CNN’s Brian Stelter to ABC’s Robin Roberts: Will Michael Sam Be a ‘Beacon For Others?’

ABC’s Robin Roberts sat down with CNN’s Brian Stelter, host of Reliable Sources, to discuss her newest book “Everybody's Got Something” and was treated to softball question after softball question. 

Appearing in an interview that aired on Sunday, May 18, Stelter asked Roberts “Michael Sam talks about thinking that maybe he will be a beacon for others. Do you think about it in the same way?” [See video below.]  

The CNN host began by gushing that “Robin Roberts is the biggest star in morning television right now” before launching into a slobbering puff interview with the Good Morning America co-anchor. 

After talking about Roberts’ battle with MDS, Stelter began hurling softball questions at his guest: “You write in the book about your girlfriend Amber, and you hadn't spoken publicly about her until last December, in a Facebook message, of all things. Were you surprised that there was sort of a shrug, as opposed to lots of magazine headlines and stories and things like that?” 

The CNN host then hyped how “Michael Sam talks about thinking that maybe he will be a beacon for others. Do you think about it in the same way?” Roberts responded that “I think that that's for others to determine. I -- I don't -- don't look at myself that way. I'm flattered that people do say that about me, and -- but that's not for me to say.”

Stelter continued with the easy questioning and asked the GMA host “What did you think of Michael Sam's drafting, by the way, and then that kiss, the now famous kiss that was broadcast?”

As the interview turned towards Roberts’ colleague Barbara Walters retiring from ABC, Stelter allowed his guest to gush over Ms. Walters. The CNN host hyped how “We have seen so much media coverage about how she was a trailblazer for women, how she made jobs like yours possible.” 

Roberts responded in pure Walters fashion: “You know how it's made about, if you were a tree, what kind of tree will you be? She would be a strong and majestic oak, and her roots run deep and touch us all. Phenomenal.”  

See relevant transcript below. 


CNN

Reliable Sources 

May 18, 2014 

11:25 a.m. Eastern 

BRIAN STELTER: Robin Roberts is the biggest star in morning television right now. In a moment, I'll show you my interview with her, but first, let me take you back two years, to the last time I sat down with her under very different circumstances. It was August 2012 and I was interviewing her for my book called "Top of the Morning." Her top-rated show, ABC's "Good Morning America", had just ended for the day and Robin was about to go to a chemotherapy treatment. She had MDS, a rare blood disorder, and it was a successful bone marrow transplant that was the difference between life and death. After that transplant in September of that year, Robin's recovery was covered every single day on GMA.but there's actually a lot she didn't share, more than I realized at the time. When I sat down with her this week, she shared really candid details about the illness, about the recovery and about working at "GMA" now, now that she's back and in some ways better than ever. Robin has a new book out. It's called "Everybody’s Got Something". And I've got a full disclosure for you here because it's a media show and I'd try to be transparent. Robin's book and my book, they were both published by the same company, called Grand Central. But even though I had that connection, this was very hard interview to get. Here it is. 

(Begin videotape) 

ROBIN ROBERTS: You just want to live your life, because the moment that you tell somebody about an illness, the tilt of the head, are you OK? And it comes from a great place and you realize that people really mean well, but you don't want to talk about it all the time, and you don't want to just seem like a Debbie Downer. Not that anybody ever made me feel that way, it’s just that I did. And again, because the show was doing so well and there was such a -- it was such a happy moment professionally, that the last thing I wanted to do was to bring people down. 

STELTER: A couple things surprised me toward the end of the book. You talk about seeing a therapist. I didn't know -- I don't think you had talked about that on air, for one thing, and you say it's actually pretty common for people after they've been through a traumatic experience, a giant surgery the way you did, to seek out help because they feel sad in some way. Tell me about that. 

ROBERTS: I even talked to Amy Robach about that because she just completed one phase of her treatment, and I said, you know, you think that you're going to be -- woo hoo, yes, it's over, the chemo, radiation, whatever it is that you've gone through, you're going to be celebrating, and all that. Well, you realize that even though it was uncomfortable, somebody was checking on you. Now, it's kind of like, go on. Go by yourself. You know, figure it out. I've been doing a lot more work lately with cancer survivorship and the millions of people who survived cancer after going through a lot of collateral damage with the medications and other things that have saved our lives, and I'm not ashamed to say that I needed help. I need to seek a therapist and do from time to time, just because of the psyche. Because when you not once but twice have been at death's door, and you're still standing, and you go through this guilt of why am I still here and others who faced a similar situation? You hear from loved ones. So, it is something that I think is very important. It's still a teachable moment for people.

STELTER: You write that I had been told that one day, I would wake up and not even think about cancer. Have you had one of those days since all of this? 

