tv Overheard With Evan Smith PBS October 21, 2017 4:30pm-5:01pm PDT
- [narrator] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation, hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy, and by claire and carl stuart. - i'm evan smith. she covered donald trump's presidential campaign in 2016 for nbc and msnbc, and lived to tell about it. her memoir of her time on the trail, unbelievable, has just been published and it's already a new york times bestseller. she's katy tur, this is overheard. (easy listening music) let's be honest, is this about the ability to earn, or is this about the experience of not having been taught properly? how have you avoided what has befallen other nations in africa? and you could say that he'd made his own bed, but you caused him to sleep in it. you'd saw a problem and, over time, took it on. let's start with the sizzle before we get to the steak, are you gonna run for president? i think i just got an f from you, actually.
(audience laughter) (applause) katy tur, welcome. - thanks for having me. - so good to see you, congratulations on the book, it's so great. - thank you! - i love this book, and the thing i love about it the most is that you had the good sense to write it, you were the earliest or among the earliest people on the trump campaign. you had the good sense to take notes, you figured out "i'm gonna be witness to history," even if we didn't know whether he'd get anywhere in this campaign. - yeah, i was there from the very beginning. almost the very beginning. i was, the first rally i went to was june 30th of 2015, a few days after he announced his campaign. i was the first network tv correspondent. right, there were other people reporting on the trump campaign, but it was not something at the level or with the same commitment that maybe your network had made to placing you on the trail. - no, we were the first ones to essentially take it seriously from almost the very beginning. we saw reporters come in and out, but for long swaths,
long stretches of time, it was me and donald trump traveling around the country. i was the most familiar face in a crowd. it was me and other local reporters and we just had interaction after interaction after interaction where he got to know me and i got to know him through this coverage of this unlikely presidential campaign. so, when nobody was taking him seriously, they were calling him a rodeo clown, or a carnival barker, or a sideshow, i saw the thousands of people that would show up to these rallies, and i could see the reality of his support forming up close and personal birthing, being birthed. - yeah. - essentially. early on, and before anybody wanted to recognize it, or before anybody was forced to take it seriously. - and the best part of the story, i think, is your own revelation across chapters, this guy could actually win. - yeah.
- right, it's amazing. so i want to go back to the origin story here. you're in london. - yeah. - you're a foreign correspondent for nbc news. - the best job in the world. - the best job in the world, and you come back to the states to, and good for you for doing this, it's a make-a-wish foundation request. so you're back in the states and you're asked while here, "hey, would you cover this?" - i was standing around the newsroom. i came back for the make-a-wish request, and i thought i would use it to also remind my bosses that i existed, because when things are quiet overseas, you can tend to be forgotten when you're in a bureau. so, i was getting a little bit of face time, and saying "hey, remember me, i have all these stories that i'm pitching in indonesia and rome and can you please send me on them?" - right. - instead, macy's dropped donald trump, univision dropped donald trump, nbc dropped donald trump's miss universe pageant, and they said you know we need somebody to cover this story tonight for nightly news. - yeah. - and one of the nightly news producers, who's a good friend of mine volunteered me.
katy tur's just standing around, she can do it. - take her, right. - and so i did, and i did a couple more stories, but the next thing i knew i was getting a call from the president of nbc news saying "we're gonna put you on this campaign full time." and then i was being assured don't worry, it will just be six weeks. - this is an actual, this is an actual quote, right? - yeah. - from an nbc news executive, don't worry, it'll be six weeks tops. - and then you'll go back to london. - you'll go back to london. - and hey, if he wins, you'll go the white house. - right. - to which he laughed, and the elevator doors closed. - closed, great seeing you. - and he left, it was cinematic. - right, yeah. so you never actually go back, in fact you were waiting to go on a vacation in italy with your boyfriend, - i was supposed to go on this sicilian vacation. i've never been to sicily, - right. i still have never been to sicily. - the least they could have done was sent you to sicily after the campaign, right? - exactly! i had, that phone call was very sad and i felt terrible because i ben wall was like "what do you mean you're not coming, we leave in 10 days." - yeah. - and it was one of those moments that i realized,
holy cow, i must really love my job. - yeah. (chuckle) well, that's okay. - or i must be psychotic. or both! - and that's okay, by the way too. so, the sequence here at the very beginning is, you end up in new hampshire with trump. - yeah. - and you watch him speak, he recognized you out in the crowd. now, you've not actually had any face time with him at this point at all, right? - i've never shared the same air as him before. - right. - never been in the same physical vicinity. - yeah. - i'd never walked in to trump tower in my life, i mean i'd lived in new york for 10 years. - yeah. - never passed through those golden doors. (audience laughs) and seen that waterfall. - right. - beautiful waterfall. - high class, yes. - and so i'm standing and it's, unlike the rallies that we'd become used to during the campaign, it was just a couple hundred people standing around a back yard pool, it was more of a curiosity than anything else. - right. - and donald trump was on stage, and he's saying all sorts of things, there's no real thread to his speech, the people were entertained by it, but it doesn't seem like
