Episode 15: Women in the World (with Tina Brown)
Preet Bharara: Tina Brown, welcome to Stay Tuned.
Tina Brown: Thank you, Preet. Wonderful to be here.
Preet Bharara: So, I had been thinking, how do I introduce you? And we have a limited amount of time. And if I introduced you with all the titles you had in the past, it would take the whole 45 minutes. How do you introduce yourself?
Tina Brown: I say, Tina Brown, editor/writer.
Preet Bharara: Okay, so editor/writer. Let’s start with that. Would you like more?
Tina Brown: There’s nothing more satisfying than having written a good page, and the sort of tremendous joy of having finished it. On the other hand, there’s nothing more sheer rip-snorting fun than putting out a magazine.
Preet Bharara: I’m not sure what rip-snorting means.
Tina Brown: You don’t know what rip-snorting means?
Preet Bharara: We don’t have to translate that. I also am an immigrant. I just want to stick on this. I’m writing a book, as you may know. And as we were talking about before we went on air, it’s really hard. Do you have advice that you want to share with, I’m sure, a lot of our listeners? How am I supposed to get this thing done?
Tina Brown: Well, I used to talk about getting from writers something that we called a vomit draft, okay? And I got that wonderful term—
Preet Bharara: A vomit draft.
Tina Brown: A vomit draft. I got that term from the great writer Alex [?Schumatchoff]. He used to talk about his vomit draft. And I came to understand what he went. You’ve got to get something on that intimidating piece of empty paper. You have to get something down. However you get it down, it doesn’t much matter, and however bad or chaotic it is, it also doesn’t matter. But once you’ve got something there to work with, that is the beginning of writing something. And I always try to get people to do that. And if they can’t, I say, do it as an email to me. Just write me a long, garrulous email, or keep a diary, any of these things, as long as you get it down. Once you’ve got that down, then you can start to shape. I really recommend it.
Preet Bharara: Yeah, but have you always written that way, or have you?
Tina Brown: I don’t always observe that. I mean—
Preet Bharara: Right.
Tina Brown: The killer is when I start to kind of write the same paragraph ten times and disobey that juncture, which is to say, I’m gonna get this paragraph right instead of getting down the whole very quickly. I really think if it’s possible to get down the whole in some bad, chaotic way, it’s the best way to get it done quickly.
Preet Bharara: So, you’ve written a book called The Vanity Fair Diaries, which chronicles your time as the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair from 1983 to 1992. And so, what’s funny about that, given what we were just talking about, this is a revision of kind of a vomit draft.
Tina Brown: Mm-hmm.
Preet Bharara: I mean, is that what a diary is?
Tina Brown: Absolutely. Yeah. The diary’s the ultimate vomit draft. And it was really fun, though, going through the vomit draft and extracting—
Preet Bharara: If people are listening to this show, you should put down food and drink until we’re done.
Tina Brown: It was really fun extracting what Virginia Woolf once called “the diamonds in the dust heap.” You have to look for the jewels amongst the vomit draft, and also try to maintain the authenticity and pace and freshness of a diary, while at the same time pruning, and making it more cogent, and making it better. And the “better” wasn’t about changing the language, necessarily, or sort of cleaning it up, or putting it into a coat and tie, as it were. But it was just simply about often explaining or sort of illuminating—or in a diary, you’re shorthanding all kinds of things, and you sometimes—I sometimes would have to fill it out, or contextualize, or make it explicable. And just cut out the boring bits. It was all about cutting out the boring bits.
Preet Bharara: Right. Do you keep the diary for yourself or for some other purpose?
Keeping my diary was about explaining what I was doing to myself, what I was thinking to myself. It was about unloading.
Tina Brown: It was purely for myself. Keeping my diary was about explaining what I was doing to myself, what I was thinking to myself. It was about unloading. I mean, I came to America in 1984, and my husband was working in Washington. My parents were living overseas. And I didn’t really have that many friends when I arrived here. So, it was also about talking—it might have been that if my mother had been there or my best friend had been there, I would have called them and talked. But this was pre-digital, too, so I wasn’t gonna waste the evening doing emails. So, having gone out and watched a bit of cable TV, it really was about either reading or writing my diary. And I ended up wanting terribly to unload my new fresh impressions of America. You know, I’d just arrived.
