Covering The Trump White House It's Tuesday: two White House reporters join Sam to talk about life behind the scenes covering the Trump administration: Katie Rogers of the New York Times (@katierogers) and Geoff Bennett of NBC News (@GeoffRBennett). Tweet @NPRItsBeenaMin with feels or email samsanders@npr.org. Tickets to our October 2 live show in LA are at kp.cc/IBAM.
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Covering The Trump White House

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Covering The Trump White House

Covering The Trump White House

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SAM SANDERS, HOST:

From NPR, I'm Sam Sanders. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. Today, we are talking politics because the midterms are coming up, because it's always a good time to talk politics, but also because I am here in D.C. for a few weeks. So why not? In this episode, I'm asking two very smart people one very big question - what's it like to cover the White House in the age of Donald Trump? I ask that question and a lot of other ones to my two guests, Katie Rogers and Geoff Bennett. Katie is a White House correspondent for The New York Times. We worked together years ago at The Washington Post. You've heard her on this show before. And Geoff is a White House correspondent for NBC News. He's an old friend from our days together on the NPR Politics team.

So I'm going to be honest here and just say I love this conversation, not just because I think the two of them are really swell but because they told me so much more than I thought they would. They talked about their work. They talked about their lives outside of work. They talked about how those two things never stop colliding. They also told me what it feels like for the White House press corps to be a character in the president's ongoing reality show. And they talked very openly about what they think the White House press corps is getting wrong.

I went into this conversation thinking that I had a pretty good understanding of what it means to cover a White House. I did not, but I learned a lot in this chat, and I think you will, too. All right, let's get to it, but just one more note - we taped this conversation last Wednesday, August 29. And because President Trump, you will hear some news break during our chat. All right. Here I am talking with Katie and Geoff in Washington, D.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: Katie Rogers, White House correspondent for The New York Times, thanks for being here.

KATIE ROGERS: Oh, you're welcome.

SANDERS: Geoff Bennett, White House correspondent for NBC News, thank you for being here.

GEOFF BENNETT: It's a privilege.

SANDERS: Fun fact - I worked with you both before.

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: And gosh, our paths diverged.

(LAUGHTER)

BENNET: But we're all living our best lives...

ROGERS: I know.

SANDERS: That's right. That's right.

BENNET: ...So it's amazing.

SANDERS: So I was worried for the last two weeks about this conversation because I said, well, they cover the White House. If something happens, they got to go. And then I was like, would I be able to do that thing where, you know when you're at dinner and someone's like, all right, everyone, iPhones on the table, face down - first person to pick it up pays for dinner; I was like, what's the radio equivalent of that?

BENNET: Well, for me, this is my day off...

SANDERS: Oh, OK. So you're good.

BENNET: ...So I would not have to leave, which is why this was the perfect day to...

SANDERS: Katie is on full duty right now. So I'll let you be on your phone for a bit.

ROGERS: (Laughter) I had to take a few calls in the lobby on the way up. You know, if my phone rings, I might have to put us all on speakerphone with somebody.

SANDERS: With a source? I'm down for that. Break some news here.

BENNET: That's the life of a White House reporter.

ROGERS: But luckily - just shout out to Michael Shear, my colleague who's babysitting right now...

SANDERS: Aw, thanks, Michael.

ROGERS: ...In my - yeah, in my absence.

SANDERS: Appreciate you.

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: How long have you both been covering the White House now?

ROGERS: I've only been covering it since January.

SANDERS: What?

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: I thought it was longer.

ROGERS: Isn't that crazy?

SANDERS: That is crazy.

ROGERS: I know.

SANDERS: So less than a year.

ROGERS: Yeah, less than a year.

SANDERS: How long you been doing it?

BENNET: So I've been covering the White House for a few years. So I covered the end of the Obama administration for New York 1, which is a well-known station in New York City.

ROGERS: I love New York 1.

BENNET: And then, when I came to NPR, I was first a producer but then a reporter. I covered the White House for NPR for a few months and then jumped...

SANDERS: For a few - literally.

BENNET: Literally for a few months - and then jumped to NBC News, and I've been at NBC for eight months.

SANDERS: OK.

ROGERS: Wow.

SANDERS: So then, my next question for you both is, you've been covering the Trump administration - Geoff, since the start - Katie, for a few months - in your time covering the Trump White House, what is the wackiest, craziest reporting story you guys can tell me without getting in trouble? The story that you tell your friends at bars when they ask how crazy the job is.

ROGERS: Oh.

BENNET: I have to think about it.

ROGERS: I mean, I had a story a couple weeks ago that sort of illustrated to me how involved the president is in coverage about him, which is not unusual. Presidents care about how the media covers them. But I was on the Europe - did you go on the Europe trip?

BENNET: I did.

ROGERS: So I was on the Europe trip, and I got a heads up from a source at the White House who just had this email that showed that he got on the plane at some point during the Helsinki trip and freaked out because the first lady's TV was tuned to CNN.

SANDERS: Oh.

ROGERS: And he, like, threw a fit. And now - and got the military office involved, like, to make standard operating procedure Fox News on all the TVs going forward.

SANDERS: Let me pause you real quick. You're saying Donald Trump was so mad that his wife was watching a network other than Fox that he changed the protocol?

ROGERS: Yes. What I'm not clear on is whether she was, you know, sitting in her area, watching it of if...

SANDERS: Or just on.

ROGERS: ...Her TV was tuned to it, and it was on. And he flipped his lid.

SANDERS: Wow.

ROGERS: And, you know, I came in possession of, like, a string of emails saying, like, oh...

SANDERS: Because you broke that story.

ROGERS: ...Yeah - just standard operating procedure going forward in the hotel suites. And that was actually confirmation that they sleep in different rooms, too - like, first lady suite, president suite, you know? So that's, I guess, the wildest.

BENNET: In the press cabin on Air Force One, that's all you can watch is Fox News.

SANDERS: Really?

BENNET: (Laughter) Yeah - it's almost hardwired.

ROGERS: Unless the photographers change the - like, the photographers are in charge of the movies, so...

SANDERS: Why?

ROGERS: I don't - it's like the photographers get really possessive and territorial. They're nuts. Like, they'll pull pranks on each other. When we were on the Europe trip, they put, like, a big bottle of lotion on somebody...

SANDERS: Ew.

ROGERS: ...Like, while he was sleeping in a van. You have to be really careful.

BENNET: There's a lot of down time, so they come up with creative ways to make it interesting.

ROGERS: Yeah, that's true. And you have to always - it's like you have - it's like being at a slumber party when you're 11 years old; somebody's going to put your hand in warm water if you fall asleep, so...

SANDERS: Except you're the Fourth Estate.

