With the anniversary of election night approaching, Esquire magazine tracked down more than 40 people, most of them media personalities, to ask what they remember of election night. Their answers revealed just how far President Trump came from ever getting a fair shake from them.
Ana Marie Cox said as results started coming in and people at the networks started to realize Clinton might be in trouble, she did a couple of on-camera news hits “where I was told, ‘What you need to do here is tell people not to panic.’ Meanwhile, I was panicking.”
Later in the night, she talked herself out of falling off the wagon, which wasn’t easy considering the meltdown she and her friends were having. She tweeted to fellow AA members to “get through this 24 hours and get to a meeting. We are not alone.”
“A Muslim colleague of mine called his mother,” Cox said. “She was worried he was going to be the victim of violence at any moment. A colleague who is gay and married was on the phone with her wife saying, ‘They’re not going to take this damn ring away from me.’”
Rebecca Traister the New Yorker was freaking out as well.
“I was thinking everything from, ‘I’m gonna have to rewrite my piece,” to, ‘Can we stay in the U.S.?’ I texted my husband, ‘Tell Rosie to go to bed. I don’t want her to watch.’”
David Remnick of the New Yorker had a story written that said Clinton won, which is common practice. He had also written an essay about the first woman president and the historical background of it all … a historical essay, clearly written in a mood of ‘at long last,’ and yes, celebration.
Moreover, he did not hedge his bets. Neither he nor anyone on the staff he leads had anything ready to go in case Trump won.
“The mood in the offices, I would say, was frenetic,” Remnick said.
As things began to go south, Remnick, while out at a friend’s election-night party, found a corner of a room, pulled out his laptop and started “thinking and writing.” That work turned into “An American Tragedy,” a long piece he wrote for the magazine. Jelani Cobb, a colleague, asked him whether he should leave the country.
“He wasn’t kidding around. I could tell that from his voice,” he said.
Van Jones said he remembers coining a phrase that night that he didn’t make up. It was his wife, who is white, who came up with the word “whitelash” to describe what they expected from Trump supporters.
Reza Aslan said he remembers his wife, in tears, waking him up at 1 or 2 a.m. to tell him Trump had won.
“My poor, sweet wife,” Azlan said. “She wanted to hug and kiss me, but I went into a panic attack and couldn’t breathe.”
As time wore on and the networks refused to call the race, Nate Silver said he thought that would not have happened if Clinton had been leading as expected.
“In some ways, the slowness to call it reflected the stubbornness the media had the whole time about realizing that, actually, it was a pretty competitive election.”
Symone Sanders said she still “couldn’t believe it was happening. When he talked about us coming together and healing for the country, I wanted to throw up in my mouth.”
Given their quotes, it is not surprising coverage of Trump has been so negative. Reporters talked themselves into being frightened to tears of him even taking office, and they’ve convinced themselves since the situation is still as dire.
“We agreed that night, and we agree today, that the Trump presidency is an emergency,” Remnick said. “And in an emergency, you’ve got a purpose, a job to do, and ours is to put pressure on power. That’s always the highest calling of journalism, but never more so than when power is a constant threat to the country and in radical opposition to its values and its highest sense of self.”