Karl Podcast: Front Row at the Trump Show

podcastlogoFor this bonus episode of the Journalism History podcast, host Teri Finneman speaks with Jonathan Karl about his book Front Row at the Trump Show.

Jonathan Karl is ABC News Chief Washington correspondent and co-anchor of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” He is also the former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

Transcript

Jonathan Karl: I knew that we were witnessing something unlike anything we had ever seen before in American political history and, I mean, I would think anything that we’ll ever see again.

Teri Finneman: Welcome to Journalism History, a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to reexamine the stories you thought you knew, and the ones you were never told. I’m Teri Finneman, and I research media coverage of women in politics.

Nick Hirshon: And I’m Nick Hirshon, and I research the history of New York sports media.

Ken Ward: And I’m Ken Ward, and I research the journalism history of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains.

Teri Finneman: And together we are professional media historians guiding you through our own drafts of history. Transcripts of the show are available at journalism-history.org/podcast. This episode is sponsored by Taylor & Francis, the publisher of our academic journal Journalism History.

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 The presidency of Donald Trump, whether you love him or hate him, will be discussed and debated by historians for decades to come, but it’s not just political history that’s at stake here. What’s just as important is this period in journalism history, an examination of the media that covered the Trump administration, and what we can learn for the future.

 We have a very special guest with us today, Jonathan Karl, the chief White House correspondent for ABC News during the Trump administration. His book, Front Row at the Trump Show, is now out in paperback and recently hit the New York Times best seller list. His book is available wherever books are sold, including at Politics and Prose in Washington D.C. Today’s show is being taped before a live audience.

 Jon, welcome to the show. Your book certainly isn’t the first time a journalist has written about their experience covering the White House, and others in the Washington press corps –

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have also written about the Trump administration. So tell us why you wanted to write this book, and what makes it unique from the others.

Jonathan Karl: Well, I wanted to write a book that would convey what it was like, what this experience was like. I knew that we were witnessing something unlike anything we had ever seen before in American political history, and, I mean, I would think anything that we’ll ever see again. That remains to be seen obviously.

And I had a unique vantage point because I had both covered the White House as a full-time assignment both for the entirety of Barack Obama’s second term, and for the entirety of the – of Trump’s time in office, but I’d also known Donald Trump longer than any other person in the White House who wasn’t related to him. That included all the other reporters, anybody that was working for him.

because I had –

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first met him and interviewed him back in, in the 1990s, 1994 when I was a reporter for the New York Post and he was actually a – could be a rather accessible source and I had some, some, some unique experiences with him back in those days, and I never imagined he would become president.

I also was among the first reporters to interview him as he — as the 2016 cycle came around. I actually went to Iowa with him in 2013. That’s two years before he came down the escalator and announced he was running for, for president, so, so I had a unique vantage point, and, and I wanted to write a book that had some staying power.

There were many, many books written about Trump and the Trump White House, obviously, but I wanted to write a –

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book that somebody could read 10, 20, 30 years from now when they came along – somebody came along and said, “What the hell was that all about?” I wanted somebody to be able to say, “Hey, read this book and you’ll understand.”

Um, so it wasn’t meant to be a polemic about Trump. I was certainly not there to defend him, and I wasn’t really there to — to attack him. I mean I was there to describe the experiences and describe, from my vantage point, what this whole era has been like.

Teri Finneman: So let’s talk about 2016 and the presidential campaign. You wrote that CNN and other mainstream news organizations found his candidacy irresistible for the same reasons that many of their viewers did. He was unconventional, unpredictable, and far more interesting than the all too conventional, predictable, and dull candidates he was running against. The New York Times –

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noted in 2016 that Trump received $2 billion worth of free media. So one of the criticisms of the Washington press is that it spends too much time chasing the sensational sound bite. Do you think Donald Trump still would have won the Republican nomination if not for the press corps giving him that much air time? So, in other words, what role do you think the media played in the making of the presidency of Donald Trump?