BENNET: Yeah, right.

ROGERS: Exactly. So...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: That's - oh, sorry. What's...

SANDERS: Oh, tell me your crazy story.

BENNET: So my...

SANDERS: And it can be...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...A story that's reported out or just, like, a behind the scenes...

BENNET: This is a behind-the-scenes story that isn't necessarily crazy but, at the time, told me so much about who Donald Trump is. So it was my first encounter with him because I didn't cover the campaign on the road. But when he came to Washington for Ted Cruz's stop-the-Iran-deal rally...

SANDERS: Oh, I was...

BENNET: It was...

SANDERS: This was...

BENNET: This was...

SANDERS: That was during the campaign, or was that after?

BENNET: It was during the campaign.

SANDERS: I covered that. Yes.

BENNET: Yes. So there were two episodes there that I think were really kind of phenomenal. And because - he wasn't the nominee, so you could get relatively close to him. He had security, but you could go up to him and ask him questions, right? And so we all did. And so there was a big crush of reporters and photographers, and we were all asking questions, and he wanted to answer this one question from a reporter from one of the cable news networks. But because of the way we were sort of organized around him all in a big circle, the reporter was separated from her photographer, and he sort of instinctively knew that because he knew the network. So he gets the question, and before he answers it, he says, where's your camera?

ROGERS: That says it all.

BENNET: And she points...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BENNET: ...In the direction of the camera, and he turns his body and answers her question so that the sight line to the camera was just right, and he knew where the light was from the sun and...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...So that the shot...

SANDERS: Wow.

BENNET: ...On television was perfect.

SANDERS: Wow.

BENNET: And I saw that, and I thought, huh. So he gives his speech, and as he's leaving, he has to - because this is outside of the Capitol, and there was, like, this embankment that he had to walk over, and they put these fake stairs. As he was walking over these temporary stairs to get to the car, he stops at the top and turns around like, you know, Eva Peron from "Evita" and waves to all of these people...

SANDERS: Really?

BENNET: But nobody was waving at him. It was just for the cameras. And so I guess he wanted to have this, you know, vision of himself (laughter)...

SANDERS: Really?

BENNET: ...Waving to these adoring fans.

ROGERS: Do we...

BENNET: So...

ROGERS: ...Want to talk about the reality of this job right now?

SANDERS: What?

ROGERS: The president just tweeted announcing that Don McGahn's leaving his job this fall in the middle...

SANDERS: Which...

ROGERS: ...Of...

SANDERS: My goodness.

ROGERS: ...This conversation...

BENNET: Right.

ROGERS: ...Confirming an Axios scoop from this morning, and now I'm panicking silently.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BENNET: And, of course, we knew that Don McGahn was going to leave after the...

SANDERS: This is the White House counsel.

BENNET: The White House counsel who, as reported, threatened to quit when the president ordered him to fire Jeff Sessions - the White House counsel who apparently, you know, spoke at length with the special counsel, so - and we knew that he was eyeing the...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Exits and would probably leave after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee. But now the president, as Katie mentions, in real time is confirming...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

ROGERS: I mean, it's just...

BENNET: ...The Axios reporting.

SANDERS: So, like, OK. This is one example of how different and out of the ordinary this administration is. Usually, when there's a departure, you hear buzz about it first, then it's confirmed, and then there's, like, an official statement. This was just a tweet.

BENNET: And this happens a lot.

SANDERS: How does that change stuff for y'all?

BENNET: A lot of times, what happens is the president will say something, he'll tweet something. And so what happens is you have the White House staff trying to make the reality on the ground reflect...

SANDERS: Mirror the tweet.

BENNET: ...What the president has said or tweeted about. Yeah.

SANDERS: And then, sometimes, you'll catch Sarah Sanders out there doing the world's hardest job trying to keep up with that.

ROGERS: She has the tough job.

BENNET: And so, for instance, with this issue, this McGahn forthcoming resignation, this morning, Sarah said, when we have an announcement, we'll let you know...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BENNET: ...Suggesting that...

SANDERS: That she would do it.

BENNET: ...They were working through the process...

ROGERS: Right.

BENNET: ...Of coming up with an announcement. There was - I'm sure there was a plan...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...To get in front of this. But yet, the president, it appears, cut it all off with a tweet.

ROGERS: Well, with personnel stuff, he keeps things really close to his chest a lot, too. He knows that stuff leaks. And with departures or hires or appointments, you often have little visibility into it because he understands - like, to your point about knowing where the cameras are, I mean, the man is, like, the foremost, like, media scholar...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

ROGERS: ...Of our generation - of anybody's generation. I mean, he knows...

SANDERS: And this is the thing no one wants to admit.

ROGERS: He knows...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...How the big reveal works. He knows that in - like, he's honed that skill over three, four decades.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: He knows how to kick start a news cycle. He knows how to barrel forth when things are not looking good.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: Like, the McCain flag thing feels like that happened in April...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...You know? He...

SANDERS: Well, Cohen and Manafort feels like...

ROGERS: Right.

BENNET: Right.

SANDERS: ...It happened in...

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...2012.

BENNET: Yeah.

ROGERS: And I think we, like, just don't really - I don't...

BENNET: You know, what the most interesting thing about covering this president is - is going to rallies. I've covered more rallies...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Than I can remember.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And watching him work through a message - and this started - I remember him doing this with the NFL stuff, too, where he would attack the players for the silent protests. And he would say a line. And if it didn't get the right kind of applause, he would...

ROGERS: Yes.

BENNET: ...Switch up the words...

ROGERS: Workshop it.

SANDERS: I would see this in the campaign.

BENNET: And he would say it again and let it land and see how it works.

SANDERS: I always said he was like a comic trying out new jokes...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Before the comedy special...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Like the comic that goes to the dingy comedy club on a Monday night and just tries the lines out.

BENNET: And he fancies himself that he's not a politician. But he's president.

SANDERS: At this point, you are.

BENNET: ...A politician. And like all good politicians, he knows exactly where his base is. He knows exactly what motivates them. And that's one of the reasons why he says what he does about immigration, about the NFL. He's - you know, he's trying to position himself as a nationalistic culture warrior...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...And hasn't really moved beyond the skills, if you want to call them that, that made him successful as a candidate...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Because his supporters haven't required anything other from him.

SANDERS: Exactly. Exactly. So - and, you know, just thinking about this news today with McGahn and talking about how a lot of times Trump staffers are trying to keep up with Trump - how does that affect sourcing? Like, is it harder to talk to someone...

BENNET: Oh...

SANDERS: ...And know what's what, knowing that things could change on a dime?

BENNET: Things are true until they aren't. And it took me a while to be able to figure out how to say that on television. And then I just started saying that.