a serious political conversation by any stretch. he's not really talking about policy, save for this idea that immigration is a real problem and mexico is sending rapists across the border, we need to do something to stop it, oh and by the way i get the best standing ovations of anybody, oh by the way the media is terrible. and katy tur, you haven't even looked up at me once. i remember thinking, "how in the world does he know my name?" (audience laughter) and how, i was standing and he pointed at me, he saw me in the crowd, and it was the very beginning of basically the place looking at me and laughing or booing, and him finding a way to use the media as a foil for his candidacy. - right, amazing. and so you hope at that point, hope with a small h, to get an interview with him, a pull-aside, they call it. - so i went and i talked to hope, his press person. - to hope with a big h, who is hope hicks, now the communications director in the white house. - yeah, yeah. - and say, can i have a pull-aside with mr. trump, and she said let's see what we can do and ultimately
he speeds off. - no, she says "sure, we can get on right after he gets off stage," which was just a step and a repeat behind the pool. - right. - and the next thing i see is him getting in his suv. - speeding off. - and speeding off, but she called me a few minutes later and said we're so sorry we had to leave. - right. - mr. trump thinks you do a very good job, and he would love to sit down with you soon. - yeah, he's showing you how much he thinks that, right? - well i yelled, when he called me out i yelled, i yelled at him across the pool, i said "i'm tweeting what you're saying." - oh, that's why he decided that he likes twitter! - i, i guess, i guess. - right, you mentioned tweeting, he thinks you're great now. - and that was, i think that was the last time he liked my twitter. (audience laughing) very serious. i used to get emails from hope saying, "mr. trump thinks your tweets are disgraceful. not nice!" (audience chuckling) and i'm like what? - what? he has time to be looking at my twitter feed. - yes. - so you go ahead to july 8th. - yeah. - you finally get an interview with trump at trump tower. - yeah. - this is your first big interview. - yeah. - and this really is a defining moment, is it not? both in this book and for your relationship.
- absolutely, and for my career, frankly. and my life, really. i walked into trump tower on july 8th, i sat down, i had spent the evening before just studying donald trump, finding out everything i could possibly know about him. that morning i got a pep talk from chuck todd, who's the moderator of "meet the press." he gave me a couple of suggestions for questions, and he gave me a really good reminder. remember, you're with nbc, donald trump is going to go after you. and i said, i presume so, this is a man who's famous for fighting with people across the board room table, and telling them that they're fired. - of course he is. - with that hand movement. - but he's in a relationship with nbc, why would he be so... - he's not in a relationship with nbc because we had just dropped his pageant. - right, and so that was the issue, the issue really had been but was no longer. - that was the issue, that was the issue. he felt like he was being mistreated by the company that he had such a longstanding relationship with. - so, of course he's taking it out on you, that's how it's gonna go. - probably. i think he walked into it thinking that it was gonna be
a different sort of interview, that it would be much fluffier. maybe he thought it would be more of an entertainment style interview, which is i think probably is what he was accustomed to coming from... - yeah. - i guess from nbc. before he had ran for president. - right. - 'cause he was on the apprentice. - part of the network entertainment schedule. - yeah, exactly. who knows, i'm not sure what he thought, but i know that when i sat down and i had my research in front of me, pew statistics that contradicted what he was claiming about immigration and crime. he didn't want to hear it. i mean the second it got out of my mouth, he told me i was naive, and he tried to knock me off my game. and i remember thinking "this is just donald trump, but it's part of his act, it's part of who he is. don't worry about it. just smile." and you can see in my face that entire interview, i'm smiling the entire time. - right. - and he is not, he is very tense and very angry. - right.
- he got me to stumble a couple of times, and i remember i closed my eyes, i kept smiling and then i continued. i didn't think anything of it. and when the interview was over, i got up to shake his hand presuming that we were good, everything was copasetic, and that he would go on his way and i would go on mine. and instead, he starts berating me. he says that we are going to deceptively edit the interview, you better air that entire thing in full. we have cameras in here and if you don't, we will release the full footage. and we will expose you. and i remember thinking what are you talking about? - yeah. - expose me? what should i be worried about? and i don't see any other cameras, and if there was a security camera, how in the world would you get audio from this? and then he started saying, "you will never be president, you can never be president." (loud audience laughter) - really? - yeah! i mean, it's funny now, but at the time it was... - it had to have been bizarro world, right?
