A household name in America, CNN’s Manu Raju is at the political heartbeat of the nation

Manu Raju at his CNN booth during the exclusive interview with News India Times on Capitol Hill, November 6, 2023, in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

A familiar face and voice to many in the United States, Cable News Network’s (CNN) Manu Raju recognizes the significant responsibilities that come with being an Indian American journalist, and acknowledges that he is “cognizant” of these responsibilities while discharging his journalistic duties.

In an exclusive interview with News India Times, on Capitol Hill, November 6, 2023, Raju noted, “People recognize me more as I’m one of the very few Indian-Americans who are up here. So, I take that as an extra responsibility to make sure that I’m dealing with people professionally and properly and not coming across in a way that is offensive in any way.”

Raju, who joined CNN in 2015, is now CNN’s Chief Congressional Correspondent, and an Anchor of Inside Politics on Sundays. “Basically, I have two full-time jobs. There aren’t many people who are correspondents and anchors. I’m grateful to have both jobs,” he said about his twin roles.

Manu Raju with his wife Archana Mehta and kids Sonya and Sanjay. PHOTO: Manu Raju

Speaking about his twin-roles, “Today is my twins’ birthday” noted Raju during the interview adding both Sonya and Sanjay were born just two months into his tenure at CNN. They are “very sweet and energetic kids” who are busy with a multitude of athletic activities including soccer, tennis, basketball, baseball, swimming, and diving. He also shared that his wife, Archana Mehta, is a mechanical engineer turned marketing executive and entrepreneur, and referred to her as a “multi-talented business guru.”

Over the years, Raju, who has covered impeachment and supreme court hearings, government shutdowns, budget and fiscal crises, midterm elections, and presidential elections stated that these issues present their “own unique challenges.”

He said the recent House Speaker’s race was “one of the toughest stories” he has covered since there were “22 days of complete uncertainty.” “Obviously it never happened before in history, seeing a speaker get kicked out by his own party in the middle of a session and then not being able to find a speaker… We don’t know what Mike Johnson’s tenure is going to be like and all the issues he has to deal with… There’s still no plan to avert a shut down next week,” he added.

Recollecting the January 6th attack on US Capitol, he said “It was a day that obviously none of us expected. We came in that day thinking that it was going to be a busy and a long day… Obviously, nobody expected an attack on the Capitol.” Raju was reporting from his CNN booth about the objections to the Electoral College when he heard that “things were getting a little dicey outside.”

Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, November 6, 2023, in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

He said initially the Library of Congress building was evacuated, and shortly thereafter the Capitol went on lockdown as there was an exterior security breach. As Raju continued his reporting from his booth, he got an alert from Capitol police saying, “there’s an internal security breach.”

“I have only been in lockdown twice in my entire career covering Congress. I’ve been covering Congress now for almost 19 years” Raju noted. “I never realized how much danger I was in. I was in a false sense of security because my door was locked.”

He went on to say, the realization of how deadly the situation was outside didn’t dawn till the National Guard was dispatched and he was then evacuated by the police. He was met by the remnants of smoke, tear gas, the smell of smoke bombs, and dust everywhere. “As I was live on-air reporting and walking to my secure location, I said that it feels like we’re in a war zone. It really felt like we were in a war zone…” he emphasized.

“I am on my feet constantly chasing members of congress and trying to break news live on-air while writing stories sometimes on my phone because I don’t have time to come back and write it at my desk,” he said, describing the challenges of being a TV reporter. “I also have to decide where to get people on camera and where to get them off camera for information. So, it’s a balancing act.”

Raju said the first Trump impeachment trial was a very complicated one to cover because for weeks the hearings were held behind closed doors in a classified setting with very little information coming out. “There was a moment when someone handed me a testimony of a key witness behind closed doors that was classified. And I basically read it live on-air as all my competitors were listening to me, which was a pretty gratifying experience,” Raju prided.

On Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, Raju described those as “so intense, so emotional,” as the Members were under enormous pressure on how to vote. At the same time, he added, “The challenge for journalists was making sure we didn’t miss anything on any of those key members on what they were saying and what they’re deliberating. Obviously, their votes made a huge difference to the future of the court, the future of the country, and we needed to be on top of everything.”

A graduate of Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Raju who wrote for a student newspaper as an extracurricular activity during his freshman year, recalled, “I thought I was going into business and that I was just doing journalism for fun,” while noting by the time he graduated he knew journalism was going to be his career path.

About his message to aspiring journalists and students, he said, “It’s a hard field to break into. It’s hard to get the right job. But don’t be afraid to take risks,” adding, “I had people telling me early in my career, you could never do your career in Washington.”

Raju’s late grandfather Gopalakrishna Adiga, from Karnataka, India, was a famous writer and poet in Kannada. Raju’s father Dr. Tonse N. K. Raju, a neonatologist, and mother Vidya Raju immigrated from Bangalore to Chicago in the early 1970s. After three decades, when his parents moved to Maryland to work at the National Institute of Health in 2001, Raju followed them in 2002. As such, he landed his first job in Washington with Inside EPA and subsequently worked for Congressional Quarterly, The Hill, and Politico before joining CNN.

Born in Downers Grove and raised in Darien, Illinois, Raju said he used to visit his family members in Bangalore and Mysore every few years until 2015. “My kids actually want to go to India because they have been learning a lot about Indian culture, and Hinduism. They have lots of Indian friends and they love Indian food,” Raju said adding that his kids never visited India and would like to take them soon.



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