Stephanie Ruhle, anchor of political news broadcast The 11th Hour on MSNBC, seems to have a charmed life: a happy family, a fantastic job and two lovely homes—one in Manhattan and the other, a cherished Jersey Shore homestead on Long Beach Island. She would be the first to say her life is not a matter of luck, but a result of hard work.
“I have New Jersey hustle,” she says, grinning, while sitting in her corner office at 30 Rockefeller Center. In contrast to her polished image under the studio lights, Ruhle is wearing jeans, sneakers and a casual khaki jacket. But the high-spirited demeanor she’s known for and the quick smile that dazzles the camera are just as evident in person as on TV.
The more she discusses her early life and career, the more surprising her professional trajectory seems. “My mom used to tell me, ‘You’re not the smartest, you’re not the tallest, you’re not the fastest, you’re not the most beautiful, but nobody can outwork you. You can do anything you set your mind to,’” says Ruhle. “That’s just the most Jersey approach ever, right? Nobody’s gonna outwork you!” She grew up in a middle-class family in the small town of Park Ridge in Bergen County, attending public schools; she only had 70 kids in her graduating class. “I had great parents, a great family,” she notes. “I don’t have a sad story to tell.”
It seems that the things that stood out about her then (and still stand out now) were her spirit, her confidence and her driving desire to be part of the great, big, exciting world.
“New York was always sort of a dream for me, a love story,” she says thoughtfully. “One of my earliest memories was taking my dad to the train station with my mom in the morning, seeing him get on the train and saying to myself, ‘That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to get back in this car, I don’t want to go to school. I want to live that life.’”
While in college at Lehigh University, Ruhle decided she wanted to explore a career in the banking industry. Not knowing how to get started, she wrote to alumni, seeking advice and contacts, and was offered an internship at Merrill Lynch.
Ruhle was only an intern, but she immediately set about climbing the ladder. “At the first desk I rotated on, there were a bunch of 45-year-old guys who had to go out and entertain clients every night,” she recalls. “So I made friends with every single nightclub doorman, every maître d’ at every hot restaurant, and booked dinner tables for all these guys. I told them, ‘You can’t go unless I’m at the table. It’s my reservation.’ I was 21 years old, and I went straight Jersey. I ended up meeting all the biggest clients. If I hadn’t done that, I would’ve just been the girl answering the phone.”
Upon graduation, Ruhle secured a job at Credit Suisse. But the boys’-club environment was tough on her. “Banking is the sharpest of the sharp elbows,” she says, thinking back. “There weren’t a lot of people who looked like me. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, I didn’t go to a fancy prep school, I didn’t have a background in business. In banking, I definitely suffered from impostor syndrome. I was always competing. It was exhausting.”
Even as she worked hard in the financial sector, she dreamed of a career in television. It didn’t seem possible, especially because she was rising in the ranks at Credit Suisse. After nearly six years, she was promoted to a vice president position. Even then, she says, “TV was always in the back of my mind.”
Eventually, she accepted a lucrative job from Deutsche Bank in 2003. Right before her job was about to begin, however, she spontaneously attended an open-call audition to guest host Live! With Regis and Kelly while Kelly Ripa was out on maternity leave. “My husband thought I was insane,” she recalls, laughing. “We had to get up at three o’clock in the morning and wait in line at ABC Studios for, like, seven hours.”
Ultimately, Ruhle wasn’t chosen for the gig, although she did make it to the finals. So she reported to work at Deutsche Bank and, after several years, was promoted to managing director in global markets senior relationship mangagement. By then, she was doing a lot of public speaking, trying to help professional women rise in the industry as she had. She felt strongly that the world of finance offered excellent opportunities for women, but was disappointed that there were few women in it. “I didn’t have any homegirls in finance,” she says, still a bit exasperated. “Nobody. I thought, This has to change.”
Advocating for women’s financial empowerment has been Ruhle’s passion for years, and it continues to be. She is the founder of the Corporate Investment Bank Women’s Network and has cochaired the Women on Wall Street steering committee. She is also a member of the board of trustees for Girls Inc. New York, and has been involved with numerous other groups as well. “It doesn’t make sense for women not to have financial autonomy,” she says. “Sharing a bed with somebody, building life with somebody, parenting with them, is really hard. And if that other person also controls all the finances in your life, that makes life extra hard.”
One day, in 2011, the White House Project hosted a presentation and Ruhle was a guest speaker. Having worked at Deutsche Bank for about eight years by then, she was asked what she wanted to do in her next chapter. It was a pivotal moment in her life.
“I realized that I was afraid,” she says. “You know, it’s embarrassing to say out loud, ‘I want to take a leap; I want to do something totally different.’ You run the risk of people laughing at you. But that day, I said it out loud: ‘I’ve always wanted to work in TV. Especially business TV.’”