- it was bizarre, but it was also a bit intimidating. - right, sure. - why was this man screaming at me, and why is he so angry, and did i do something wrong? did i misremember something that i said? - yeah. - was i incorrect about something, was i offensive? hope hicks said i spoke, i was not polite, i was rude in the questions that i had. he's a presidential candidate, i should have more respect for him and i remember thinking this is the guy that called mexicans coming across the border rapists. i mean, - yeah. - what are you talking about? - did you leave your respect at home that day? - no! - i mean that's exactly it, right? - it wasn't like that, and so i... - but of course, it's journalism. i mean, you did journalism and where you should be celebrated and where i celebrate you in this book, having read this book, is you have nerves of steel. there are instances all throughout this book where other people would have withered, and you didn't. and what got you noticed by nbc and by the rest of the country was your not backing down on that day. right? - i have rhinoceros skin. (chatter) (audience applause)
- and i can give a lot of criticism of the media during the campaign, you and i could debate how much of it is legitimate - yeah. - but i want to give you credit, because i think that was an important thing. so you get through that. - yeah. - and the network sees it, and they think, okay. - they think it's newsy from top to bottom. - right. - let's play this thing in full, and it landed, and people really were noticing not only the interview but donald trump as a candidate and me as a foil i guess. - yeah. - a reporter and a person holding him up, holding up his statements and aligning them with reality. - again, if you care about this stuff at the level of detail that we do, you know that puts and takes of a campaign like this one. - yeah. - you refer, at some point in this book early on, to a campaign manager, and you describe him in an unflattering way physically, and then i'm like who's this, and it's corey lewandowski. and it's in the early part of the campaign, when corey lewandowski was running it, before manafort shows up, right before bannon shows up. i mean, this campaign really changed, it went from being amateur hour to something not like amateur hour.
and he had a really antagonistic relationship with the press. - right. - he wasn't, he wasn't polite, he wasn't friendly, he wasn't professional. - this is the guy who allegedly had grabbed michelle fields' arm? - no, no, it wasn't allegedly, he did. - it happened, yeah. - yeah, he did. he was arrested for it. - right. - he lied about it, multiple times. - yeah. - and in the process of doing so, he impugned a reporter and called her credibility into question. - right. - and so did donald trump, frankly, from stage. and from, in interviews, i asked donald trump about it after a debate, i think it was in miami, it might have been here in texas. forgive my memory, i'm forgetting a couple things. - yeah. - in the book it's lined up. (laughter) - believe me, i had a fact checker make sure everything was right. - oh, i'm sure. - believe me. (audience laughter) - oh, i well, i mean i have no doubt and of course that's something that we haven't talked about yet. - no, but hold on.
- yeah. - so, i was asking about corey lewandowski. - yeah. - and i said if it comes out that this is true - yeah. - that he did grab michelle fields and those bruises are in fact from his hand and she is not lying, will there be consequences? and corey's standing right behind him, believe me it was a very awkward conversation to have. - i can imagine, right, yeah. - and he said "what do you mean? what are you gonna do if it turns out it's not true, are you going to apologize to him?" and i said i will correct the reporting, i will report what we have found. but it's not an apology, she's making these claims, they're investigating it. what are you going to do? he walked away, he didn't have an answer for that. - right. - and so it was found on, i found out later, on camera. - on camera. - the security cameras at his own property which he could have reviewed. - yeah. - that corey lewandowski did do what michelle fields had claimed he did. - right. - he did yank her back. and there weren't any consequences for him, he stayed on the campaign. - and, if you believe people today, although he's not
inside the administration, he continues to be a confidante of the president's. - donald trump likes him because he would say let trump be trump. - yeah. - he would never tell him what to do, and i think it's become abundantly clear from anybody who watches his presidency that he does not like being told what to do. - handled. - handled at all, and that's part of the reason why he chafed up against paul manafort, who was trying to handle him, there were a number of other factors involved, obviously. - right. - but he was trying to get him on message, he was trying to get him to pull away from his more controversial stances, like the muslim ban, and donald trump just felt like he didn't want, he did not want to be told what he should do or what he should say. - you mentioned fact checking. again, we're process people in journalism as much as substance people and i like that fact that in this book you alternate back and forth between moments on the campaign and election day. the chronology is kind of mixed up. - it is. it confuses you the way your brain got confused on the campaign. (laughter)
- well you know, it's fun though because, you know spoiler at the end of this book trump wins, right? (audience laughter) i don't want to ruin it for everybody. - does the titanic sink as well? (laughter) - but, knowing that, you actually are allowing us to look ahead to what's, it's kind of great. also, you mention all the notes you had taken. you did not, you took notes during the campaign, but you had to go rely on the accounts that other people had collected for you to reconstruct the story. - reconstruct certain scenes - yeah. - that i didn't have copious notes for, like what was going on in the hours before the muslim ban was announced? - right, yeah. - what we ordered for lunch at a great place in south carolina. and how we got, when we found out the news, and how we got from the hotel to the venue in the process. just like the nitty gritty details of what it was like day to day. - but important stuff if you're telling a narrative, right? - exactly. - it's important. - important information. - and you said fact checking. - fact checking. - i am assured by you that you fact checked this book. - oh, i fact checked the book, i was neurotic about it. i had, i mean i had... - well he's litigious, right?
