the news to host one of TV's earliest reality TV competitions, "The Mole." The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks drew him back to news and CNN.
Cooper has worked for CNN ever since, hosting a number of shows. Beginning in 2003, Cooper has anchored the weeknight show "360 with Anderson Cooper." In 2006, he published a New York Times bestseller about his travels, "Dispatches from the Edge." And the following year, he started working concurrently for CBS News and its flagship Sunday night program, "60 Minutes."
When it comes to his work, Cooper does the politely incredulous confrontation thing particularly well. On the list of public figures who have been on the receiving end of the Cooper treatment are former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, then-Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). The latter was so legendary that more than a few reporters have credited Cooper with developing something called "emo-journalism." That's a kind of journalism where neither the emotions of the sources or the reporter are pushed aside.
New York magazine said the confrontation with Landrieu became "a model of what a television journalist should be." Cooper's shock and outrage seemed genuine, but it's also fair to argue that both have always been part of television's stock and trade.
It's also worth noting that in 2012, when Cooper first shared publicly that he is gay, he was what the New York Times then called the most prominent journalist to do so to date.
Cooper claimed Emmy Awards for his work in 1997, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011. And he won a Peabody Award — television's Pulitzer Prize — in 2005. His award-winning work includes a number of evocative and certainly relevant topics including police brutality, natural disasters, American hunger and economic insecurity.
So you can probably expect some of Cooper's core habits and journalistic interests to show up in the debate tonight. And do look out for those moments in which Cooper goes emo, and others where he gives voice to widely shared outrage.
Dana Bash: An understated force
The following post was originally posted Sept. 16, ahead of the most recent Republican presidential primary debate, which Bash also moderated. We have updated it with a necessary update about a Bash interview here.
In the days after "Fox News" host Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump during the first Republican primary debate if his history of publicly ridiculing and sexually objectifying women qualified him to be president, Kelly became the subject of at least as many headlines as The Donald.
The moderators could again be at issue in the second GOP debate on Wednesday, but Bash would seem an unlikely storyline come Thursday morning. And that's how she prefers it.
Bash, unlike Kelly and fellow CNN debate moderators Jake Tapper and Hugh Hewitt, comes to the debate moderator's table not as a partisan talker, high-profile anchor or former political aide, but as a longtime reporter with a long history of hard-nosed coverage on a string of Washington, D.C.- centered, typically male-reporter-dominated beats: Congress. The State Department. Large domestic appropriations and programs, such as Social Security.
Bash has operated inside the bowels and brain of political reporting, but unlike Tapper, Hewitt and Kelly, she does not host her own show or have her own time slot to protect and promote. Right now, Bash serves as CNN's chief political correspondent and has been responsible for covering the U.S. House and Senate since 2006. She's climbed a long way up the CNN political news ladder.
Bash, 44, is a twice-divorced mother of one son with CNN chief national correspondent John King. Born Dana Schwartz, she was raised primarily in Montvale, N.J., about an hour's drive northwest of New York City.
Bash headed straight from Pascack Hills High School to George Washington University, where she earned a degree in political communications in 1993. That same year, Bash started out in the network's Washington, D.C., bureau as a library assistant. She somehow managed to survive one of those cinematically bad first-day-on-the-job experiences where she failed so miserably at the task of manually feeding scripts into an old TelePrompTer machine for a newscast that the anchor stormed in and screamed that it would be her last day. He was clearly wrong; Bash has built her entire career at CNN.
Later, Bash became producer of now-defunct weekend public affairs shows. As the 1990s became the 2000s, she took on more responsibility and became an assignment editor helping to determine coverage priorities for reporters and producers and how to best use news-gathering resources, then a field producer on Capitol Hill. During the 2008 presidential election, Bash covered several of the Republican primary contenders and broke the news that Mitt Romney would suspend his campaign (before running again in 2012 and becoming the GOP nominee). Bash also served as CNN's White House correspondent during George W. Bush's tenure.
An open secret in TV news is that producers often conduct interviews and certainly gather a good share -- and in some cases absolutely all -- of the information presented to viewers by on-air reporters. So while Bash's on-air tenure is relatively brief compared with co-moderators Hewitt and Tapper, her reporting experience and sourcing run deep. Remember, before Bash ever reported on-air, she spent years behind the camera producing and overseeing the editorial content of CNN's Capitol Hill coverage, reporting on complex topics, such as Social Security and Medicare, the 2000 presidential primaries, national political conventions and the State Department, spearheading longer interviews with newsmakers, foreign heads of state and others.
In 2002 and again in 2010, the National Press Foundation recognized Bash's congressional coverage with a Dirksen Award. And in 2009, Bash was part of a CNN team that won a Peabody Award, the broadcast equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize, for coverage of the 2008 campaign.
But like Tapper, Bash's career has had its rough spots. In 2012, Bash's work covering GOP primary contender Ron Paul generated controversy when Paul's campaign claimed to have heard a conversation between Bash and King, her then-husband and co-worker, during which Bash allegedly expressed concern about the effects of Paul's continued campaign on the GOP nominee. CNN said Bash was actually talking about concerns she heard from voters -- not her own opinion -- but that didn't stop a pro-Paul super PAC from calling for CNN to replace Bash with another reporter.
And there have also likely been some disappointments inside Bash's longtime professional home. When CNN named her chief political correspondent this year -- a role retiring newswoman Candy Crowley had long held in tandem with hosting responsibilities on CNN's Sunday morning public affairs show, "State of The Union" -- Bash got the title, but Tapper got the Sunday show.
