Can­did Camerota

CNN an­chor Alisyn Camerota found her voice fac­ing down pow­er­ful bul­lies. Now she’s shar­ing her story with us and, most im­por­tant, her kids.

Working Mother - - Contents - by mered­ith bodgas

A CNN an­chor and mom shares how she talks to her kids about tough sub­jects, like sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

While most moms talk about so­cial me­dia with their tweens, morn­ing-news­woman Alisyn Camerota’s chats start in a way few par­ents’ do: with Don­ald Trump in­sult­ing her on­line. “New Day on CNN treats me very badly. @AlisynCamerota is a dis­as­ter. Not go­ing to watch any­more,” he tweeted last year. “I was in the bath­room wash­ing my face when my daugh­ter came in and said, ‘Mom, bad news.” The tweet had been shared more than a thou­sand times.

Alisyn’s view on the sit­u­a­tion isn’t quite as dire. “I just read the tweet and went on with my day, but in my kids’ world, how many times some­thing has been shared is a cur­rency that’s im­por­tant to them. My daugh­ter feared that it was go­ing to have that rip­ple ef­fect.”

That kind of con­se­quence can freak out a child. But Alisyn, mom to twin girls Francesca and Alessan­dra, 12, and 10-year-old son, Nathaniel, knows how to talk them down. “It’s not re­al­ity,” she re­minds them and tells them not to worry. “We still have our friends, neigh­bors and fam­ily, and we can’t put much stock in what’s hap­pen­ing in the ether.”

Twit­ter’s toxic en­vi­ron­ment prompted once-ac­tive Alisyn to quit in July, even though her New Day co-host, Chris Cuomo, re­mains en­gaged on the plat­form. “My kids asked me why I left, and I said, ‘Be­cause I didn’t think it was help­ing any­thing.” She in­vited them to read the “breakup let­ter” she wrote, which was posted to cnn.com. “They went over to our shared iPad and sat at the kitchen ta­ble. My daugh­ter said, ‘Mom, this is great.’ I’ve al­ways known my kids are in­ter­ested in my ca­reer choices. They of­fer in­sight on how I should ap­proach things.”

The kids were just as in­ter­ested when Alisyn made a state­ment this past April: that dur­ing her 16 years

“The mes­sage for all of us— adults and my kids—is that si­lence is rarely the answer, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion can bring some light to the sit­u­a­tion.”

at Fox News, Roger Ailes, the network’s former pres­i­dent, had sex­u­ally ha­rassed her. One in­ci­dent: When she was start­ing out at Fox, she asked for big­ger op­por­tu­ni­ties on the job, and his al­leged re­sponse was that it might re­quire them get­ting to know each other bet­ter away from the of­fice, in a ho­tel. She says he added, “Do you know what I’m say­ing?” (He died less than a month after she opened up about it, but not be­fore deny­ing through an at­tor­ney that he had in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­ver­sa­tions with Alisyn.) Again, once her kids were looped in, they gave their brave mom “such a nice re­sponse.”

We talked to Alisyn at her Con­necti­cut home about these tough con­ver­sa­tions, her un­ortho­dox sched­ule and her re­cently re­leased novel, Amanda Wakes Up, based on her topsy-turvy time as a fe­male an­chor at Fox News. Mered­ith:

How did you tell your kids what Roger Ailes had done to you?

Alisyn: They al­ways knew I had chal­lenges with Roger, which went way be­yond the in­stances of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, like how I didn’t think his ed­i­to­rial con­trol was re­flec­tive of true jour­nal­ism. When I de­cided to talk about it pub­licly, my daugh­ter hap­pened to be in the room when the in­ter­view was air­ing, so we watched it. My girls were so cute. They just threw their arms around me and started hug­ging me and say­ing, “Mom, we’re so proud of you.” It’s so adorable and touch­ing to me that they have that in them al­ready.

M:

A: I over­heard him telling his best friend, “My mom’s boss touched her butt.” I had to say, “No, he didn’t, that’s not the story.” I don’t think he un­der­stood the nu­ances of sex­ual ha­rass­ment at the time; he thought a butt must be in­volved. I had to clar­ify for him. He un­der­stands now.

M:

What was your son’s re­ac­tion? What do you hope your chil­dren take away from you talk­ing about your ex­pe­ri­ence so pub­licly—and from talk­ing to them about it?

A: I’m hop­ing to model that be­hav­ior of, “Let’s talk about things, even chal­leng­ing, un­com­fort­able or un­pleas­ant things.” It’s work­ing at the mo­ment. The mes­sage for all of us—adults and my kids—is that si­lence is rarely the answer, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion can bring some light to the sit­u­a­tion. I’m happy to say they’re ask­ing me sen­si­tive ques­tions, and I’m try­ing to answer the best way I can. When some­thing has hap­pened in their world, my kids have shared it with me, even when they were sworn to se­crecy. When some­one, for in­stance, has called some­one a name at school, they’ve come home and told me, even though there’s a code among the kids that they’re not go­ing to talk about it.