Jonathan Karl: I mean the honest answer is probably not. Um, I – and I think you have to kind of look at the coverage of Trump as a candidate in, in two different kind of parts of the campaign. There was the early build up, there was when he first announced and before the Republican primaries. And I think that was the period where Trump received vastly inordinate coverage.

 And, and, and it’s really – I mean, I think we also, to be specific, what do we mean by the –

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media? I mean you guys are journalism – ah, you know, you guys know journalism, you guys know journalism history. I mean one thing that drives me crazy people will go, “The media did this, and the media -” “Well which media? Are we talking about NPR, are we talking about the Wall Street Journal, are we talking about MSNBC, are we talking about OAN? What, what are we talking about? What’s the media?”

So – but I’ll be specific, cable news. Um, and actually not Fox but really CNN, and, and to a degree MSNBC, but really CNN found that, that there was a certain high to get from just covering his rallies night after night after night. Now, by the way, this stopped really once the Republican primaries were underway, so — but the, the place where it was so dominant was in those – in those months he declares in the summer, July of 2015.

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And CNN would, would, would carry his rallies from beginning to end, and sometimes have live images while the anchors talked, and the panelists talked of the empty podium at Trump events, we’re waiting for Donald Trump. Um, and then in terms of other, other aspects of the media during this period, it wasn’t like he was getting massively – you know, massive amounts of coverage even in network news, although we covered quite a bit or, or in – or in the main national newspapers.

I think in some ways there was maybe too little coverage because there wasn’t much investigative coverage of Donald Trump as a candidate that you would normally see with, with the major candidates. We – every, every major news organization, as, as you all know, has investigative teams, and before a campaign they kind of like look through,

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“Okay what are we going to – you know, what’s the Jeb Bush angle? We’re going to have – we’re going to look in his time as governor, we’re going to look into what he was doing here, we’re going to – what’s going on with Scott Walker? We’re going to go -” you know, and you – and you have all the – you know, all the Republican candidates and on the Democratic side when you’re – and you think what, what are the key areas to kind of, you know, dig into?

Well, I would bet you that there wasn’t much discover – much discussion in those first few months of, of his campaign about what to investigate about Donald Trump, and the simple reason was most people didn’t take him seriously as a candidate even though from very early on he was leading in the polls. Um, you know, people thought, “Ah, that’s a name thing.” You know, they recognize the name, but that’s not going to last.

I’ll tell you, the American Bridge, which is the — was run by David Brock, was very close to the Clintons as kind of a leading opposition research vehicle for

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for, for Democrats. Really for Hillary Clinton, but for Democrats. American Bridge produced a book, which I have. I don’t have it on my shelf here, it’s in my office at the bureau, about all of the Republican potential candidates in 2016, and all their kind of initial read on opposition research.

It’s a hard cover, it’s like a very slickly produced book. The amazing thing is that they have like 20 candidates they look at. Some – a couple of them didn’t end up running. There’s no chapter for Donald Trump. He’s not even listed. He’s not even listed.

So I mean, he wasn’t really seen that seriously, and I think that by the time we really dug in, we meaning the — largely as news organizations and reporters into, “Well, let’s look into his – you know, the modeling agency. Let’s look into, you know, his bankruptcies, let’s dig in on this, let’s dig in on that.” You know,

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he was already a juggernaut.

Teri Finneman: So let’s talk more about his complicated relationship with the press. Ah, he wants to be featured in the media, but you note in your book that he has no appreciation for or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy. You call his relationship with media a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine.

So how much of his enemy of the people and fake news rhetoric do you think he personally believed versus it being a sound bite to rile up his base?

Jonathan Karl: Well, I don’t think that Donald Trump is particularly strategic about anything, but I think that one thing that he is actually strategic about, close to, is, is, is his criticism of the press as a – as a – as an effort to undermine a potential source of criticism.

I mention something he said to Lesley Stahl when Lesley Stahl did,

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did the first big interview with, with Trump after he was elected, or one of the first big interviews, 60 Minutes, and she didn’t put this in the 60 Minutes piece, but, but she talked about it later.