i mean... - he's litigious but i'm also, i just want to be right. - yeah. - i mean, regardless of whether or not he's gonna sue me, i want to make sure that i'm right. - yeah. - and i had a stack of reporting notes, it was literally this high, both the notes. 'cause we, i mean, we took, we sent thousands and thousands of e-mails, just about what was happening day to day on the campaign. everything that donald trump said in public, or to me, from june of 2015 to november of 2016 i have a log of. literally, every word that he spoke, which is remarkable. - yeah. - 'cause there are a lot of words. (audience laughing) actually, it's the same like 10 words, just mixed up in different ways. (audience laughing loudly) - tremendous, one. - great, big, beautiful, wonderful, believe me. (laughter) - we're up to seven, okay yeah. so, uh... - mexico. - mexico, would be one. - wall. - surely. (chuckles) surely. let me ask you about journalism generally. i said something about this earlier, that the media gets criticized or has been criticized
for its role in this campaign. do we in this business have anything to answer for? about 2016? - i think we need to go back and consider how we covered it and consider what we could've done better. we didn't talk about policy enough, i think. that's partially, it has a lot to do with the fact that donald trump didn't have a lot of policy, it just wasn't top of the conversation because he was, he was attacking so many people it was hard to keep track of. - do you think that was a deliberate decision on his part, if we don't talk about policy i can continue to distract people with this other stuff? - i'm not sure if it was a deliberate decision, i just don't think he was that interested in it. and i don't say that for laughs, i don't think he was, and i think even today, he's not interested in details. he's not interested in policy, he likes the broad strokes of something. and we see that with healthcare. he's just been for signing a deal more than anything else, he hasn't been so educated on what exactly had been in the various iterations of the republican healthcare plan. - his critics say if you can get him in a room and say
to him, "tell me what's in this bill," he might not even be able to tell you. - no, he couldn't, and we saw, he did interviews. - yeah. - with great journalists who would ask him about what was in the bill, and he talked circles around it, he moves on. he didn't understand what was in healthcare bill. we'll see what he understands or what he knows about the tax plan that they're coming forward with. that might be more up his alley, i'm not so sure. - yeah. - but, i think when we go back and we look at how we covered him, did we air too many rallies? did we properly give time and attention to the other candidates as well? - or did you give too much time and attention to one particular candidate's emails? - or did we, yeah. - you know that's a big criticism. - that's a big criticism, it's a big question. - right. - i didn't cover that side of the campaign, so i don't have, personally don't have all that much to add to that. - yeah. - i do think the one thing that i would like to see done better just in general going forward is,
especially when you're covering politics and presidential campaigns, i want to talk to the people more. i felt that a lot of our, i got frustrated 'cause a lot of the packages, which is a fancy word for the stories we do on nightly news, are more about what donald trump said or did or who he's gone after rather than the voters who were showing up and cheering him on and why they were there. - right. i would like to see more talk about the issues that people are facing in their communities, and how that can convince them to vote for one candidate over another. - who drives that or drove that decision? because theoretically, you could that, i mean that could be something that you did or didn't do. - well, i mean it's a whole process. i mean, at a newspaper, at a magazine, at a network, it's an editorial decision that is made top-down. - right. - and you, you know especially with nightly news, where it's really a difficult format, it's 22 minutes. - right. - i mean, it's a really short format, and you're supposed to get the world's news into that 22 minutes.
