NBC News Correspondent Katy Tur came to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute on Oct. 18 discuss her new book, “Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History” alongside WBUR’s Robin Young, who facilitated the conversation.
In her memoir, Tur describes what it was like to be the first reporter assigned to cover now-President Donald Trump's campaign trail. She described her experience as “a push-and-pull relationship.” Trump would berate her on stage, while behind stage, would act friendly and charming. Tur stated that she thought "he felt like if he could charm [her], he could get better coverage out of [her]. When he realized he couldn’t, he would then go on the attack.”
Tur also talked about what Trump’s appeal was to his supporters, how they had backed other politicians, and yet felt like their lives were not changing all that much. The supporters believed that having Donald Trump from outside the political world, saying all the things they think or say privately, and being unapologetic for it—with confidence—meant that he could do it. Tur also mentioned that these people also believed that even if he was terrible and has no idea what he was doing, maybe “he’ll throw a bomb into the system and see what happens next.”
As the 2016 campaign progressed, Trump rallies grew more rowdy. There was a noticeable change in his rallies after a certain point. When his supporter entered every Trump rally Tur attended, it was like “all of the social standards were shaken off.” Racist, xenophobic and sexist things could be said without any consequences. She had witnessed one of his supporters shouting, “Assassinate that bitch,” referring to Hillary Clinton, and yet not a single person around would reprimand the speaker. She also mentioned “you can't paint an entire group of supporters with a broad brush and call them deplorable, a bunch of racist, xenophobic, misogynistic people. They are a group of people who are from different socioeconomic backgrounds who had lived their life politely (outside of Trump’s rallies).”
The conversation then led to someone asking whether the press can boycott the President of the United States. Tur explained that reporters cannot boycott the democratically-elected President of the United States, even if he is not well-liked, stating, “We have a service to everybody in this land to cover the president, who affects you every single day.” This discussion led to whether the President intentionally attacks the credibility of the press to rally his base, the public nature of going after specific reporters from his rally stage, and Trump encouraging the crowd to turn on the press. Tur recollected a conversation she had with someone, asking if Trump had knowledge of potentially putting reporters in real danger. The person responded, “He knows and doesn’t care about it.”
The talk ended with a discussion of her personal struggle on the road to journalism and how someone can still get into the field in today’s climate.