Arianna Huffington had some unusually kind words for banks and bankers at an industry event on Thursday night.

But the Huffington Post founder hasn't changed her mind about the industry's underlying problems.

"There's an enormous amount that needs to be fixed," Huffington told American Banker in an interview on Friday.

"If you look at a lot of the problems that got us through the financial crisis, if you look at mortgages — for me, that is really a key issue, the need to rework mortgages ... there's no question that this is in the public interest," she said.

Huffington, a vocal critic of how some big banks treat their customers, was a rather provocative keynote speaker for a gala celebrating the banking industry. In 2009 she launched a "Move Your Money" campaign urging consumers to leave "too big to fail" banks.

But Huffington had a light touch with her audience on Thursday night, cracking jokes about her accent and expressing her gratitude to a bank that gave her an overdraft loan early in her career. 

The event was sponsored by American Banker Magazine and honored the publication's 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking.

Huffington, who sold her company to AOL and now runs the combined entity's editorial operations, exhorted her media colleagues to pay more "attention to what is working, not just what is not working."

That line was met with loud applause by the bankers on Thursday night. But on Friday, Huffington said she was referring not to negative stories about the banking industry but to media coverage of sensationalist stories like "Casey Anthony and the Balloon Boy and all of that."

The gala occurred during ongoing "Occupy Wall Street" protests against the banking industry's influence on the economy and government. And the bankers receiving awards were careful to acknowledge those protests. As JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive Heidi Miller said in a speech, "this is a level of pain you can't and shouldn't ignore."

Huffington praised Miller's speech on Friday, saying "her message really resonated in the room. It was really interesting how in a room of bankers, you heard a lot of the same concerns that you heard around the country."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.