She said that in, in some of the conversations that she had with him leading up to, to the interview, she – you know, Trump had just done a speech and gone off on this, the liberal press, liberal press, blah, blah, blah and she said to him – you know, Lesley Stahl’s kind of, you know, she’s been around. She’s seen all this for a long time. She says, “Come on, why do you say that? You know, it’s – you know, I mean your attacks on the press. It’s getting old. It’s tired. It’s – why do you say that?”

And, and he – according to Lesley Stahl, Trump responded by saying, “I do it so they won’t take you seriously if you do a critical story on me.” And that makes sense actually. You know, he – Steve Bannon did an interview with the New York Times a couple of weeks –

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into the Trump presidency. The New York Times, by the way, the New York Times. Um, and he said, “You know, we view the press as the opposition party.”

I thought it was kind of interesting that he said that to the New York Times, which then dutifully reported the story just as that — accurately and fairly depicting what this chief strategist at the – for the new president at the White House had said. And Trump like within a day or two started to, to use that phrase himself, the opposition party.

I recount this in, in the book. I saw Bannon and I remember the event. It was — it was actually the – it was in the East Room. It was  the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and I saw Bannon after the event had broken up. I stuck around for a little bit and, and I went over to him.

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And I said, you know, the opposition party, what’s that all about? And, and he said to me that, “Ah, I think you guys are actually doing a pretty good job, you know, but sure, you’re basically” I’m paraphrasing, he said, “Basically you’re a much better enemy for us, a much better target for us than the Democrats because everybody dislikes the media. Everybody dislikes. And, you know, with the Democrats, we actually want to get – you know, we want to get some of the union worker [support], so, so you’re a cleaner thing for us to attack.”

So I mean this, this was from the very beginning and, and I think there was some strategy behind it, and there isn’t often much strategy behind what they were doing.

Teri Finneman: As far as the presidency, your book talks about the chaos of covering the administration. And there were, of course, the constant tweets, but you also write about White House staff who were often blindsided themselves by sudden changes in policies –

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and plans. So with this constant speed of information, what was the most difficult part or difficult moment of covering this administration?

Jonathan Karl: Well, I – that whole – the whole first few months were just exhausting, and you were – you were worried that you were missing things because they, again, strategically, this was also a Bannon thing. Thought if they just, just flood the world with activity and information, and, you know, crazy controversial statements here, and controversial policies here, that there’s no way that we would be able to focus on all of it, and, and he was right. I mean there’s only so much we can focus on, and, and it was a challenge.

I, in those early days, kind of said out to my team at ABC that our strategy should be to focus on what this administration is doing, not –

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so much on what they’re saying. I mean, you have to focus on what the president says. He’s the president, but, but don’t get, you know, don’t become consumed with the latest crazy thing that he says or the crazy tweet but focus on what they’re actually doing, the stuff that actually matters in people’s lives.

And I’ll give you an example where to, to – that illustrates just how hard this was to actually do. I mean it’s an easy thing in principle and then – ah, he, one day, you know had this crazy attack, you guys probably remember, on Mika Brzezinski. He said that, that she and Joe Scarborough had come down to Mar-a-Lago.

You know, they, they had been friendly to Trump and then they turned on him quite, quite hard. And, and he tweeted that she had like blood in her, you know, from her plastic surgery or something in her – I mean it was like – it was an outrageous personal attack on Mika Brzezinski.

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And it, it happened in the morning, and I got on our like morning editorial call. I said, “Listen, we are not going to report on this. First of all, if I do a report – look at this outrageous thing he did, by definition I’m going to be showing the outrageous thing he said and I’m going to be furthering this personal attack.” Um, and I said, “And besides, it’s not important. I mean it’s outrageous that he did this to an individual, but it’s like there’s all this other stuff going on.”

