Lunch: Soledad O’Brien Talks Helping Haiti’s Children


The media mob was out in force today at Michael’s and we spotted plenty of table hopping between bites. It was fascinating to see all the head honchos make the rounds while checking in with the competition. Who needs to eat anyway?

I was joined today by CNN’s anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien, who I’ve known since her days as anchor of Weekend Today, and CNN publicist Van Scott. Since making the move to cable, Soledad, who left NBC in 2003 to anchor the network’s maiden season of American Morning, has gotten plenty of attention for her on-the-ground reporting of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina. It was Soledad’s infamous interview with then FEMA chief Michael Brown that started the public outcry eventually leading to his resignation in September 2005.

After logging in plenty of air miles last year covering major news stories like the earthquake in Haiti, Soledad has unpacked her bags long enough to do a slew of documentaries that are kicking off next month. On May 8, CNN will premiere Rescued, an hour-long look at the plight of Haiti’s children told through the eyes of 6 year-old Cendy Jeune and former child slave Marc Kenson Oliphi. After being in Haiti immediately following the disaster, Soledad tells me she held orphans in her arms whose eyes had seen so much that “they looked old.” The documentary chronicles the lives of the children who are living in the Lighthouse orphanage where rather than being put up for adoption, they are instead taught skills, given an education, and encouraged to be valuable members of society when they “age out” of the orphanage at 18.

It was clearly a transformative experience for Soledad, herself a mother of four. She told me, “The best way to help Haiti is to help the children of Haiti help Haiti.” She’s planning on returning to the region next month with her 9 year-old daughter Sophia in tow. “My kids really want to do something to help. We’re going to ‘adopt a community’ and do what we can.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The lovely Pat Schoenfeld, in a chic red topper and matching loafers, with a few close pals.

2. Cablevision’s president Tad Smith

3. Sony Pictures’ Steve Mosko

4. Steve Rubenstein and William Lauder

5. Donny Deutsch (Someone has been spending a lot of time at the gym lately) and an exotic dark-haired gal.

6. The “Imber Gang”: Dr. Gerald Imber, Andy Bergman, Michael Kramer, and CBS News’ Jeff Greenfield, who stopped by our table to chat with Soledad. I’m not sure, but I think Soledad’s admission (“I’ve always had such a crush on you”) to her former CNN colleague made the veteran newsman blush.

7. Soledad O’Brien, Van Scott , and yours truly

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia (long time, no see!) with a fellow we didn’t get a chance to meet.

9. Cosmo editrix Kate White, rocking a cute zebra print top and black pencil skit. Kate’s new book Hush just came out, and she’s been all over town being feted by Gotham’s glitterati. Just last night, she was the guest of honor at a party at Diane von Furstenberg’s store in the Meatpacking District. Congrats!

11. Agent Lynn Goldberg

12. My good friend, public relations maven Lisa Linden and Taxi & Limousine commissioner Matt Daus

14. Hearst high priestess Ellen Levine, whose look I raved about last week. She and I got to chat for a while at the bar, and we discussed the merits of having long versus short hair. Ellen tells me her shorter new ‘do requires more work than her formerly longer tresses. Based on how fabulous she looks, we’d say it’s well worth the effort.

@DianeClehane Diane Clehane is Adweek's weekly 'Lunch' columnist.