CNN anchor recounts her attempt to get back in Trump’s good graces
Updated 4:18 pm, Tuesday, December 13, 2016
WESTPORT — CNN anchor and Westporter Alisyn Camerota had a good rapport with President-elect Donald Trump until she pressed him about his position on whether the United States should have invaded Afghanistan.
In front of a packed Y’s Women crowd at Temple Israel, Camerota walked the audience through her thoughts and experiences with Trump during her time at Fox News and now CNN.
A regular guest on Fox & Friends, Trump once called Camerota to tell her how great her work was and how enjoyable she was before inviting her to what Camerota described as a
“perfectly lovely” lunch in Trump Tower. Leading up to the 2016 election, the lunch gave Camerota insight into why people at Trump rallies and who meet with him could be drawn to the candidate.
“In person, Donald Trump was charming, charismatic, connected, made eye contact, wanted to know about me, was plugged-in, was right there, was not distracted, was not bloviating. …,” Camerota said.
“One-on-one he sort of does what Bill Clinton was always said to do, which is zero in on you and make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room. That’s a great skill for a politician, and he has it,” she said.
In 2015 and 2016, Camerota interviewed Trump three times. The first, conducted in September 2015 at CNN, was followed up by a handwritten note thanking Camerota for the “terrific job” she was doing. The second was in December, over the phone; Trump later tweeted his praise for Camerota’s reporting. During the third interview, in January, Camerota asked Trump about the war in Afghanistan and played a tape of him contradicting himself on the matter.
Camerota was told by the bookers at CNN that Trump was mad at her for the interaction; Trump subsequently tweeted out his displeasure for her reporting. Even further, Camerota was essentially “blacklisted” by the Trump camp and Trump wouldn’t come on “New Day” to speak with her for months.
Not only was Trump’s evasiveness a setback for their working relationship, but Camerota said the black list affected her because when he went on another network’s show, “their ratings would spike and ours would plummet.” Although Camerota said she believed she had done nothing wrong to elicit Trump’s reaction, she still wanted to make amends with him, citing a sense of “unfinished business.”
Camerota went to the network to find a solution. The bookers at CNN, who are tasked with setting up the guests, suggested she write Trump an “obsequious” letter apologizing. Camerota rejected the idea. She chose to call Trump’s assistant about the issue Trump had with her to “mend fences.” The next afternoon, Camerota faced Trump in his office as he ate his lunch.
“What happened to you? You’re so mean to me now. I don’t know what happened to you. I tell everybody we used to be friends, and now you’re just bad to me,” Camerota said, recounting Trump’s complaints from the meeting.
Responding to Trump, Camerota said when she hears discrepancies or falsehoods, it is her charge to point them out. Trump disagreed, but the two “buried the hatchet.”
As Camerota continued reporting on Trump, he reverted to being angry with her.
Camerota interviewed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Iowa and was surprised by their interaction, especially when it came to trading stories about their respective towns: Clinton’s Chappaqua, N.Y., and Camerota’s Westport.
“She too was different than what I thought she was going to be,” Camerota said.
Camerota had previously interviewed Clinton remotely, but face-to-face, Clinton was at ease, prompting Camerota to suggest Clinton should not have been “as handled and as scripted” as her staff made her.
“When I met her in person, she was conversational, she was collected, she was casual, she was warm, she wanted to know all about Westport. We talked all about the difference between Chappaqua and Westport,” Camerota said.
Press pool access
Expressing worry abput the future of press access, Camerota pointed to three instances where Trump left his traveling press pool. She explained the importance of the pool, how it serves to let Americans always know where the president is and that he is in good health. Camerota said when President George W. Bush was informed about the attacks on 9/11 while reading to a kindergarten class, the press pool confirmed the president was OK.
A possible change in faithfully followed traditions regarding the press gives Camerota pause.
“It’s not a good feeling for us. It’s not a good feeling that the rules are changing. These are time-tested, time-honored, decades-long traditions, so that makes me nervous,” Camerota said. “I hope that we can fight the good fight and that his people will respect this tradition of the press pool for all of us.”