And, you know, as I was like making this case later in the morning just ignore it, ignore it, ignore it. Like the whole big news alerts go out, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, you know, criticizes Trump for this. So now you have a story where the Republican speaker of the House from the, you know, taking on this newly elected, you know, Republican president, and I –

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lost control. We had to do a story on it. I mean, it was like what can you do? It was like the thing all – everybody in Washington was talking about, it dominated everything.

You know, and then – I mean what … you know. So, they were – that was the challenge. It was a – it was a challenge to say let’s, let’s, let’s look at what’s actually happening, what the policies are and what they mean for people. And we did a lot of that, too. I’m not saying we – but I’m saying that it was – it was – the challenge, the biggest challenge was to keep from being distracted.

Teri Finneman: Were there any good parts of, of covering this? You know, what were some highlights for you of being a White House correspondent during this time?

Jonathan Karl: The single best thing about being a White House correspondent during this time was I’d been in and out of the White House under four different presidents. Um, I guess had full time [under Trump] and all the second half of Obama, but I – you know, I did stints under, under Bush –

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and under Clinton as well.

And I had never experienced something where it felt like virtually everybody in the country, if not the world, was focused on the stuff I was reporting on. I don’t mean my reports personally, but I mean the White House. Everybody was following the drama in the West Wing. And I – my kids, my younger daughter was still in high school, would come home with her friends and they would start peppering me with questions.

Like that doesn’t happen. When does that happen, you know? When do – you know, I mean maybe me as a high school student, but like that’s not normal. When did all that – um, but everybody, you know, wherever you’d go, people wanted to talk about it, and people knew, you know, people were reading newspapers or watching television news, or were paying attention.

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So you felt that, you know, it kind of – it kind of heightened the responsibility to me because I mean – and then there were just, just, just the fact that it was so unpredictable what was going to happen. The White House is – somebody once told me — David Bloom of NBC I remember telling me that it’s, ah – I think he put it, it’s like the – it’s the best beat in Washington for anybody who hasn’t done it.

But like – but once you – once you’re there, it’s actually — it’s kind of – you know, it’s a tough beat to break news usually, everything is kind of stage managed and – you know, and you have world events that come through, but, but in terms of this – the policies that are emanating from the White House, they go through these tedious processes and, you know.

And, and, and, you know, it, it can be –

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it’s a very – it’s always an important beat, but it can sometimes in truth be a rather dull beat as a reporter, a frustrating beat as a reporter because all of the – there’s so much news that’s kind of –  they attempt to spoon feed you and it’s hard to get beyond that.

Well, with Trump, there was like – it was like you had no idea from minute to minute what the hell was going to happen, and as a reporter, you know, that’s, that’s news.

Teri Finneman: So certainly every president throughout history has been known to push the truth. The Washington Post Fact Checker found that Trump made over 30,000 false or misleading claims over four years. So talk about the juggle that the Washington press had. There was a lot of discussion about this, about objectivity versus truth, and how to handle putting the misinformation out there or not. How did that conversation go, how did you handle that?

Jonathan Karl: Well, we all spent a heck of a lot more time on fact checking than, than we had ever done. I mean I –

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– yes, every White House, you know, spins and, you know, and, and many White Houses, many, many, many White Houses have said things that were – that were – that were untrue. Ah, you know, I mean, I remember the 2002 address to the joint session by George W. Bush where he talked about Iran. Ah, you know, British Intelligence had said, you know, found that Iran tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger.

And that whole – that sentence, which was actually a true sentence, British Intelligence did find that, but it was also a not true fact. The – Iran did not try to get yellowcake uranium and it became part of the, oh, you know, weapons of mass destruction thing.

But I mean that – the fact that the president of the United States put something in a – in a speech to the Joint Session of Congress that was not true. Underlying fact, it was not true,

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it had not been properly vetted, became this massive controversy that consumed Washington, you know, rightfully so given the consequences.

Well, Trump lied all the time. I mean, and not just mischarac – I mean, way more brazenly than, than anything in, included in that sentence, whether in a State of the Union, or in a tweet, or in a press conference, or in something he says when he’s getting on a helicopter or in a speech. I mean it was constant.