ROBERTS: That's a good one. You know, I'm two years out. I still every six weeks have a mild form of chemotherapy that should stop at the two-year mark when I'm two years old. I didn't think I would not think about cancer before, and I did. So I'm sure I will again.

STELTER: It happened. You probably didn't notice for a while. 

ROBERTS: I didn't notice. It just kind of like, it was days had gone by, weeks had gone by, and I was like, I haven't really thought about it. I feel certain the stronger I get and the more that I am just being able to do the things that I love to do that it will be in my rearview mirror.

STELTER: You write in the book about your girlfriend Amber, and you hadn't spoken publicly about her until last December, in a Facebook message, of all things. Were you surprised that there was sort of a shrug, as opposed to lots of magazine headlines and stories and things like that? 

ROBERTS: We were pleasantly surprised that there was a big shrug of the shoulders. I love how one person said. It wasn't like I was trying to keep the closet door shut that tightly. People were very much aware. But yes, I had not publicly in that kind of way expressed my gratitude and my love for this person who has been standing by me. And I've been talking -- so many people have come up to me, Brian, and it wasn't even a part of the story I was really thinking about or concentrating on, and the number of young people who have come up and said that they can now have a conversation with their parents. Gayle said this -- Gayle King said this the other day that somebody came up to her -- and this catches me -- and said that a young man whose mother was having a tough time and said, if it's OK for Robin, it's OK for my son. I find it surprising that somebody in your own family that, you know, don't even know me, but for whatever reason, it helps you understand your own family member orientation, wow. And I just never -- I've been just so busy fighting for my life that I didn't even think about that aspect of the story, but I'm very grateful that it is creating dialogue for families. 

STELTER: Michael Sam talks about thinking that maybe he will be a beacon for others. Do you think about it in the same way? 

ROBERTS: I think that that's for others to determine. I -- I don't -- don't look at myself that way. I'm flattered that people do say that about me, and -- but that's not for me to say.

STELTER: What did you think of Michael Sam's drafting, by the way, and then that kiss, the now famous kiss that was broadcast? (LAUGHTER)

ROBERTS: Oh, boy. It's amazing. What was he supposed to do, shake his hand? (LAUGHTER) I mean, really. 

STELTER: Right. 

ROBERTS: And I think it was one of those moments also when you see it -- when you saw it happen, it was spontaneous. 

STELTER: So natural. 

ROBERTS: It was so natural. It was so quick. When you see the picture, it seems like it's different than what actually occurred. But that doesn't matter. That doesn't matter. He's happy, like every other young man was happy and turned to somebody and showed their gratitude and expressed their love for the person that was next to them. His just happened to be his boyfriend. So, I think that he has handled it very well, and I think, overwhelmingly, the response has been positive. 

STELTER: This is Barbara Walters' last week on "The View." 

ROBERTS: Oh.

STELTER: And we have seen so much media coverage about how she was a trailblazer for women, how she made jobs like yours possible. 

ROBERTS: Yes. 

STELTER: Did you ever experience situations like she did, where she was stereotyped as a woman or held back? 

ROBERTS: I'm not even going to try and compare myself to Barbara Walters and try and -- all I'm going to say is this. This woman, I wouldn't be here, you wouldn't here. There's so many of us, male, female, in this business that would not be enjoying the careers that we are if not for her. Interviewed every president since Nixon, the first woman morning anchor, evening news anchor. I'll say this. When -- you know how it's made about, if you were a tree, what kind of tree will you be? She would be a strong and majestic oak, and her roots run deep and touch us all. Phenomenal. 

STELTER: Do you think she's really retiring? 

ROBERTS: No. (LAUGHTER) No, no. I think she's saying it, and I think she means it, but she is just -- come on, just this week, you know, she has Mrs. Sterling, Donald Sterling's wife, Shelly Sterling.

STELTER: Right. Right. 

ROBERTS: She's talked to her. She's talked to the two principals involved in that case. Yes, she's going to take a lesser role as far as the amount of time, but she's going to be a player. She's going to be fighting us for those big interviews, I can tell, going forward, and rightfully so. 

STELTER: You write about how people love to root for a perceived underdog. But now "GMA" is on top. Now "GMA" has been winning in the ratings for two years. Do you feel like there's now rooting for a different team, for "The Today Show" instead?

ROBERTS: No, I that we are -- we're still the underdog, because we still act...

STELTER: How so? 

ROBERTS: We still act that way. My book, when you strut, you stumble, we're not going around saying we're number one. We're -- we're doing exactly the same thing as we have done all along from the moment I’ve gotten here, and that's trying to produce the best show that we possibly can. And it's very gratifying that the public is responding and making us -- they're making us number one, so by no means are we going around thinking we're top dog. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: Robin's book is out in hardcover now.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.