SANDERS: How do you say it?

BENNET: I just say it - like, as of this moment, here's what we know. This could change.

SANDERS: Wow.

BENNET: But, you know, things - in this White House, things are true until they aren't true.

SANDERS: How much is that - how different is that from the last administration?

BENNET: Oh, it's night and day. I mean, I remember during the Obama administration, you would get a sense of how the week was going to play out on a Sunday. There would...

SANDERS: Like, the whole schedule?

BENNET: Yeah. Well, not the whole schedule, but you'd get a good, like, roadmap.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: They would use the Sunday shows to message, you know, what they wanted to talk about that week, where the agenda was headed. And I remember there were some White House staffers in the Obama administration who would apologize for last-minute changes to the schedule (laughter). You know what I mean?

SANDERS: Apologize (laughter).

BENNET: Yeah, it's, like, we're very sorry to have to do that.

ROGERS: That's quaint.

BENNET: Yeah, exactly.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BENNET: And that's just not the way - and, granted, every White House takes on sort of the personality of the president. And so we know the president enjoys chaos, and so this White House...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...In just the way it operates is chaotic, and that - it becomes a part...

ROGERS: I'm not sure they...

BENNET: ...Of our work.

ROGERS: ...Enjoy it, though.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah, the staffers don't like it.

BENNET: Oh, for sure. I don't...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Think they do, either.

ROGERS: I mean, I think that they have learned to live in it.

SANDERS: Do they ever tell you off the record or indicate or show any emotion that would indicate that they aren't happy, are deflated, are tired, are weary?

ROGERS: I think that they - I don't get that feeling a lot. I get the feeling that they feel like they're in trench warfare. And I feel like they really believe that the president has accomplished a lot...

SANDERS: OK.

ROGERS: ...On behalf of the people who voted for him.

SANDERS: OK.

ROGERS: You know, they can live with tax cuts. They like that. They like the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem.

SANDERS: A lot of folks like the tariffs. The economy's doing well.

ROGERS: They - yeah. A lot of people do, but a lot of people are also going to be hurt by that.

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

ROGERS: So, you know, what he hasn't delivered is this wall that he largely, you know, ran on and won on. So I think that those staffers feel, as they reflect the president's grievance, that the press has not given him enough credit...

BENNET: Yeah.

ROGERS: And that's energizing for them, I think.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And you know what's different about that versus other administrations? Because every White House has staffers that feel beat down just by the...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Nature of the grueling...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: It's a hard job.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: What's different, though, in having talked to people who worked for George W. Bush and president - former President Obama is that those two men, I think, engendered loyalty and inspired their staff in a way that Donald Trump does not. So whereas - I feel like a lot of the people in the current White House are driven to a certain degree, like, by the kind of grievance you talk about and by some of the president's policies. I don't necessarily - at least, in my conversations - get the sense that they are driven to do their best work on behalf of the man in - you know, who sits in the Oval Office in the same way that people who worked for Presidents Bush and Obama did.

SANDERS: Well....

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: And this is, like part of...

ROGERS: The point.

SANDERS: This is part of his strategy, though, right? Like, he is someone from his reality TV days and, like, real estate days - he likes to have competing factions and interests...

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Working for him. And so, like, if you're doing that, you actually aren't trying to inspire loyalty. You're trying to inspire competitiveness.

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: And that takes me to, like, another sourcing question. Like, when you get leaks from sources, are you saying to yourself, well, how is this faction of the White House trying to attack this other faction? Like, do you...

ROGERS: A hundred percent.

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Question sourcing?

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: Always question the motives, yeah.

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: How do you work through that?

ROGERS: And I think that, with certain people, there are certain themes. So, like, you can sense why they talk about what they want to talk about...

SANDERS: Really?

ROGERS: ...You know, and who they don't like or who doesn't like them. And...

SANDERS: Give me an example without saying names.

ROGERS: I just...

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: I can tell you that a lot of people - if you are thinking of somebody like John Kelly, like, you know who to reach out to in the White House who will offer you a word in defense of him and also a word not so defensive...

SANDERS: Huh.

ROGERS: ...Of him. I mean, you just...

SANDERS: You know who to go to.

BENNET: Yeah, there are certain figures...

ROGERS: And you need to talk to...

BENNET: ...That are lightning rods and - yeah.

ROGERS: You can't just take it from one person.

SANDERS: You've got to get multiple...

ROGERS: Like, oh, this is...

BENNET: Yeah.

ROGERS: You know, it's just - you have to do comparative...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: Right.

ROGERS: ...Analysis.

SANDERS: Which is why I love the stories y'all have when it's, like, in talking with 37,000...

BENNET: I know.

SANDERS: ...Unnamed sources...

(LAUGHTER)

BENNET: Well, that's the thing. Journalism when done well is a team sport, right?

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And so The New York Times has a team. We at NBC have a team.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: We have five producers, five correspondents. And so, you know, as we're working on these stories, we bounce, you know, sourcing off of each other and leads off of each other, and that's how we get a good sense of what's actually happening.

ROGERS: Yeah, you're right. And then some people talk - you know, favor reporters over others, have longer relationships. And sometimes a shorter relationship is helpful...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: I mean, as I - I have no other option.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: So...

BENNET: And that's why it drives me crazy when the president suggests that we just take anonymous sources and basically, you know, report things that are fiction, as he puts it. Because...

ROGERS: Yeah. He did that this morning.

BENNET: You takes so - yeah, that's right. He tweeted this morning. It takes so much time to get it right...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...You know? I mean, that is...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...At the core of what we do (laughter), is...

SANDERS: And also, don't be mad at y'all. Be mad at the folks in your White House that are leaking stuff. Like...

ROGERS: Yeah, don't be mad at them.

SANDERS: Don't be mad at them, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

BENNET: I like my job.

ROGERS: But, like, he's the master at being an anonymous source.

BENNET: Yeah.

ROGERS: He would call New York tabloids. He would make up an identity.

SANDERS: With a different name.

ROGERS: John Barron loved anonymous sourcing.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

ROGERS: I mean, he helped - you know, he created a media climate and helped, you know, engender...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

ROGERS: ...A lot of this - I don't know - hatred toward anonymous sources when he was a master at it.

SANDERS: He was an anonymous source.

ROGERS: Again...

SANDERS: You know...

ROGERS: ...Foremost media scholar.

BENNET: And you know what's scary, though? That his - that fake news stuff that he does on the trail - that line lands every time...

ROGERS: Sure does.

BENNET: ...With every kind of crowd. I'm talking...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Like, members of the military...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Blue-collar workers in West Virginia, establishment Republicans in...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Florida...

ROGERS: Right.