Understand, Bash is not an anachronistic industry holdover, pecking out hard-won scoops in dank press workrooms while other TV reporters live a more glamorous life. She's a serious reporter, to be sure. But she tweets (with lots of exclamation points!), and she cooperates with limited personal profiles like a May story in The Hill that revealed her not-at-all-unusual childhood career plans.
Bash apparently dreamed of becoming a rock star until her brother informed her that singing did not rank among her talents. She told the reporter little, saying politics was the thing she liked and loathed most about D.C. and confessed to the habit of always carrying snacks in her bag. And she explained that her parents had clear intentions when they named her Dana (pronounced like banana), so they are supremely displeased when people routinely call her DAY-na.
So, it's also fair to say that the all-consuming modern task of building one's brand probably doesn't rank high on Bash's daily to-do list. Checking in with sources, gathering the info to scoop other reporters and delivering the kind of granular news about congressional machinations do. And, she apparently likes it that way; Bash told JW magazine that her work gives her an opportunity to "cover everything. When you report on Wall Street and health-care reform … what could be more relevant to people’s lives?”
So, there will be no lists of Bash's personal faves and biggest fears here. That, it seems, is also intentional. This month, Bash told Sirius XM political radio host Julie Mason that she will consider it a failure if after the debate she becomes the story. Bash didn't say this, but what happened to Megyn Kelly after the first debate probably has a lot to do with that.
Juan Carlos Lopez: A well-traveled CNN en Español mainstay
Tuesday night's premier 2016 presidential debate, like all the others so far, will feature three moderators. One of them will likely be unfamiliar to the vast majority of viewers.
But know this: The reporter that many English-speaking viewers haven't heard of might ask some of the toughest questions.
Juan Carlos Lopez is an English- and Spanish-speaking reporter with CNN en Español based in Washington, D.C. And unlike co-moderator Anderson Cooper's work, which calls on him to drop in on the world's controversies but work mainly behind an anchor desk in New York, and Dana Bash, who spends most of her time on Capitol Hill, Lopez's beat requires him to roam far and wide.
His work often involves stories on trade throughout the Americas, immigration to the United States, inflation rates in other countries and political and social controversies in the the U.S. and abroad.
He covered events in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, the Elian Gonzalez matter in Florida and more recently the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. He has also been involved in covering drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's prison break and the related manhunt, as well as political protests related to high-level corruption scandals in Latin America this year.
Lopez reported extensively on efforts to boot the U.S. Navy off of Vieques Island in Puerto Rico and the environmental mess left behind, and he weighed in on the Florida presidential election debacle in 2000, as well as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the moment that the United States made its case for war in Iraq at the United Nations.
Lopez has interviewed a number of politicians, including Hillary Clinton, the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and his successors; as well as former Colombian leader Alvaro Uribe, Mexico's former president Vicente Fox and Panama's Ricardo Martinelli. And back in the United States, he has covered both both the Republican and Democratic Party conventions.
Last week alone, Lopez covered the congressional hearing where U.S. officials took responsibility for the mistaken bombing of a Doctor's Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, and helped to tell Spanish-speaking viewers about Myriam Witcher, the Colombian American woman who Trump brought up on stage at an event where she promptly professed her commitment to the Trump campaign.
If you need more evidence, check out the wide range of topics Lopez tweeted about in the last few days. Then, if you don't speak Spanish, make use of that Google translate button up top. You will get a rough but very clear idea.
And if that's not enough prep work for the debate, Lopez's moderator skills get a regular workout. He's the host of CNN en Español's weekly debate program "Choque de Opiniones" (that translates roughly to "Clash of Opinions") and a daily news show, "Directo USA." His role on the latter program is what the New York Times called CNN en Español's Wolf Blitzer.
Lopez is also regular contributor to CNN's English language programs. And some of CNN en Español's programming featuring Lopez also appears on Sirius XM radio. It's also worth noting that, while some English-speakers may not know Lopez, CNN en Español is available in 30 million homes. Those houses stretch “from Alaska to Patagonia,” according to CNN executives. And Lopez has been nominated for Emmy Awards twice — once just this year in the Outstanding Newscast or News Magazine in Spanish category.
Perhaps that's why Lopez's official CNN en Español job title — presentador y corresponsal en jefe (that literally translates to boss anchor and correspondent but is generally understood as chief anchor and correspondent) — seems to pretty much fit. But to be perfectly honest, there's not a lot of personal information out there on Lopez. There's not even a Wikipedia page of questionable quality dedicated to the journalist.
On a semi-personal note, we do know this: Lopez is a native of Colombia and began his career as a TV reporter in Bogota before moving to Miami and working for Univision. Lopez joined CNN in the 1990s and moved over to CNN en Español when the company founded the network in 2000. So like Bash and Cooper, he's been with CNN for a long time.
And in an August interview with the Venezuelan newspaper, El Universal, Lopez told a reporter that he's thankful to work as a journalist in the United States. In the United States, people may not like what a reporter writes or airs, but journalists are rarely killed or jailed in connection with their work, he said. Lopez pointed out that in Mexico, the United States' neighbor, and many other countries, the situation is quite different. (Here's a link for those who can read Spanish.)
Lopez earned his journalism degree at Javerina University in Bogota and spent time studying at the New Iberoamerican Journalism Foundation — an organization founded by acclaimed Colombian and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died in 2014.
Marquez, who is probably best known in the United States as the mind behind the books "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in a Time of Cholera," began his professional life as a journalist. He created the foundation to train journalists to do high-quality work which contributes to democracy and development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
So it's fair to say that Lopez has swum with big fish in more than one country.