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“For a journalist, there is no other story in the world you’d want to be covering,” says Hallie Jackson. “It’s the biggest story in the world right now.” NBC’s White House correspondent, Jackson, 32, came up in local news before getting a job at NBC in 2014, where she covered the presidential campaign of Ted Cruz, a brief frontrunner in the GOP primary. Her work on the trail — along with fellow road warriors Katy Tur, Kristen Welker and Kasie Hunt — caught the attention of NBC News executives, who in January promoted her to the White House and also gave her the 10 a.m. hour on MSNBC. She routinely works a 19-hour day, which often includes buttonholing White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in the briefing room. But she’s not complaining.
“Yes, you’re sleeping four hours a night, and you can’t run the risk of putting your phone down,” she says. “It is 100 percent exhausting but it’s also exhilarating,” she says. “It is an opportunity to witness this extraordinary moment in history. I know that sounds so cheesy. But it’s real.”
What’s it like to be in the briefing room with Spicer?
He has been answering reporters’ questions for years and years so this is not his first rodeo, although it is his first time at the podium. So you’ve got to go in really well prepared. You have to be really fast. In past administrations you could do a wind up, but [Spicer will] cut you off and move on. So you have to be sharp and you have to be pointed. I think that’s the way you get information out of the White House.
How do you push back on Spicer or other administration officials when they’re spinning, or just lying?
Dogged persistence; do not get distracted. With the wiretapping thing for example, the president announces, “Well, I was talking about surveillance, ‘wiretapping’ is in quotes.” That’s his argument. Frankly, that resonates with some of his supporters. But every time you [report on it], you say, “The unproven claim that has been debunked by [FBI] director [James] Comey.” It’s every single time on all of the claims — on the voting fraud, of which there is no evidence and he says even today that 3 million people voted illegally. Every time you say, “Unproven claim with zero evidence.” You just can’t ever let up on that stuff. The administration feels that they get a bad rap; that a lot of the coverage is negative, that a lot of coverage is pointed against them. But you can’t let any of the aggressiveness at briefings throw you.
Can you ever take a day off?
What an interesting question. Not yet. (Laughs.) It’s the first hundred days, so it’s kind of assumed that you’re going to crank hard. I will tell you this, my birthday is coming up. After the first hundred days I’m going to France for a week. It’s my first vacation since before the campaign.
Have you ever thought about what the job would be like if Hillary Clinton had won?
I don’t because she didn’t and that’s not where we are. It would still be really busy. It’s still the beginning of an administration. It might be slightly more predictable.
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