BENNET: ...And in Ohio. Doesn't matter where it is at this point - when he goes, like, fake news media - look at them all back there...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...And he points at us, you know, in the press pen.

SANDERS: Is he still doing the press pen?

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: Because I was in the...

BENNET: In the center of the room.

SANDERS: ...Press pen in the campaigns.

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: It was so weird.

BENNET: That line works every time for him. And it's sad, but it's also a little scary.

ROGERS: It's like being at - I think - I keep thinking of professional wrestling...

SANDERS: That's exactly right.

ROGERS: ...Which the president has...

SANDERS: Which he used to do.

ROGERS: ...A background in.

SANDERS: And because...

ROGERS: He needs a heel, and the press...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...Is easier in some ways than the Democrats.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And so much of it is so performative. And it's like theater.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: All right. Time for a quick break. When we come back - how Geoff and Katie handle doing their job as White House reporters when the president makes them part of the story. BRB.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: So you are obviously the heel for the president. And you are now part of his narrative and part of his storyline.

ROGERS: Right.

SANDERS: How does that affect you in your work knowing that you are a character in this plot arc as well?

ROGERS: I mean, I think for a lot of us, it's uncomfortable. I mean, it's weird to even talk about it right now. It's just instinctive. Like, you don't want to talk...

BENNET: You don't want to make yourself part of the story. Yeah.

ROGERS: ...About it as if you are a character. But when he does things like call out individual reporters or institutions, you have no choice. He's the president, and he's dragged you into it. And, you know, I think a lot of reporters - and, like, I haven't always been perfect about it too. Like, we will tweet things that - we'll say, wow, look at this.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: You know, the flags are up at the White House, but they're down at the monument. Wow, this is jarring. And...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...You know, that's - people in the White House watch that. And they take that as editorializing. And, you know, I do think, to be perfectly honest and transparent, like reporters are humans too. And like sometimes, they cross the line. And the White House pays really close attention to that. And they...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: It builds their argument that we are willing...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...To be characters. And...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: Do you think you've crossed the line before?

ROGERS: Do I think I have?

SANDERS: On Twitter maybe.

ROGERS: I think there was one time I did. And it was something about reproductive rights, I think, just to be honest.

SANDERS: Yeah. What happened?

ROGERS: I think I just retweeted something. And I was just - I was, like - I think what I did was I said something about - I'm from a rural area. My high school had a daycare. We had...

BENNET: Wow.

ROGERS: ...Abstinence-only education.

SANDERS: Oh.

ROGERS: I worry about the women and children in those communities having access to education and services.

SANDERS: And you got some blowback.

ROGERS: Yeah. It's just kind of like people watch you so closely.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

BENNET: Yeah. It's hard to do what we do in this era where the president has made the pursuit of truth a partisan enterprise. Do you know what I mean?

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And so, you know, I think now more than ever, it's really incumbent upon reporters, as Katie's saying, to not let yourself become a part of the story when there is...

ROGERS: Don't let yourself be baited. Like, just...

BENNET: Don't let yourself be baited.

ROGERS: And they - and that's something he understands too - is the art of the bait. And the advisers who help him write his tweets or get - like, they all understand that.

BENNET: Yeah.

ROGERS: And it's really easy for them to get - I mean, there are a lot of reporters in Washington covering the White House. And not everybody is perfect all day long.

BENNET: And you know what I try not to do anymore on air? I try not to - and this really only affects broadcast. I don't read the tweets anymore. I try not to read the full tweets.

ROGERS: The president's tweets?

BENNET: I don't read the stuff that isn't pertinent - the Trump tweets.

ROGERS: Oh.

BENNET: Because in the beginning, you know, on cable news, it's, oh, another tweet from the president. Let me read all four of them.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And so now...

SANDERS: Often, they're filled with untruths.

BENNET: The stuff that's not edifying or true, I don't try to give voice to. I only try to stick to the pertinent stuff. And that is my way of trying to stick to what is real, what is true...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...And to not get baited into whatever distraction or reflection strategy.

ROGERS: Yeah, I mean, when he talks about the press, it's such a like - it's like, OK, you know, back to work, you know?

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah. You know, speaking about like not being baited as members of the press because they want to bait, I think so long and hard about one particular White House correspondent at CNN, Jim Acosta...

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Who has taken up this enemy of the press back and forth...

ROGERS: Heel.

SANDERS: ...As like his cause.

ROGERS: You know?

SANDERS: I, in my heart of journalistic hearts, think that's not the right way to handle it. Are there conversations about the right way to handle the enemy of the press stuff and how much you should be in that story line amongst the White House press corps?

BENNET: You know, every administration seems to have that reporter who is sort of known as being the thorn in its side, right?

ROGERS: Right.

BENNET: So Sam Donaldson was the guy in the '80s who would shout questions.

SANDERS: Really?

BENNET: And then I guess it might have been Ed Henry at Fox News who did that for the - did that to the Obama administration.

SANDERS: Was it always the TV guys?

BENNET: More often than not.

SANDERS: OK.

BENNET: Yeah. (Laughter) because it does...

ROGERS: The print people were just like...

BENNET: That kind of interaction doesn't translate in print.

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: The print people are like what?

ROGERS: When Peter Baker's got - I think Peter's gotten yelled at. Or the times...

BENNET: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...He's been yelled at, and Peter's just like, thank you, and just answers his question.

BENNET: (Laughter).

ROGERS: You know, like, the print people are a little bit more like, all right, you know, because we're...

BENNET: Yeah. So it's a personal decision on behalf of that reporter, that correspondent and on behalf of that news organization, you know, as to how to handle it.

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

ROGERS: I just think that there was - you know, when we're in the briefing room though, I do think it's important when we're trying to get an answer on something that is meaningful, and the White House has learned to just stonewall and play us against each other.

BENNET: Right.

ROGERS: I mean, they - White House aides have told me like, we're a team, as opposed to you guys, you know?

SANDERS: Really?

ROGERS: Yeah, totally. And...

BENNET: And that's why - I'm sorry. Go ahead.

ROGERS: And I just mean when Jordan Fabian - he works at The Hill - kind of gave Hallie Jackson the floor...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

ROGERS: Sarah tried to move on. I forget what the question was. But Jordan - he didn't do any grandstanding. Like, I'm seating my question. All he did was say, Hallie, go ahead if you want, you know?

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: And it's, like, those are very small gestures...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...That make us look less petty.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: And it would be nice to see that kind of unity...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...Just like low-key.

SANDERS: Low...

ROGERS: Just move - yeah.

SANDERS: Low-key unity.

ROGERS: Yeah, low-key unity.

SANDERS: Speaking of unity, are there unified answers to these kind of questions within your newsrooms? Are there disagreements...

