In her first comments since leaving the network, former NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman discusses the vehement backlash she received following a reporting trip to Africa at the height of the Ebola crisis last October. In a first-hand account to The Hollywood Reporter Snyderman laments, “If it had been Salem, I would’ve been burned at the stake.”
On immediate reaction when her freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo tested positive:
NBC set up a three-way call between 30 Rock, my team (huddled around an iPhone) and health commissioners from New York City, New York State and New Jersey. What we heard was not reassuring. Everyone was coming up with different recommendations for what to do with us when we came home. When one of the commissioners suggested to “continue this conversation offline,” I knew they were making up protocols as they were going along.
On “quarantine” and not thinking she was at risk:
During that time, the Ebola task force in Liberia came, separating us as if we were being interviewed by a grand jury. They deemed us not at risk. We had flown to Liberia on a commercial flight, but NBC sent a jet for us with a nurse on board. We landed at Teterboro at midnight and were met by NBC executives. [NBC News president] Deborah Turness was there, and David Verdi, who is in charge of global operations, and a wonderful woman named Stacy Brady, who’s in charge of all of our crews. They were warm. They weren’t keeping their distance or doling out air kisses. We had communicated that we were in good shape and feeling fine. There wasn’t even a case of diarrhea on this trip.
We were allowed to leave our homes and be in the car; we were asked not to go to a grocery store or a movie theater; we were required to take our temperatures twice a day (we already were doing it four times a day); and we were required to check in with our health officer when we left the house.
I had left my house and headed to a little place that had put some sandwiches out for us because they knew we were probably running out of food. It was just one of those simple small-town gestures. I was waiting in my car while David grabbed the sandwiches when I was spotted by a woman, who then called 911. That night, I was served mandatory quarantine papers by Gov. Chris Christie. I realize now that I was not sensitive to how frightened people were. Suddenly I became the nexus for those fears.
I will tell you I saw the mean side of social media and the number of people who wanted me dead — or worse. It was a traumatic time. I never wanted to be famous — that’s not the reason I got into television. But man, oh man, did I see the ugly side of having too many people know who you are.
Reporters from TMZ stalked my house. Someone put up wanted posters in downtown Princeton that said, “Anyone reported seeing Nancy Snyderman, please report her immediately to the police.” The posters listed my home address, which meant we had to then get the police involved to protect the neighbors. I just kept thinking, “This too shall pass.” And every day, it didn’t pass. Nobody is going to feel sorry for me, I recognize that. But it was horrid. It was so Kafkaesque. It just kept spinning out of control.
On leaving NBC News:
I was the one who broached leaving NBC News. I went back to Haiti in January and reported, and it was just OK. It wasn’t my best reporting — it was sort of soft. After 10 years of being at NBC, I decided it was probably time to say goodbye. I had a couple of lovely conversations with people in management, and I wrote a letter of resignation in March, and it was accepted. Readily accepted.