Preet Bharara: Did you share any of the diaries along the way with friends?
Tina Brown: No, I never shared my diary with anyone. And it was never supposed to be read by anybody. I mean, diaries are supposed to be kept—
Preet Bharara: Well, now it’s in a book. It’s been nicely bound, and you can purchase it on Amazon.
Tina Brown: I never thought I would do that. I thought it might serve as the basis for something. But when I went back to—when I thought about doing a memoir, I found the whole idea of a memoir just so deadening somehow. I know you’re about to write one, but—
Preet Bharara: It’s not a memoir, but it’s—I’m not sure what it is yet.
Tina Brown: No, it’s not a memoir, but it’s the whole thing of sort of ferreting through your papers and sort of reading old missives and memos and things. I began to find myself very kind of weighted down by the whole thing, and feeling half-dead doing it, you know? And so, the diaries—I thought, I’m gonna go and look at these diaries from the ‘80s. Maybe there’ll be something from Vanity Fair that I could do, that I could start with. It was really about how do I start my book? So, I started reading these diaries, thinking this is the place to start, and then I can always flash back or forward. But as soon as I started really reading them, I realized that there was so much good stuff in them, frankly, that to make it into a book would mean I would have to then take out what was there and sort of thematize it.
Preet Bharara: Right.
Tina Brown: Or just use bits and pieces. And I felt there was really enough great stuff that I wanted to see it appearing as it was written.
Preet Bharara: One thing that struck me even before I opened up the book—you had blurbs, the obligatory blurbs from famous, important people on the back. And I was struck by what Meryl Streep wrote on the book jacket. And she refers to you in the following way. She says, “A cultural catalyst. She makes things happen. Thank god she wrote it all down.” Did you think of your role as more of a cultural catalyst or a cultural analyst?
Tina Brown: Well, I actually did see myself as a catalyst, because I think that editing, producing—they’re very similar. And I think that editing a magazine—not necessarily a literary magazine or a newspaper—no, a glossy magazine, particularly, is about using pulling together numerous elements and creating a zeitgeist, really, with what you’re publishing. And so, I suppose I did enjoy the ability to make things happen with a magazine, to put things into the conversation. And I still enjoy doing that very much.
I mean, Women in the World Summit, which is what I’m doing now, I looked at the agenda just the other day for our last April summit. And honestly, it could have been today. We opened with an incredible sexual harassment conversation way before all of this, which was about how HR is not your friend; how to get—how to actually beat HR when you’re trying to get compensation; what happens to your career when you do. We had a firefighter who was harassed. We had Gretchen Carlson. We had all these people who are now on the agenda. So, I’ve always felt desire to get these conversations going and to try to be ahead of them, rather than just follow them.
Preet Bharara: Let’s go back to the ‘80s for a second, what you wrote about in the book. How is life different in America? How is culture different with respect to men and women, and women’s equality, or lack of equality with men?
Tina Brown: I think still sort of hugely different. I mean, both very different and very similar. I was struck when I was watching some of the footage that CBS took of me. They used some old footage from a 60 Minutes thing they’d done in the end of the ‘80s with me. And I’m shown presenting the magazine to the management. And it’s me and all of these men.
Preet Bharara: Right.
Tina Brown: And at the time, I never really thought there was anything strange about that. I wouldn’t talk about it. I didn’t say, oh my god, I went upstairs to promote the magazine and it’s all men, all men of 55, sitting around a table. It actually looks like Trump’s cabinet now, right? It really did.
Preet Bharara: They’re a bit older than 55.
Tina Brown: Yeah, exactly. But I would be struck by that now. And so, that is definitely very different.
Preet Bharara: You’re struck by that now because it is hope more rare.