ROGERS: No. Sorry.

SANDERS: Tell me more.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: Why don't you go? You talk.

BENNET: Unified answers to questions about like how to deal with the president, that kind of thing?

ROGERS: And each other.

SANDERS: Like in these big questions about how the White House press corps and White House correspondents deal with this press environment, is there a unified front or stance or point of view on that inside your newsroom?

BENNET: Sort of - in the sense that we at NBC have all, more or less, agreed that the story is primary, right?

SANDERS: OK.

BENNET: We try not to make ourselves the center of the story.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And that goes both in how we report it and how we conduct ourselves in the briefing room, how we conduct ourselves in interactions both on and off camera with White House officials.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: But there are no sort of like marching orders that we've received from on high...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...About how to deal with this...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Administration, you know, day in and day out.

SANDERS: That's a very diplomatic answer.

ROGERS: Yeah, it is.

BENNET: Well, no, it's true. I mean, but what's interesting though is that if people watch the briefing, you can see how Sarah will strategize, you know, how she's going to give her answers, who she calls on...

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: She's smart.

BENNET: ...How they delay the briefing. So say, for instance, the briefing is supposed to start at 2 o'clock.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And the president has an event on the schedule that starts at 3.

ROGERS: Got to keep it moving.

BENNET: And she doesn't walk out until 2:30 or 2:45.

SANDERS: So you can only have so many minutes.

BENNET: You have 15 minutes. And so she'll - she often will call on the front row because it's the wire services, it's the TV correspondents who need that interaction for their nightly news piece. But if she wants to change the subject, she'll call on a business reporter in the back of the room. She'll call on an international reporter because she knows they don't care about Michael Cohen or Stormy Daniels. They want to know about trade or, you know, whatever topic.

SANDERS: She's smart.

BENNET: Yeah, and so that's how sometimes she will hit the release valve. If there's tension in the room, she'll call on someone she knows doesn't - isn't asking about the same question.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. Katie, these arguments about, you know, what the stance of White House correspondent should be - you said there's no unified front in your newsroom either.

ROGERS: I mean, there's just - I mean, I guess I shouldn't have answered so quickly. There's just discussion over how to handle it. I think that there are White House correspondents who have been covering administrations on our teams since like Clinton, I think - goes that far back. And, you know, applying sort of historical context to how to interact is important. But there's also an acknowledgement that this is a different president and a different White House. And they've - they eat the chess pieces. You know, they don't play chess. They eat them. They eat the board.

BENNET: Yeah, that's great.

SANDERS: Wow.

ROGERS: And it's hard to deal. You know, it's hard to strategize for that. And I think, you know, when people see somebody yelling at Sarah, I think all of us are just like, God, you know, like, this is not helpful.

SANDERS: It's not.

ROGERS: You know, but then there's also an acknowledgement that like maybe if she's doing the strategic thing like you're talking about, you know, how do we deal with that. Or when they try to hold like off the records with 50 reporters, like why are we agreeing to this? Do we take ourselves out of this? Or do we go, you know? So those are not easy things to address or answer.

SANDERS: How do you address them internally? Like, do you have conflict inside of yourself?

BENNET: I always - I feel like the tenants of good journalism are solid no matter what. Like, no matter who is occupying the White House. And so I just try to stick to that even if you have a president who eats all the chess pieces, right?

ROGERS: Oh, yeah.

BENNET: Like, if you've...

SANDERS: But if you've been taught the rules of chess, you have to play it differently.

BENNET: But then if you get sucked in - I feel like if you get sucked in, and you start to compromise what you know to be good journalism to deal with the current environment, then that's how you...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Get tripped up.

SANDERS: So you guys hear all of the critique of the White House press corps coming from the left and the right and the middle and the up and the down. What is the one critique of White House coverage that rings truest to you? And how do you try to address that critique in your work?

BENNET: I always say journalism and education are the two professions where people who've never worked in them think they know how to do the job better than the people that do.

ROGERS: Oh, my gosh. Yeah.

BENNET: Right. Like, yeah, I've never been a teacher, but I'm sure I've been like, if I was a teacher, I would tell...

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

BENNET: I do think sometimes we cast about on stories that don't necessarily matter in a true sense but that matter in the moment because they're interesting and entertaining, and they might drive ratings.

SANDERS: OK. Give me an example of one of those stories.

BENNET: Like, the tweet du jour.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And sometimes we dissect a tweet. And we, you know, don't still cover the fact that there are some 500-plus children who are still separated from their parents.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

BENNET: You know what I mean - who are still being detained by the government because that story we know already.

SANDERS: How do you - yeah. How do you combat that impetus in your newsroom? Or can you? Like, you're part of a newsroom.

BENNET: Sometimes you can't.

ROGERS: Sometimes you can't.

BENNET: You know, sometimes you can't. And sometimes you might find a hook and be able to bring that story back into your reporting and make it resonate and salient again.

SANDERS: Yeah. Katie, criticism of White House coverage that rings true for you.

ROGERS: That he plays us, that he baits us - and we fall into it.

SANDERS: Really? Really?

ROGERS: Oh, yeah. I mean, I agree. But I don't know what the answer to that is. Like, I don't know. I think I briefly thought about it with the flag stuff the other day with McCain where it's just like other presidents have been criticized before for their timeline of - their condolence timeline. Like, Obama was criticized for not issuing a proclamation after a mass shooting in Chattanooga. And he did it after there was sort of an outcry from veterans.

And, you know, we tend to like jump on this White House, you know, when we see things rising on social media, like viral photos of the flag up. And it's like you have to be really careful to write the story in a way that's not editorializing and siding with everyone else saying this is, you know, deeply inappropriate. But then you report. And you know that his aides tried like to be appropriate. And he was like, no.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: So, I mean, it's hard to...

SANDERS: Yes.

ROGERS: It's really hard to address that criticism because I don't know - like some of it's just like, yeah, he doesn't want to acknowledge John McCain. He clearly doesn't like the guy. And that feeling was mutual. So it's - I guess it's hard to - I don't know.

BENNET: Yes, it's hard. It's hard to know in the moment.

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: Because with the flag thing, I mean, that was the most visual evidence of his contempt - of the president's contempt for John McCain. And then after the fact, it's like, well, are we giving this too much oxygen and not really focusing more on the life and legacy of the senator (laughter)?

SANDERS: He's got a big legacy.

BENNET: But in the moment it's hard to know, you know?

SANDERS: How do you deal with it internally? Like, do you have the questions you ask yourself about if you're doing this right or wrong?

ROGERS: No. I mean, I think that - I don't know. I'm still new to the White House beat. I didn't cover another administration. But sometimes you're dealing with people - and I guess that goes back to the point about like who tells you what and why - where you're just like, ugh, you know? Like, you have to - you have to build relationships with people who are just, you know, they lie 98 percent of the time. And, you know, it's like that's...