M:

How do your kids re­act to Pres­i­dent Trump call­ing CNN fake news?

A: My kids are very in­volved and in­ter­ested in my ca­reer and in jour­nal­ism. They ask lots of ques­tions about my job and think about their own fu­ture jobs and choices. They would never think that what I’m do­ing is not real or im­por­tant. They’ve al­ways known how sig­nif­i­cant it is. But they have heard that CNN has been un­der siege in the cur­rent cli­mate, and they are con­cerned.

M:

I’m sure the video of Trump punch­ing out a CNN logo in a wrestling ring didn’t help.

A: My kids’ so­cial-me­dia and on­line ac­cess is pretty con­trolled by us, so they don’t get to watch a lot of vi­ral videos. I’m old-fash­ioned; I like real hu­man in­ter­ac­tion. I still like the tele­phone, meet­ing peo­ple for lunch and talk­ing over din­ner. I worry about my kids’ cy­ber fu­tures, particularly in the love-life depart­ment. It seems their gen­er­a­tion meets on­line in­stead of the way we did. I know I’m fight­ing a cur­rent, but I’m try­ing to pro­long their in­ter­ac­tions with peo­ple for as long as pos­si­ble. It’s im­por­tant to be able to speak di­rectly to peo­ple, have real con­flict and re­solve it.

M:

There’s real con­flict be­tween your book’s main char­ac­ter, Amanda Gallo, a TV jour­nal­ist, and her Roger Ailes– type boss. How should women han­dle it when they dis­agree with the di­rec­tion their com­pany is go­ing?

A: I’m al­ways per­plexed by peo­ple who think they should just quit. The ad­vice to walk out with your head held high is great in the movies, but most peo­ple I know need to pay their bills. So you have to find an exit strat­egy and, while you’re there, try to make it work. I be­lieve in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the boss and air­ing your griev­ances.

Roger was fa­mously opin­ion­ated, and it was his way or the high­way. I found that chal­leng­ing. It helped me to as­sign these chal­lenges to my fic­tional char­ac­ter, Amanda, and let her fig­ure it out. I also felt driven to write this book be­cause I was fac­ing eth­i­cal chal­lenges dur­ing the 2012 elec­tion when can­di­dates would come on and say things that weren’t fact-based. Writ­ing it down helped me to col­lect my thoughts. But I was a week­end an­chor then, work­ing just three days a week. I think it would have been im­pos­si­ble to write a book if I’d had a de­mand­ing, five-day-a-week work sched­ule.

M:

Do you want your chil­dren to read your book?

A: It has some lan­guage and scenes that would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for them, but I think that by the time they’re teenagers they can han­dle it. They’ve asked me; they can’t wait to read it.

They watched me writ­ing and rewrit­ing for years and told me not to quit when I got frus­trated. They loved the cover in­stantly and told me to go with it. They have ti­tle sug­ges­tions for the se­quel. One is Amanda Takes a Nap.

M:

Do you think Amanda will be­come a mother in a se­quel?

A: It’s funny you say that. I don’t re­mem­ber if Amanda was a mom in my draft, but orig­i­nally she was mar­ried. My hus­band said, “Oh, don’t make her mar­ried. That’s so bor­ing,” which I thought was hi­lar­i­ous. The minute he said it, I knew he was right. When you don’t know how work is go­ing to af­fect your love life, if your boyfriend doesn’t agree with your work man­date and the hours are too de­mand­ing, that drama is juicier. Part of this book is about the chal­lenges of jour­nal­ism, and part of this book is about bal­anc­ing your per­sonal and work life. Maybe some­day I’ll write about how to bal­ance be­ing a mother with hav­ing a job in jour­nal­ism. M:

How is your work-life bal­ance? You do work at Turner, one of our 100 Best Com­pa­nies, after all.

A: I have one of the most fam­i­lyfriendly sched­ules. I am avail­able at 9 a.m. most days. Gen­er­ally, I stay later for meet­ings and con­fer­ence calls. How­ever, if you want to be able to show up at school par­ties, class trips and when the bus lets out, be a morn­ing an­chor, if you can hack wak­ing up in the mid­dle of the night.

The kids’ night events are a chal­lenge be­cause I wake up at 3 a.m. I al­ways pray at the ta­lent show that my kids go on early and they’re not the 65th en­try. As soon as I see them, I head right out and run to bed. I should go to sleep by 8 p.m. ev­ery night.

SUPPORT SYS­TEM “I’m al­ways ex­tremely touched by my chil­dren’s com­pas­sion and wis­dom,” Alisyn says of her tweens.

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