Tina Brown: Well, I don’t know that it’s that rare. As I say, Trump’s cabinet looks like that now. But I certainly would be—I think we’re much more sensitized to at least be aware about it and think there’s something wrong with this picture.
Preet Bharara: Do you think it make a difference that there is a woman boss at the head of a magazine, or an institution, or a bank, or a country with respect to how women are treated in that environment? It seems like an obvious yes, but I want to know your thoughts.
Tina Brown: Well, no. It’s not obvious if it’s just the woman and no one else.
Preet Bharara: At the top.
Tina Brown: I mean, it’s funny. In Germany now, I was reading, women think you can either be a chancellor or a housekeeper, because there really isn’t anybody in between. It’s not like—
Preet Bharara: Right.
Tina Brown: So, I think not all women at the helm have meant that it makes a huge difference to having women in the company. I do actually think, though, that having many more women in management does hugely affect the way women are treated in a company, yes, because I think there are many more voices who are raising dissent about the way women are treated. Either it isn’t an accident that there were like ten men on the Weinstein company board, you know? I mean, there really weren’t any women saying, wait a minute. Why are we paying off these—and it’s not just about, is it okay to renew Harvey Weinstein’s contract? It’s about why is he paying off all these women? That’s got to stop.
Preet Bharara: I’m gonna have a few more questions about Harvey Weinstein in a minute.
Tina Brown: Yeah.
Preet Bharara: But when you were the head of a magazine, running an institution, and you said a minute ago that you didn’t necessarily think that much of the fact that all these folks were men, but were you conscious of being a woman in that job and what you were projecting about the culture of the place to both men and women at the institution, or did you not pay that any mind?
Tina Brown: I really was blazing ahead and did not pay much attention to it, quite honestly. I mean, I was young. I was incredibly ambitious, and I just wanted to make my mark as an editor. And I wasn’t really worrying about what I seemed to be or was. I simply was sort of charging ahead and making it up as I went along.
Preet Bharara: And what’s your advice to women in the workplace?
Get your army in place…Because one thing I think you learn as women as you get older is men seem to have networks in place to be there when they fall. Women don’t.
Tina Brown: Get your army in place. Get your plan and your strategy in place. Because one thing I think you learn as women as you get older is men seem to have networks in place to be there when they fall. Women don’t. They just don’t. And I think it’s largely because women are so engrossed—very often, actually—in their families and their child-raising and so on that they don’t have a great deal of time to spare beyond office—work and family, work and family, work and family. That’s certainly the way I was. And in the diary, somebody said to me, “There is not a lot about friendships in the diary beyond work.” My work was my family, and my family became my work. Except, of course, my real family, which was my other great passion in life. So, I had these two passions, my work and my work family, and my real family. In between that, there really wasn’t any time for anything else.
Preet Bharara: Is that the best dynamic? I mean, people talk about work/life balance. We used to talk about it in the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Tina Brown: I don’t think work/life balance is at all possible if you’re trying to be successful. I mean, I think that actually—
Preet Bharara: You know, that’s a mildly controversial thing that you’re saying.
Tina Brown: I know. Well, listen. I managed to—I mean, I think you just kind of become super focused on that. I mean, as I say, I think things—some things have to—you lose certain things. I mean, I think that I would like to have had more friendships going on, more relaxation going on. But all I cared about was getting home to my kids, you know?
Preet Bharara: Right.
Tina Brown: So, it was like that was my focus with a razor eye, which is just—
Preet Bharara: You can’t have everything.
Tina Brown: You can’t have everything, no. So, I mean, now, actually, I’ve got much more time for friendships.
Preet Bharara: Right.
Tina Brown: And it’s wonderful, as a matter of fact. I love the fact that now when my kids are off hand, suddenly I’ve got more time to develop my friendships. And I’m glad that they’re still there.
Preet Bharara: You once said, as a bit of advice to young women, “Don’t send the email right away. Think about it till tomorrow.” As someone whose life has been rendered chaotic by ‘reply all,’ learning to wait has been a big lesson.” What did you mean by that?