BENNET: That has been - and it always has been - but that for me has been the toughest part of covering this White House.

ROGERS: It's hard, yeah.

BENNET: It's building relationships with people who - that isn't - I don't have any transactional relationships in my personal life...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...But in my professional life, with sources...

ROGERS: That's what's hard.

BENNET: ...It's almost entirely transactional.

SANDERS: Do they lie to you? Do you know they're lying to you sometimes?

BENNET: Sometimes, yeah. But the thing is, like, I'm not a fake person. So it's (laughter) hard to let people into your life, regardless of whether it's professional or personal...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Who exist, you know, on that plane. You know?

ROGERS: Yeah. And when you're giving them - you know, sometimes your relationship is based on sharing information about yourself with people, or just being, like, well, I have veterans in my family, too? Or I'm from, you know, X, Y, Z, kind of community, too. Like, I am a human being, and I understand this so can you please tell me...

SANDERS: Trust me.

ROGERS: Like, not - yeah, trust me. But also, like, you can tell me your perspective and I'm going to understand it.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: And, like, giving that, any of that up about yourself to people who can weaponize information, it's kind of uncomfortable. And I think that those are the internal things that I deal with in terms of, like, the people you meet on this playing field.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: What are your hours like? Do you just work incessantly like the rest of us?

ROGERS: I mean, we work a lot. I mean, yesterday was, I guess, slow in the sense that I got to pay attention to the bee swarm in Times Square for, like, 20 minutes and, like, have fun on Twitter for 20 minutes. And that happens, like, once every few months, (laughter), where I get to have fun during the day or laugh at something (laughter).

SANDERS: All right. Time for break. We're back in a second with Geoff Bennett from NBC News and Katie Rogers from The New York Times talking about what it's like to cover the White House right now. You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: Geoff, you were asking Katie what her hours are.

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: I want you to talk more about that, Katie, but also, I must sidebar first. I'm sorry. So at NPR West, we have TV screens throughout the building on the news networks all day. And me and Melissa Kuypers, my people who you know well...

BENNET: I love Melissa.

SANDERS: ...We see you. It's like playing a game of Where's Geoff every day. And there's some days where I'll be like, they need some more matte on his forehead.

BENNET: Yeah. Well...

SANDERS: There was one day you were out in the sun way too long, and you were getting shiny. And I wanted to text you and be like, Geoff. But I was like, he's on TV.

BENNET: As a baldheaded - we're brothers in baldheaded-dom.

SANDERS: Yeah. It's all right.

BENNET: Yes.

SANDERS: That's why I'm in radio.

BENNET: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Anyways, all that to say...

BENNET: The shiny struggle is real when you're bald.

SANDERS: (Laughter) I see you on TV all the time so I assume you're working all the time. What is the average day for Geoff Bennett?

BENNET: So I get to the White House around 8 o'clock and then leave after "Nightly News" around 7 o'clock.

SANDERS: Yeah?

BENNET: Because as a network correspondent, we are basically sequestered at the White House.

SANDERS: You're saying TV has to be there.

BENNET: We have to babysit the camera because you never know when news is going to break.

ROGERS: Right.

BENNET: And say, for instance, something crazy happens on Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House is shut down...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...You can't go out and get a cup of coffee because then you might not be able to get back in.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: I will say, though, that for my other colleagues who do the "Today" show and "Nightly News" more regularly, they are there at 5:30 in the morning, 6 o'clock in the morning, to do their 7 o'clock "Today" show hit. And then they're there all day for the briefing and to do MSNBC. And then at a certain point, around 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock, that's when they start to work on their "Nightly News" script. "Nightly News" hits at 6:30, and then they stay through the end of "Nightly News" at 7 o'clock. You go home, see your family, get some dinner. And then you're writing your "Today" show script for the next day from roughly 9 o'clock to 10 o'clock. You track your piece for the "Today" show I guess around 10, 10:30, and then you're back at the White House the next day at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. So you live the news. I mean, that is your life. And, frankly, it's not just your life. It's your entire family's life, right, if you happen to have one.

SANDERS: How does your family deal with it? What do you...

BENNET: I have a wife who used to work in the business. So she understands. We never had to have a conversation about the kind of sacrifice this takes...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...Because she knows it. And thank God she does.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: But, you know, it's tough. We have a young son who is starting to realize that...

SANDERS: Don't underplay it. The cutest kid in the world.

BENNET: (Laughter).

ROGERS: Aw.

SANDERS: I can't even begin to describe how cute this kid is.

BENNET: Well, thank you.

SANDERS: How old is he now?

BENNET: Six.

SANDERS: OK.

ROGERS: Wow.

BENNET: Yeah. So he's starting to realize that I'm not around on the weekends and stuff. But, you know, it's a sacrifice, but it's the greatest job in the world.

SANDERS: Do you miss big things like first day of school or something?

BENNET: So we time-shift a lot of stuff. So we time-shift the holidays. You know, if work on Thanksgiving - and this is true for anywhere. This happened when I worked at NPR, too. If you have to work on Thanksgiving, you celebrate Thanksgiving the next Thursday or Saturday or whatever. So this latest go round, I had to work on his first day of school. So I took him - ended up taking him to school on his second day of school, and I pretended as if his second day of school was actually his first day of school (laughter).

SANDERS: Were the teachers like, what is Dad doing?

BENNET: So we took all the pictures, you know, made a big deal of walking up to the front door. And, you know, he was - kids, as long as their loved, they don't care. You know? It's good to go.

SANDERS: Yeah. What about you, Katie?

ROGERS: I don't have a 6-year-old or a child.

BENNET: (Laughter).

ROGERS: I just have a husband.

SANDERS: Yeah. Who I saw this morning while running.

ROGERS: I know. He told me.

SANDERS: Small town. Anyways, what are your hours like?

ROGERS: I mean, I just - I don't even think of - I mean, I guess today, for instance, we were emailing as early as, like, 6:45. You know, just talking to sources, talking to each other about, like, what we think we want to do, like, what we think is going on. And then you just work through the day. The other night when I had - I did a McCain story and the other story on NAFTA, I think I was there through, like, 9 p.m. The lights shut off while I was there. And I was, like, waving my arms around, trying to get the lights back on.

SANDERS: I'm still here.

ROGERS: Yeah. So and then, like, tomorrow, for instance, I fly to Evansville, then Charlotte the next day and then fly back on Friday night to cover the funeral at the cathedral for John McCain on Saturday. So it's, like, that is all work.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: And you take downtime when you can get it.

BENNET: Right.

