Journalists Retell Their Election Night Horror Stories

'People were throwing up. People were on the floor crying'

Hillary Clinton makes a concession speech after being defeated by Republican president-elect Donald Trump / Getty Images

Hillary Clinton makes a concession speech after being defeated by Republican President-elect Donald Trump / Getty Images

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Reporters, editors, and other members of the media are reliving their election night horror stories in a new exclusive detailing what journalists and figures in the presidential campaigns themselves experienced on the night of Nov. 8, 2016.

Esquire interviewed 40 people who either covered or worked on one of the campaigns during the 2016 presidential election. The individuals gave their personal stories about the unexpected election of President Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton. Most of the reporters and editors who were interviewed expressed shock and horror at Trump's upset victory.

Here are some of their stories.

Rebecca Traister, writer at large for New Yorker Magazine, shared her feelings on being confident about a Clinton victory and how she subsequently felt "so alone" when it was apparent that Clinton would lose. She also observed Clinton supporters throwing up and crying on the floor, according to Esquire, which recounted the progression of her thoughts throughout the night.

They were serving, like, $12 pulled pork sandwiches [at the Javits Center]. It was nuts, people were bouncing off the walls. Everyone genuinely believed she was going to win. I don't know if it made me feel more confident or not.

I felt so alone, I knew it was done. I was by myself on the floor. I started to cry.

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."

People were throwing up. People were on the floor crying.

In the cab home, the cabbie had on the news, that's when I heard his acceptance speech, and I said, "Can you turn it off?" I couldn't hear his voice. I was like, "I can't listen to his voice for the next four years."

I got back to Park Slope, I went to check on the girls. When I went to say goodnight, I looked at Rosie, and I had this conscious thought that this is the day that will divide our experience of what is possible. This is the day where a limitation is reinforced for her.

MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff said his thoughts changed from not believing Trump could win to "totally" believing Trump could win.

"I went from this feeling of, ‘Oh my god, wow. I can't believe it,' to, in a matter of seconds, ‘Oh, whoa, I can totally believe it,'" Soboroff said.

 

"Crooked Media" podcast host and former senior political correspondent for MTV News Ana Marie Cox recalled how some of her friends worried about their future.

"A Muslim colleague of mine called his mother. She was worried he was going to be the victim of violence at any moment," Cox said. "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.'"

Editor of the New Yorker David Remnick discussed his sudden revelation that journalists need to "put pressure on power," once Trump was elected.

Not only did I not have anything else ready, I don't think our site had anything, or much of anything, ready in case Trump won. The mood in the offices, I would say, was frenetic.

That night I went to a friend's election-night party. As Clinton's numbers started to sour, I took my laptop out, got a chair, found a corner of that noisy room, and started thinking and writing. That was what turned out to be "An American Tragedy."

[…]

Jelani [Cobb] and I spoke around midnight. We were both, let's put it this way, in the New Yorker mode of radical understatement, disappointed. Jelani's disappointment extended to his wondering whether he should actually leave the country. He wasn't kidding around. I could tell that from his voice.

We agreed that night, and we agree today, that the Trump presidency is an emergency. 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 itself.

Jelani Cobb, a writer for the New Yorker, was discomforted by the New York Time‘s headline "Trump Triumphs."

"I saw the New York Times headline and I was very discomforted by it," Cobb said. "For one, I knew that I had a child on the way."

U.S. news editor for BuzzFeed News Shani O. Hilton remembered how quiet the train was from Brooklyn the night of the election.

"You get on the train from Brooklyn. It's silent. And not in the normal way of people not talking to each other. It felt like an observable silence," Hilton said. "I saw at least three people sitting by themselves, just weeping silently."

New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro went home and questioned whether he should change jobs.

"I went home and woke up my husband, I think it was 4 or 5 in the morning, and asked him what the next steps should be journalistically. Should I move to Washington? Should I change jobs?" Barbaro said. "It was pretty disorienting."

Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel opined that most of the people he saw at an Atlanta airport who looked like him—"a white dude with a mustache, fairly bloated by the campaign"—voted for Trump who, as far as they knew, was a a "bigot."

"I was connecting through the Atlanta airport. I looked around and thought, well, for eight years, I didn't really think about who voted for who," Weigel said. "But as a white dude with a mustache, fairly bloated by the campaign, most of the people who look like me voted for this guy who, as far as they know, is a bigot. I remember feeling that this divider had come down, this new intensity of feeling about everybody I saw."

Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos shared his plan for the Trump presidency, which is to resist and not be neutral.

"I've been to wars, I've covered the most difficult situations in Latin America. But I needed to digest and to understand what had happened. I came home very late. I turned on the news. I had comfort food—cookies and chocolate milk—the same thing I used to have as a kid in Mexico City," Ramos said. "After that, I realized that I had been preparing all my life for this moment. Once I digested what had happened with Trump and had a plan, which was to resist and report and not be neutral, then I was able to go to bed."

Former CNN host Reza Aslan expressed his horror, describing how he had a panic attack when he heard the news that Trump won.

I thought, "Oh my God, how terrible are we that it's even this close?"

My wife stayed up and I went to sleep, then she woke me up around 1 or 2 in the morning bawling and told me that it was over. My poor, sweet wife. She wanted to hug and kiss me but I went into a panic attack and couldn't breathe.

I remember thinking, as clear as day, this is who we are. This is what we deserve.

You take your kids to school, you go to the store, you go to the post office, you're looking around, and you're thinking, "These people hate me."

Andrew Kugle   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Andrew Kugle is the assistant social media editor for the Washington Free Beacon. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2013. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, he worked as a Staff/Press Assistant for South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem. Andrew is from De Pere, Wisconsin and lives in D.C. His Twitter handle is @AndrewJKugle. You can reach him at kugle@freebeacon.com.

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