Um, so I mean what we do as journalists is, is I think our responsibility is to be accurate and to pursue the truth, to be accurate to the best of our abilities. I think it – I think there is also a corollary to be fair. But fair doesn’t mean you’re being like, “Well, you know, there was a lie here,

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but there’s, you know, but and -” and the lie is not equal to, to the fact. The fact takes precedent because the – because the primary responsibility is accuracy and pursuit of the truth.

And I think what you’re alluding to is, is there became a time as, as certainly as 2020 rolled around, where – and certainly during the post-election period, where actually it was irresponsible to broadcast the words of the president of the United States because they were intentionally and dangerously misleading people. And you could play what he said and come out at me and my voice and say, “Well, actually that’s wrong, da, da, da, da,” but his words speak so loudly.

To, to do another Lesley Stahl comparison, Lesley Stahl famously, you know, talked to – about Reagan and about how she had done a story about Reagan using the imagery of the American flag in an –

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empty way, and, you know, kind of wrapping himself around the flag. And, and – the story included visits by Reagan to a flag factory and all the shots of him, you know, with all the, the images of patriotism. And her story was actually negative. It was like while he’s doing that, you know, it’s distracting from X, Y and Z.

And she got a call afterwards from Michael Deaver, you know, Reagan’s, Reagan’s, ah – well, you guys will all know this because you’re [inaudible]. But, you know, Deaver thanked her for the story. We loved the imagery.

I kind of felt – I thought of that when, you know, when we were trying to debate how do you handle it when the president says something completely and totally outrageous and false. Do you play the sound bite and then come out and say why it’s not true, or is that just – is, is the act of playing the sound bite furthering the lie?

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And it – and it was a tough call and sometimes we didn’t play it, particularly, as I said, when it got to all these, you know, the lies about election fraud.

Teri Finneman: So one thing I really want to fit in here, because I don’t think a lot of members of the general public know this, but you were also president of the White House Correspondents Association during the Trump presidency from 2019 to 2020. So what were your main issues in that role?

Jonathan Karl: Well, we twice went to court against the, the Trump White House. Once when I was the vice president of the correspondents association, that’s what I had the year before I became president, and then once when I was president. In both cases when the – when the White House tried to revoke credentials and deny access to the White House grounds to reporters that they had problems with.

 And we had two Amicus briefs written by George Lehner who was our,

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our counsel. You know, basically our, our pro-bono counsel at the WHCA. I think these are two really important documents. And it – I would actually would love – Teri, maybe we could distribute the, these to everybody on, on, on the call.

It’s very powerful statements because there is – it’s actually – you know, it’s a little bit dicey. There’s – we all know what the first – there’s First Amendment, but what we argued, and I think argued successfully and we – and we – or decided we were advocating prevailed in both cases was it’s – it is a violation of the First Amendment to pick and choose which journalist you were going to allow access to the president and to White House grounds, you know, based on you know, some kind of an editorial decision.

Um, and it’s a tough case because it, it hadn’t been actually – there’s actually very little case law on this,

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but I think these were very, very powerful documents making, making the case that we stood for with every – everything in our being to fight for this. I mean I was in the White House press secretary’s office the day after they took Jim Acosta’s credentials away from him.

And the deputy chief of staff for communications, Bill Shine, was in there, and then Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was in there, and it was – it was the most contentious meeting that I had ever had with a – with a press secretary. Um, and they were – they were absolutely not backing down, and they were – and they were saying that they were never going to allow Acosta anywhere near the White House.

They weren’t going to allow him anywhere near events when the president traveled internationally. They were just going to lock him out as punishment for what – the way he behaved

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in the previous day’s press conference, and that they were going to use that, you know, and then they could do that with anybody else. I mean they, they, they outlined a situation where, ultimately, they could have had, you know, 40 reporters from OAN, Newsmax, Fox News, you know, the Washington Examiner just, just outlets that agreed with or supported the president.