ROGERS: You really - like, if it's a slower day, you know...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: Yesterday I think was - it felt slower.

SANDERS: OK.

ROGERS: And sometimes that feels torturous 'cause...

BENNET: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...You're like, what? There's nothing happening.

BENNET: Right. And, like, I...

ROGERS: So it's like you learn to - your metabolism completely changes for stuff.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And I'm sure you're the same way. Like, I've always wanted to cover the biggest story in the world. And right now this is the biggest story in the world. Right...

ROGERS: I have not always...

BENNET: Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: I mean, I was - when I was - I was last year. I think I came here, like, my first week on the job, which was crazy.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah, 'cause you were on the...

ROGERS: I was, like, shell-shocked. I was like - they sprung...

SANDERS: Your first time on this show was the week you got the correspondence job. Yeah.

ROGERS: No. It wasn't my first time 'cause last year when I was a feature writer...

SANDERS: Oh, yes.

ROGERS: ...I was on a bunch.

SANDERS: Yes. Yes.

ROGERS: And that was, like, amazing.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: Like, writing Washington in the Trump-era features...

SANDERS: I remember that.

ROGERS: ...You know, covering - writing about, like, Saudi princes and...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...You know, all this fun...

SANDERS: A night in the Trump Hotel.

ROGERS: Yeah, a night in the Trump - yeah, like...

BENNET: Was it nice?

ROGERS: The "Trump Hotel At Night" was, like, a big feature I did.

SANDERS: Yeah, I remember that story.

ROGERS: So, I mean, I've always gravitated toward features and profiles. And it's just not something I ever thought I would do. And they asked me to do it after Glenn Thrush was taken off the beat. Like, a few weeks later, they asked me completely, I thought, out of the blue. They actually - Elisabeth Bumiller, our bureau chief - I had bronchitis, and I was, like, trying to recover. I was really sick. And she calls me into her office. And she's like you're a good reporter so you know what this is about. And I was like no.

SANDERS: And you were like, I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: She was like - which is a great way to start off the conversation.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: You're a great reporter. You know what this is. I'm like, no, I have no idea.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: Yeah. She was like, how do you feel about covering the White House? And I think I said something like, you couldn't think of anybody else? Like...

BENNET: Wow.

SANDERS: So there was hesitation?

ROGERS: I mean, no. I was just - I mean, you have to take this job.

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: It's the greatest show on earth.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: But I was just like, oh, man. Like, you - the learning curve for it has been quite steep. But again, if you just apply what you know to the...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: It's just like any other beat...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...Just like on steroids in the middle of a, you know, gladiator arena.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BENNET: Do you miss covering politics?

SANDERS: Sometimes 'cause, like you say, it is the biggest story in the world.

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: And there are some weeks where I'll be over in left field covering some nice, fun movie or artist or feature or album, and I'll say no one is looking over here...

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...You know.

BENNET: But I feel like the counterprogramming matters now more than ever when you have a president that has inserted himself into everything.

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: But you need to...

SANDERS: I do try to find ways to have to break Trump-free zones sometimes.

BENNET: Yeah.

ROGERS: Yeah. I remember reading Amy Chozick's Vogue profile of Stormy Daniels yesterday.

SANDERS: OK.

ROGERS: And I read it, and I was like, oh, this is such a nice break from everything. I'm like, wait...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...This is a Stormy Daniels profile. I was like this - even the stuff that feels like it's like, take a breather...

BENNET: Right.

SANDERS: Those photos were epic.

ROGERS: Oh, yeah.

SANDERS: Epic.

ROGERS: I love that piece of writing. That was amazing.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

ROGERS: But in my head, I was like, oh, it's vacation day - like a vacation hour to read this.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

ROGERS: But, no, I'm actually...

SANDERS: (Unintelligible). Did you want this?

BENNET: Did I want what, this job?

SANDERS: The White House.

BENNET: I did. And frankly, it was a job that I thought I would never be able to get.

SANDERS: Why not?

BENNET: And it didn't - because I just thought it was never going to come my way. And it wasn't...

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: It wasn't until I was at NPR. And Beth Donovan hired me to cover the Hill, but then had me in mind later to cover the White House that I started...

SANDERS: Beth Donovan, she's the editor of the Washington desk here at NPR.

BENNET: That's right - that I realized...

SANDERS: My favorite godmother (laughter).

BENNET: Oh, she's amazing.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: She's brilliant and amazing. And it wasn't until that moment that I realized, oh, I - a job like this - I can get a - I can have a job like this, too. Like, this success isn't just for other people. It's also for me.

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And then I started to dream a bigger dream for myself.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: And you did it.

ROGERS: Yeah. I mean, I've been lucky to have people - he's tweeting again.

(LAUGHTER)

BENNET: I was going deep, too.

SANDERS: We were getting real emotional.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: So...

SANDERS: We just had a beautiful, emotional moment.

ROGERS: I know. That was great. But I mean, I - dreaming bigger dreams for yourself is sort of like - I don't know. I remember when I first started at the Times, I was like on the overnight shift. And the person who hired me was like, if you work really hard and you're a good person, you can do whatever you want here. And I've been really lucky that...

SANDERS: I remember you telling me that.

ROGERS: Yeah. And I just remember - you know, I remember, like, deciding to believe that 'cause there are a lot of times, like, it's easy not to believe that...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...About a place you work. And I don't know. I've been lucky that people have come and, like, expanded my ambitions for me, you know...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...'Cause, I mean, I couldn't have imagined that I would be doing this. And sometimes it's easy to be, like, oh, you know, he tweeted again. But it's like this is...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: You're covering the biggest story of our time.

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: Yeah. Both of you are White House correspondents who are not from central casting. You are black.

BENNET: (Laughter).

ROGERS: You are? I'm just kidding (laughter).

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

BENNET: That I am. That I am.

SANDERS: You are a woman.

ROGERS: I'm white. Shouldn't we say that? I'm white.

SANDERS: (Unintelligible). But you're a woman.

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: And, like, both of you are bringing a certain level of difference to your...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Job than what you might typically think as a White House correspondent. How - has your race or your gender affected how you approach this job? Have there been moments where you say, I'm doing this differently because of who I am, different than that guy or that person?

BENNET: I don't want to say yes or no 'cause it's more nuanced that that.

SANDERS: Yes, totally.

BENNET: Couple of things - every time I step to the camera in front of the White House for NBC, I always think about the people who had that job before me and the people who never had an opportunity to have it.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And that informs everything I say while I'm standing in that position...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...I mean, because of - not just the legacy of NBC but also because, again, like, all the amazing people who've had that job. So I'm very cognizant of that. Before...

ROGERS: That's why you're so diplomatic.