That experience made her realize that television was the next critical step in her career. She told the audience that day, “Our banking system finances the American dream. We’re a country of entrepreneurship. There are amazing stories to tell. And that’s what I want to do.”
A panelist from Bloomberg News was so moved by her speech that she offered to introduce Ruhle to the then head of Bloomberg TV, Andy Lack (who went on to become chairman of NBC News before stepping down in 2020 amid controversy). Never one to squander an opportunity, Ruhle knew exactly what to say when she met him.
“I told him, ‘Pay me the lowest amount of money of anybody in your organization, but give me a real shot. Give me a show to anchor. Teach me how to be on TV. If I fail, it won’t cost you that much.’” To her surprise he said, “It’s a deal.”
Ruhle went on to co-anchor a series of shows on Bloomberg TV. She discovered that the businesses of money acquisition and news gathering weren’t so different. “Let me tell you, a trading floor and a newsroom look almost identical,” she explains. “People screaming, open floor plan, very, very intense. Everyone looks like they’re fighting, but they’re actually not. They have a common goal.” After so many years in finance, Ruhle felt right at home.
Ruhle worked at Bloomberg for nearly five years. She interviewed some of the world’s most powerful people: business tycoons, Wall Street traders, CEOs, celebrities. But she was beginning to feel a tug to her roots. The issues of real, everyday people sometimes felt more important than the concerns of her niche industry. When Lack announced he was leaving Bloomberg to accept a job at NBC, she decided to follow him.
The move gave her just what she was looking for. At NBC, in addition to finance, she reported on trends, pop culture and politics. It was a steep learning curve, especially because 2016 was a challenging time to cover America’s rapidly changing political landscape. However, it was exhilarating. Ruhle says she felt like she was in the right place at the right time.
Ruhle co-anchored a smart-money MSNBC program with her friend and colleague Ali Velshi. During that time, Brian Williams (also from New Jersey) hosted the popular nighttime show The 11th Hour, a position he slid into after he lost his anchor job on NBC Nightly News when it came out that he’d exaggerated some of his reporting experiences in the field. In 2022, Williams left The 11th Hour, and the baton got passed to Ruhle.
Nowadays, The 11th Hour With Stephanie Ruhle covers a mix of political news, hard news and a bit of economic policy. Ruhle can often be seen in daytime programming, too. She’s a frequent contributor across NBC’s multiple platforms and series, including its iconic morning program, the Today show. Because the national discussion so often focuses on money matters like inflation, the debt ceiling, estate planning, Covid recovery and small business issues, Ruhle is a sought-after guest on many of her colleagues’ programs.
On May 5, 2023, Ruhle had the opportunity to interview President Joe Biden at the White House. Calling it “the honor of a lifetime,” she believes Biden granted her the interview because of her focus on economic policy and her show’s wide, national, multi-demographic audience. “I think the President sat down with me because I covered in depth a number of bills he passed in his first two years in office,” she says. “I work really hard to not just cover noise. I try to make my audience better and smarter. I can only hope that’s maybe what the White House saw.”
Fealty to truth, says Ruhle, is a critical component of every show she broadcasts.
“Look, we have a complicated country,” she says. “We have a lot of angry people. Viewers who have never watched you may assume you have an ideology or you’re pushing an agenda. Um, no. There’s no right or left with me. You know what there is? The truth. Every night we cover the truth. And that, to me, is a very Jersey thing.”
She adds, smiling, “New Jersey is a no-BS state. And I’ve tried to create a no-BS show.”
Ruhle’s life on LBI
Her New Jersey ethos inspired Stephanie Ruhle to work hard (“People in New Jersey are just like scrappy builders,” she says), but her parents provided the bedrock of love a child needs to face the world with confidence. Nowadays, her parents give that same support to Ruhle’s kids. “My children will all tell you that my mother is their best friend,” she says.
Which is why, media career notwithstanding, Ruhle says the best parts of her life are long, lazy summer days spent with family on Long Beach Island. Her sister’s summer home is four houses down from hers, and her parents, who live in Park Ridge, also have a house on LBI and join them at the Shore on the weekends.
It’s an idyllic life. Ruhle’s husband, Andy Hubbard, takes their three kids swimming and sailing. Reese, 14, is in a lifeguard training program, while Harrison, 17, is among the best young competitive sailors in the state. Ten-year-old Drew performs at local venues like the Surflight Theater and Show Place ice cream parlor.
“LBI has given all of us the greatest escape from our busy, scheduled New York City life,” Ruhle says. “We can literally shout out the window and our neighbors will come over for s’mores after dinner. Having that community, that safe haven, with neighbors, cousins, grandparents—it’s truly a blessing.
“A Jersey way to think is to be on a team. That’s how I grew up.”
Linda Federico-ÓMurchú is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in outlets including NBC News, CNBC, the Today show and TheStreet.com. A Montclair resident, she is currently working on three books.
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