Um, and I saw it as an existential crisis for, for the White House press, and that was – that was really the dominant issue for me in my time as president until COVID-19 hit. And then we had to figure out how we could continue to cover the most important stories many of us believed in our lifetimes and do it safely and not put ourselves and our –

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families in jeopardy covering a White House that, by the way, was quickly apparent wasn’t taking the threat seriously, and I mean the threat inside the White House.

We quickly got together and limited the number of reporters in briefings. Can you imagine how hard that is? I mean, you guys are – you guys are journalism professors. You know what this is like. Imagine being head of an organization that, that its purpose, most important purpose is expanding access to now denying access.

So we had to figure a way to do it fairly and get every – all different news organizations represented, but realizing that because of the demands of social distancing that if we had a packed briefing room, you know, people were going to get sick and the next day there was going to be nobody in that briefing room.

Um, so that became the biggest challenge that – ah,

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that I faced. And at first, I actually worked hand-in-hand with the with, with Trump’s then press secretary, Stephanie Grisham. Never did a briefing, but she did work with us on this. But that quickly fell apart and I mean you’ll have to – we’ll get together with the next books deal with some of this, but they – I mean they were ready to, to take control of who had access to the briefings because they hated what I was doing, and, and they – and they threatened and they threatened to come out with their own like seating chart and their own who was going to be in there and they never followed through. I think they did – we had already beaten them in court twice, and we would have gone to court a third time.

It was intense. It was really intense. And I was also covering — that wasn’t my permanent job. That was like a sideline job. I was covering all of this as a reporter for ABC while I was representing the, you know, the press corps on this. And it was – it’s making me exhausted just thinking about it again.

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Teri Finneman: So you’ve mentioned a few press secretaries. Ah, throughout your career you’ve worked with over a dozen press secretaries across four presidents. What do you think should be the relationship between the press secretary and the press, and how have you seen that relationship change over time?

Jonathan Karl: Well, I think the relationship was best described in – in the way it should be by Mike McCurry, who was one of Bill Clinton’s press secretaries, and McCurry offered an analogy in describing the role. He pointed out that the White House press secretary’s office is exactly at the midpoint between the Oval Office and the briefing room.

It’s basically you could go up about 20 or so steps and, and walk into the press secretary’s office. You had 20 or so steps in the other direction you’re walking right into the Oval Office. And what McCurry said is,

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first of all, and I think this is very important, the White House press secretary is a public servant. This is not a campaign press secretary. This is not a Republican or Democratic Party press secretary. This is a public servant that is speaking on behalf of the federal government of the United States, the executive branch of the federal government of the United States.

So this is – there are – there are certain obligations that come with that that don’t come with any other, you know, press secretary job. Um, and the press secretary has to convey to the press corps, and by extension the American people, what the, you know, the positions and policies of the president, but also to advocate to the president and to the senior White House staff on behalf of the press corps because that is the person that we go to to ask for, for to ask for access.

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Every foreign trip, for example, I would go in – the White House Correspondents Association goes in and talks about what is going to be open for coverage, where the reporters are going to be able to go, what, you know, is there going to be a press conference? We – this is kind of a negotiation and we advocate, of course, for the maximum transparency and openness. And they push back and, you know, and they ultimately have the power, but we have – we have the – you know, we have something of a moral authority and we’re also, you know, we’ll make an issue out of it if, if they’re cutting things off.

Um, so you expect the press secretary to go back and to advocate on behalf of, of openness and transparency. That did not happen for the last four years, needless to say.

Teri Finneman: On January 6, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol resulting in deaths and injuries as –

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members of Congress were counting electoral votes after months of misinformation that the presidential election was stolen. What was it like as a member of the press corps? I know that you’ve covered Congress yourself, what was it like for you that day?

Jonathan Karl: I think Congress was the best beat I ever covered. I mean I was up there for several years for CNN, and I was back up there years after that for, for ABC, so no beat have I covered longer or I think with more passion than, than Capitol Hill, and I loved being in that building. I always felt it was kind of sacred ground.