BENNET: Before I took this job, I spoke to all of the African-American White House correspondents that I could think of and ask them...

ROGERS: How many were there?

SANDERS: Not a lot.

BENNET: I could count them on one hand.

ROGERS: Oh, my God. That's depressing.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: But I'm talking about people who covered the White House for networks.

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: Oh.

BENNET: So I just asked them for their advice. And the one thing I took away from that was to not pull any punches when it comes to talking about how this president and this administration deals with issues of race. And so I'm very direct in my reporting and my analysis. But the one thing I'm very clear not to do is to not give him a pass when he says things, and I know exactly what he's trying to convey.

SANDERS: Do you use the R-word?

BENNET: No. I've never - I would never use that word.

SANDERS: What do you say instead?

BENNET: I'll say when the president says that immigration is causing Europe to lose its culture, that he's taking a page out of the playbook of white nationalism. That is true. When the president is casting all these aspersions upon, you know, NFL players, he's doing that because he knows it resonates with his base. And it's a dog whistle. You know, that is true.

SANDERS: Yeah. Does that wear you down? I find when I have episodes of this show where it's like race-heavy, and I have to like lead this conversation on race...

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: Afterwards, I'm tired. I'm emotionally spent.

BENNET: It - well, yeah.

SANDERS: And you having to cover a White House that is doing something racially charged, it seems every few weeks...

BENNET: Yeah. Yeah.

SANDERS: Does that wear you down?

BENNET: I mean, you have to have a little bit of distance from it, I think...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: ...In order to not be worn down. The other thing, I think, is also sort of exhausting is trying not to make racism a problem for black people. Like, black people did not invent racism. You know what I mean?

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: So whenever there's a racial issue, what happens is you see, like, all these black and brown faces get booked on TV...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

BENNET: ...To talk about it.

SANDERS: And it's like, we didn't do this.

BENNET: Right. It's like...

ROGERS: It becomes your burden.

BENNET: Right.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: It's not our burden.

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: It's not our thing to explain, to explain away and to get rid of.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: So there's a lot of that, is like...

ROGERS: And here's what needs to happen, or here's - it's just - yeah. Yeah, yeah.

BENNET: It's a lot of disabusing people of notions that they have that they don't know that they have.

ROGERS: Yeah.

BENNET: And that's just not what this White House is in general.

ROGERS: They don't help with that.

BENNET: Yeah.

SANDERS: You are covering a White House, Katie, in which the president has said things to and about women...

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Who has paid off women for alleged affairs...

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Who has been sharply critical of things like the #MeToo movement.

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: How do you deal with that?

ROGERS: I - just like racism, sexism didn't start with the Trump administration. So you grow up - you grew up dealing with it. And you internalize some of it. And you, to a degree - like when the #MeToo stuff happened, it's like, wow. I didn't even - some of the stuff that has happened to me in my career or personal life didn't even register until this entire national discussion happened.

And so I think, you know, I guess when things like that happen, I have, you know, latent rage on behalf of my sex and my gender. But, you know, it goes back - your point was excellent about just write it like you see it. Hold a mirror up to this administration. Don't editorialize. Hold a mirror up. That's all you need to do. That's my, like, mantra when this stuff...

SANDERS: That's a good one.

ROGERS: ...Happens. And then, I guess, the other thing I would say, besides being a woman, is - like, I come from his - I come from - my family is a Republican family. My family is a working-class family. I grew up in a rural area in Indiana. He rallied in my hometown. That, more than being a woman, has made me different, I think. And also, it's a strength in a way to like hold up a mirror or just sort of listen to people and not view them as caricatures or - you know, I mean, it doesn't mean what they believe is right or wrong. It just...

SANDERS: Is what it is.

BENNET: Yeah.

ROGERS: Your culture raises you, you know? And you're - that's what it is, you know?

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: And we're - it's easier than ever to ignore everyone else...

SANDERS: That is so true.

ROGERS: ...Which is a problem.

SANDERS: That is so true. I've had you guys here for an hour. I got to let you go.

ROGERS: I feel - am I going to get fired after this?

BENNET: I don't think so.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

ROGERS: You don't? Would you (unintelligible)?

SANDERS: What do you know, Geoff? You don't work in that newsroom.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Geoff's like, I won't fire you.

ROGERS: Tell them you're doing NPR. They'll be like, oh, NPR. You're fine. OK. Yeah.

SANDERS: Last question before we go - what is the worst habit that you have developed in this job to cope with this job?

ROGERS: Checking my phone during conversations like I'm doing right now.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Geoff, you have no vices, Geoff.

BENNET: I don't work out anymore because I don't - I can't work out in the morning. I just can't make myself do it.

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

BENNET: And I don't have time to do it at night.

SANDERS: Yeah.

BENNET: So now I just starve. I just fast. No, I'm kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

BENNET: Any, like, Diet Mountain Dew addictions or something?

ROGERS: I eat out of vending machines a lot.

BENNET: Yeah. The vending...

ROGERS: Vending machine crackers.

BENNET: The vending machine life is real. It's true.

ROGERS: I did go to SoulCycle this morning.

SANDERS: Look at you.

ROGERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: Thanks for the invite (laughter).

ROGERS: Sorry. I mean, I knew that I was coming in here. And I had, like - you know, people were like, yes, you can leave, you know...

SANDERS: Yeah.

ROGERS: ...For X amount of time, actually. Like, you know, I do need to get back to my job.

SANDERS: You got to go. All right. We're going to wrap it up. I got to say, you know, it's, like - the moments when you can take time to reflect on your industry and your peers in the industry, it's a lot of critique. But talking to both of you, my friends, about the state of the fourth estate...

ROGERS: Are you reading from a script...

SANDERS: ...Gives me...

ROGERS: ...Right now?

SANDERS: I'm not reading from a script.

BENNET: (Laughter).

ROGERS: OK. All right.

SANDERS: I'm just saying, I feel a little hope.

ROGERS: OK.

SANDERS: I am hopeful and happy and thankful that good eggs like yourself are covering the biggest story of our time. And I thank you for this conversation...

ROGERS: Thanks, Sam.

SANDERS: ...And for your work.

BENNET: Thanks, brother.

SANDERS: I appreciate y'all.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: Thanks so much to Geoff and Katie. They're both great follows on Twitter. I must say their handles are in our episode data if you want to keep up with their work. Also, one more quick note - listeners in LA, in Orange County, in Pasadena, in San Diego, in Stockton, we're having a show in LA - a live show in LA on October 2. All of California - Nevada, Arizona, too - come on out and say hi. There's a link in our episode data today for that show, too. Also, listeners, we're back with our regular Weekly Wrap this Friday. Until then, thanks for listening. Talk soon.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

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