Aaron Brown is still waiting for his epiphany.
After undergoing triple-bypass surgery six weeks ago, Brown was sure he would experience a sudden insight into The Meaning of Life, or a reasonable facsimile. Hasn’t happened.
“I desperately want to say I had the experience of ‘seeing the light on the other side’ or that I’ve become a Buddhist,” says CNN exile Brown, 62. “Actually, I’m just pissed. I don’t like being a patient. I want to go hit golf balls.”
Brown says his recent remarks about Anderson Cooper, his successor at CNN, were misinterpreted. In an interview before the surgery, Brown said: “I know the difference between journalism and a slogan. ‘Keeping them honest’ [tagline for ‘Anderson Cooper 360’] is a slogan.”
“I thought it was played badly,” Brown says. “I’m a big boy. It became, in my opinion, way too personal. I didn’t mean it that way at all. It’s not how I feel. It wasn’t about Anderson, it was about the slogan, the show. It was about the quality of journalism that is either done or not done.”
Brown had promised his journalism students at Arizona State he’d make it back before the end of the semester. He did, for the last two classes. “It was fun to walk into that room,” he says. “I feel a little guilty that I denied them the experience they paid for.”
Brown feels no guilt, however, about the two speeches he’s been booked to deliver on a cruise ship in Norway. “I make speeches for a living,” he says.
His recovery has been slow and difficult. “My first weekend home, I was an emotional mess. I’d have waves of teariness. The weird thing is, they tell you all of this beforehand. In some ways, I’m an amazingly tough guy, but I ain’t that tough.”
Given his journalistic DNA – “I approach dinner like a reporter”— Brown drove his medical team “crazy” with questions after the surgery. He wanted to see the videotape of his operation, but there wasn’t one. Instead, the surgeon directed him to a website where he was able to watch an actual bypass.
“It’s an incredibly brutal surgery,” Brown says. “My chest was opened up like a frickin’ chicken.”
Now about that epiphany… “I think I’m too shallow to have some great epiphany,” says Brown. “I wish I could say that nothing makes me angry or that I see the world in much brighter colors. Mostly, I’m just trying to heal.”
(AP Photo/The Cronkite Journal, Bettina Hansen)