 Um, it never once did it ever stop to amaze me, you know, looking up at that dome as I, you know, as I walked in. I mean, it was always – I always felt like an amazing feeling of privilege to be able to, to cover what happens in there and to be able to go to work there. I thought it was a tremendous,

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you know, tremendous place to be.

So I was horrified and at times kind of fighting back tears as I was – as I was part of our ongoing coverage on ABC, which I was originally doing. I wasn’t up on the Hill. I was originally doing it from our – from our bureau, from our studio at our bureau, and then I moved over to the White House as it was clearer what the hell was going on.

Um, and, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s maddening to see some people now try to already do revisionist history and to suggest that well, they really weren’t all that violent, and most of them were just kind of walking through and – I mean it, it was horrific to see that, to see those – to see those people break into the Senate floor and start rifling through desks and climbing up and sitting in the –

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presiding officer’s chair and saying, “What are we going to do now?”

You know, I mean it was like – and, and it would have been horrific to see it during any time, but the fact that it was happening as they were counting electoral votes, that it was literally an effort to stop the peaceful transition of power, which I think is the kind of defining – the crown jewel of American democracy, is the – no matter how – you know, you have — the campaigns can be brutal, and, and then when they’re over, the loser walks out and the winner walks in.

I mean, you know, it was – it was horrific, and it was especially horrific that there was no effort from the White House to stop any of it. I mean, regardless or not, you would think that those people were specifically incited because of the speech that morning. Some were, some weren’t.

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Regardless what you think about that, it’s like what, what – how come there was no effort to stop it?

Teri Finneman: So I believe you’re working on another book called The Aftermath. What is your next project about?

Jonathan Karl: That’s the working title, and it’s about the events of the – of the past year. Um, so my – in my paperback, I got my publisher to allow me to give a little bit of an expanded afterward. I did write about some, some of the key moments of 2020. Ah, it’s really, I mean, a few crazy things that I learned about and, and in one case witnessed directly because I wanted it – you know, I wanted the paperback to at least reflect this unbelievable year.

 And then as we were going to press, January 6 happened so I, I did kind of a stop the presses moment with my publisher and I – and I also added an author’s note to,

[0:38:00]

to reflect to that, but, but I just scratched the surface. Um, so I am taking time to go through and, and tell the story of 2020 and the events that led up to January 6.

And I have been able to speak with an unbelievable number of people that I was not – the kind of people I – I mean way beyond what I was able to do in the first book. I mean I’ve spoken to much of the – of the Trump cabinet. I actually went down to Mar-a-Lago a few weeks ago, believe it or not, and, and had a rather surreal – you know, an interview with, with Donald Trump for the book, just for the book.

Teri Finneman: Ooo. That is a major teaser here.

Jonathan Karl: Yeah. And, and I am – I’m learning – I’m learning a heck of a lot about all that went down. And so The Aftermath is the working title. We’ll see where we –

[0:39:00]

actually land, but I’m very focused on all of that.

Teri Finneman: So as somebody who has seen some of the most incredible history in, in your career, we always ask our guests as the final question of the show, why does journalism history matter?

Jonathan Karl: Well, I think it matters because journalism’s been a big part of, of, of the evolution of our country. Um, and, you know, obviously the kind of – the kind of journalistic values that we hold dear now were not always there, just like our – the promise of our country wasn’t there.

I mean those — the idea of a – of a fair and balanced press corps dedicated to the truth and, and, and not taking sides and – that was not exactly the reality of the newspapers of James Madison’s time,

[0:40:00]

you know? Um, and so I – so I think that the story of journalism is, is, is in part the story of America.

Teri Finneman: Okay, well thanks so much for joining us today.

Jonathan Karl: Thank you.

Teri Finneman: Thanks for tuning in, and be sure to follow us on Twitter at jhistoryjournal. If you like our podcast leave us a rating and a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Until next time I’m your host Teri Finneman signing off with the words of Edward R. Murrow, good night and good luck.

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