Perhaps it was because today is the last hurrah before A-listers head off to the beach and the mountains to escape summer’s dog days. Whatever the reason, Michael’s was jumping today.
I was joined by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, whose new book Amanda Wakes Up was released July 25. I read it in three nights and enjoyed it thoroughly.
News junkies and veterans alike will find it a well-paced, enjoyable read and also have fun trying to decide who these characters are supposed to be in real life. Alisyn, wearing a fire-engine red dress by Black Halo to echo the book’s cover, told me she’s glad she didn’t know what it took to write a novel when she decided to turn “a bunch of stories” that she’d written about her own experiences in television news into a book. “It was harder than I thought,” she admits.
Alisyn did, however, have a head start on many aspiring novelists as she certainly didn’t want for material. The co-host of CNN’s New Day with Chris Cuomo has covered several presidential campaigns and has been the subject of Donald Trump’s ire (more on that later). Prior to joining CNN in 2014, Alisyn logged sixteen years at Fox News, ten of which were spent at Fox & Friends. Earlier this year, Alisyn went public with her story of being sexually and emotionally harassed by the network’s chairman and CEO, the late Roger Ailes. See, I told you she had the stuff for a good page-turner.
Amanda Wakes Up has gotten good notices from USA Today, Vanity Fair and AP among other outlets and is also the beneficiary of some fortuitous timing. Cable news is pulling in plenty of eyeballs these days and is being talked about and dissected more than ever before, thanks to the television-obsessed occupant of the White House. “Years ago people would come up to me in airports and restaurants and say, they liked me or that they watched the show,” Alisyn told me. “But now they come up and say, ‘Thank you for everything you’re doing. Keep it up.’ Before they wander off. There’s this new level of gratitude [from viewers]. People seem to want us to hold those in power accountable.”
Not so coincidentally, the heroine of Amanda Wakes Up is Amanda Gallo is a morning anchor at FAIR News, a cable news network that brands itself as “True and Equal,” favors right-wing politicos and likes its female anchors blonde and bronzed (at least their legs). The roman à clef puts a TV star turned presidential candidate named Victor Fluke (really), long on bravado but with a decided deficit of conscience, at the center of the story. Sound familiar?
Believe it or not, Alisyn says she’d didn’t base Fluke on Trump. She started writing the book in 2012 at a time, she says, when she was interviewing a slew of presidential hopefuls including Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann. A year later, it was her agent that suggested she set the story in the middle of a presidential race. “I essentially had to rewrite it. I figured Victor Fluke would work one way or the other.” But, she admits, “There was really no time before Donald Trump. He was on Fox & Friends a lot as a political pundit before he was a candidate. I interviewed him regularly.”
Now, said Alisyn, she joins the growing list of banned reporters the president will not talk to. “He blacklisted me. During one of the debates on Fox News they used a clip of me at CNN asking him about saying he was against the war in Afghanistan instead of the war in Iraq. He insisted he said ‘Iraq’ and I read him the transcript where he said ‘Afghanistan.’ Word came back he was angry about that.”
But there have been no shortage of the president’s foot soldiers willing to come on. When I asked Alisyn what was going through her mind when the blink-and-you-missed him former White House director of communications called in, she broke into a smile. “We were told ‘The Mooch’ wants to go live. We’re going live.’ He’s a colorful character. We’re always trying to pierce the veneer [of political operatives and politicians] and he is just a very unvarnished guy. I was just listening and taking notes while Chris asked questions. I didn’t know where he was going.” Apparently, neither did he.
This administration has made the already grueling job of anchoring a morning news program an Herculean task. Alisyn has been getting up at the ungodly hour of 3:30 am for years but what’s different is what’s waiting for her when she turns on her phone. I used to prepare for my morning show by looking over my notes, reviewing the lead stories and seeing who the guests are,” said Alisyn. “Now [overnight] there’s new leaks, new tweets, someone’s been fired.” The news cycle for the last presidential election was “nothing like I’ve ever experienced in twenty-five years,” but its head-spinning aftermath is “like that, but on steroids.”