so you only get, i mean if you're lucky you get a minute fifty on tape. - you're competing with so much else, right? - you're competing with so much else, you've got to get it all in, and the structure makes it very difficult to tell a detailed, a comprehensive story about any one subject. cable news is wonderful in that respect because you have more time. - yeah. - to get into things, and to do a fact check if you need to, to talk to voters extensively. there's just more freedom and leeway there, but i do think we need to do more of it and part of how we do that is, you know, we rely on ratings. i mean, that's the sad fact of the way our news business works in this country, somebody's gotta pay for it. - yeah. - and, if you, the american people, want to see more of something, you have the authority to do that by changing the channel and demanding to see that.
so i hope that we as a country can come together and find a way to cover, to force the journalists, and force newsrooms to cover more issues as opposed to more personalities. - fluff. so, we have about five minutes left, katy. i would ordinarily ask you why you wanted to be a journalist but i know, because this is a family business. - it is. - yeah, tell me about that. - there's a great chapter, the best chapter i think in the book, this has nothing to do with donald trump, it's about how i was raised. my parents were helicopter journalists in los angeles in the 1990's, and if you turned on a television and saw a pursuit in los angeles, a car pursuit, my mom was hanging out of the helicopter with a camera on her shoulder literally dangling out over the skids. and my dad was flying and reporting. some of the most famous videos that i'm sure you've seen, the o.j. simpson chase, my parents found o.j. - that was team tur. - that was team tur. - of course, i think about that, and i think about the legacy, the great work of your parents at that year,
and i think what is the trump campaign but the simpson chase of this presidential cycle? - yeah, i mean, you could say, you could draw a straight line between what my parents did to what i did, because covering police pursuits, half-jokingly people would say my parents were responsible for the downfall of tv news, because they would cover these police pursuits which were fascinating and riveting, you can't take your eyes off them. - yeah. - but they don't have all that much news value. it was reality show tv news. they did a lot of other incredible things, but that was one of the things that they did. - but really they were pioneers in that respect, right? - they were pioneers in helicopter news gathering. - but they set the tone for a kind of coverage that the news has come more commonly to provide. - yeah. - over the years, we've gotten used to it. - exactly, o.j. being one of the major moments of that, where you were riveted to this trial which was again not a ton of news value, you just riveted to the human drama of it. - right. - it's a celebrity who's accused of brutally murdering his wife and this courtroom drama. that's why they're coming back with dramatized versions
of it in documentaries that have been so popular. - right so a straight line from that to donald trump, who was the pinnacle in a lot of ways. this is a reality show host. - right. - turned presidential candidate who treated his campaign very much like a reality show, not saying who he was going to hire or what decision he was going to make. - wasn't the gorsuch pick presented, yeah? - trying to keep you in suspense. - the gorsuch pick, i seem to remember him setting up like it was the last episode of the bachelor. (audience laughter) - that, and... - tune in to see who... - vice president pence was the same way when he announced him. it was building a sense of drama, making sure that this was going to be the center of attention. donald trump knows one thing really well, and that's how to produce a show. - sure. - and he understands tv production, so when he would say, you know, "you're not turning the cameras," "that camera right there is never turning." he knows full well that camera is never supposed to turn, that camera is a camera that is trained on anybody
who is on a stage so that we can capture everything he says in the moment that he says it. but also if anything happens to him on stage, that camera's going to be sure to get it. everybody else, it's one camera at the pool goes to everybody, everybody else has their own cameras. abc, cbs, nbc, cnn, fox news, - right. - all of the local affiliates, and those cameras are turning this way and that constantly. - and he knows. - you could see it! - yeah. - then people would turn around and boo at cameras that were looking at them. - how many times have we heard him say they'll never show you the crowd size, and you're watching cnn showing the crowd size. - or cnn won't air this 'cause i'm, cnn turned off their cameras because i'm saying negative things about them. - [both] if you're watching it on cnn. (audience laughing loudly) - exactly. well i must say, katy, i don't know what i'm gonna do, the presidency as cliffhanger, right? - yeah. - i mean, if we're gonna talk about drama. ah, congratulations. - thank you, evan. - katy tur, thank you so much, my pleasure. love it. (applause) - [narrator] we'd love to have you join us in the studio. visit our website at klru dot org slash overheard
to find invitations to interviews, q and as with our audience and guests, and archived past episodes. - because donald trump did as well as he did, that's the reason why i was on your television screen every single day. but i think that afforded me the great opportunity to do good journalism. more than anything else, it gave me the chance to shed light on him, to correct him, to fact check him, to contextualize him. - [announcer] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation, hillco partners, atexas government affairs consultancy. and by claire and carl stuart. (ethereal music)
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