NBC Katy Tur’s ‘Unbelievable’ Unveils Plight of Reporting in Trump Era as a Female


NBC White House correspondent and current MSNBC anchor, Katy Tur knows what it takes to get access to the U.S. President Donald Trump as a female reporter.


“I’ve been thinking a lot about about access lately. Access is safe and secure. But access journalism is barely journalism. And somewhere along the way, out here on the trail, wherever it is that I am right now, I decided that access journalism isn’t worth it,” Tur says in her latest memoir, Unbelievable : My Front Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History on covering Trump.


While many eyed the prize of covering a campaign as mercurial as Trump’s, Tur was eyeing a prize access journalism couldn’t obtain: an introspective look into who Donald Trump truly is. And Tur saw her gender being pitched against her in her efforts to do so.


“Suddenly [Trump] is so close I can smell what he had for breakfast. And then before I know what’s happening, his hands are on my shoulders and his lips are on my cheek. My eyes widen. My body freezes. My heart stops....Trump lets go...seeming very proud of himself,” details Tur about her encounter in the entrance of MSNBC’s Morning Joe before Trump’s interview.


Tur continues, comparing the occasion to one of how Good Morning America’s Lara Spencer was “slaughtered” for hugging Trump and lost some credibility from it, and her own fears that her “bosses” would never take her seriously. For many male journalists out there, this may seem overblown but Tur raises a genuine concern about the price of being seen cozy with a candidate, especially one like Trump in the network.


Journalists are taught from the very beginning to not mix business with pleasure, to not accept any form of gifts or payments, even dinners from interview subjects. Trump represents an interview subject here. The president’s ability to invoke a deep fear in Tur about the seriousness of her job, and a negative response for Spencer for his own advances reveals that female political journalists are somehow, put down, by the very candidates they follow through small gestures.



Candidates, like Trump who took a step even further, telling Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough that he gave Tur “a big kiss”, show how politicians know the perils of being a female journalist, and use it one-up their female interviewer in the hopes of controlling the entire interview situation.


But, as described in the novel, this isn’t the only issue female political reporters have to confront. Tur says she observed a man and his wife in Trump’s Wilkes-Barre, Pa. rally yelling at a female CNN reporter, saying “You need more makeup…You’re so ugly it won’t help.”


Is this Trump’s fault in all entirety? It’s more a combination of Trump and an inherent sense of misogynism already embedded into society.


The CNN reporter’s trouble sheds light on the high expectations imposed on female reporters to appear good and beautiful, rather than report accurately. The couple didn’t focus once on her reporting but jabbed her for her appearance as she went live instead.


Has a male reporter been slammed for wearing a suit and make-up? Nope. It’s another creaky fault line female journalists have to tackle, where they stay composed, don’t react and keep their eyes on the job. React, and the female reporter will look bad. Bad everywhere, bad in the eyes of Trump, bad on network news, bad in front of her audience. It’s a lose-lose situation.



However, sexism isn’t only evident in professional events. When it comes to female correspondents’ personal lives, it’s a whole other area of occasional sexism as Tur points out.


“Mais, Katy. You are a foreign correspondent….Zis ees not what we do en France,” Tur’s ex-boyfriend says after she cancels vacation with him to begin Trump coverage. Not all men, especially life partners behave this way.


Nevertheless, Tur’s ex’s reaction reflects the occasional power tussle female political reporters might have with their partners, where ambition to cover a future president is viewed as a lack of commitment to the relationship. A potential career high point to become an official White House correspondent is torn down by the quintessential stereotype of being a caring, attentive girlfriend. It’s a stereotype against a woman.


But is it not stereotypes that have always pitched women in certain ways and torn them down in the process?


Tur ends on the back cover of her memoir, noting that Trump phoned her personally after calling her a “liar in front of millions of people on national television.” The veteran in foreign correspondence says Trump is expecting an apology but the real question is does she give it to him and if he forces her into it.


“I appreciate what you’re saying. Take care of yourself...Be fair to me, Katy...You and I should be friends”, recounts Tur of the phone call, ending they hung up and “[she] didn’t apologize.”


Perhaps not giving an apology for stereotypes is the real solution to this issue.


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