Tina Brown: Well, I’m very impulsive by temperament, and I definitely think I’ve been grateful sometimes to wonderful members of my own team who say, “Don’t send it,” or who just don’t send it, which is even more helpful. And I’ll say, “Did that note go?” And they’ll say, “Well, I thought I would wait.” I loved one or two people in my life who’ve done that for me. Because I am very impulsive. And I think one of the worst things about digital life is that people are responding too quickly. They’re just responding too quickly. They’re not thinking about things.
Preet Bharara: So, going back to the issues of women in the workplace, and you have started this very important organization. Tell us about that for a second.
Tina Brown: Well, in 2010, I started Women in the World Summit, which is about creating a platform or venue for—to hear women’s voices. I mean, I’m on the board of Vital Voices, which is an NGO which mentors women in emerging countries. And I kept meeting extraordinary women from African and India and the Middle East who were facing down such genuine oppressions, whether it’s child marriage, or honor killings, or FGM, or even access to an education. And they were just remarkable voices. And I felt, there’s no place for these women to tell their stories. So, I thought how interesting it would be to start a summit, a conference, where we could bring these women in and have them tell their stories, and then have a few of the other kinds of women who are more famous so that people would want to come in and buy tickets.
So, we launched it in 2010 in a small theater. And the first panel, actually, was about Congo. We called it “Rape as a Weapon of War,” amazingly, really, when I think back, about you’re gonna open a summit with that subject. But it was very powerful. We had a woman who had a radio station in Congo where she had women phoning in and giving witness and bearing testament to the fact that they’d been raped, and speaking aloud about something which had never been really talked about out loud. And this radio call in show became this extraordinary force for kind of shaming and naming people in the military. So, that was—and we played it in a dark theater with subtitles on the screen. It was extraordinarily powerful, actually. And once we started it, it just took off immediately, I have to say. And actually, Hillary Clinton has been every year except last year—except the year before last. And we moved into a big theater in Lincoln Center. It now has 2,500 people every day for three days. We’ve done it in India, London, Toronto. It’s become quite a sort of global platform, and I think really has been at the forefront of many of the issues that are now happening now. But the interesting thing is that I started it because I thought women needed here—needed to be aroused, as it were, by a kind of global women’s movement that I could see happening beyond our shores. And I felt at that time, the women’s movement here was very torpid, actually. And now, it’s like the whole finger has come around. Since the Women’s March this year, we’ve seen an explosion of American women’s feminism, right, and American voices, which really had sort of gone a lot to sleep over the last few years.
Since the Women’s March this year, we’ve seen an explosion of American women’s feminism and American voices, which really had sort of gone a lot to sleep over the last few years.
Preet Bharara: Why do you think it had gone to sleep?
Tina Brown: I mean, obviously, there were some great women’s voices out there. There was feminism happening. But it didn’t feel urgent, you know? The younger generation in particular thought it was kind of their mum’s issue, you know?
Preet Bharara: But do you think that’s because those particular people with those particular political points of view thought they had a hospitable president?
Tina Brown: I think they thought they had a hospitable president. I think they thought that there was movement, and there has been movement, obviously. I think they thought that they were working towards getting a woman president. I think they thought that women were gradually going on to boards. But it was glacial, is the truth. I mean, the fact is it has been glacial, the movement. And in fact, there really hasn’t been a great deal of movement. There’s been opportunity, and there have been women who are CEOs of major companies and so on, but it’s still very small, and there’s a sense of being stalled. And actually, only three or four years ago, I was actually thinking and writing a book called Stalled, because I felt that having done Women in the World as long as I had, that I kept hearing these same stories. It’s like it’s not actually changing. That’s why the women from overseas were so exhilarating to hear because it felt like they were just breaking through giant problems, and we needed to think about doing the same thing here.
Preet Bharara: How much of a difference would it have made if a woman had been elected president?
Tina Brown: Well, I think it would have been different in America because I do think, actually, that if Hillary were president, she would be laser-focused on many of these issues that women do care about. When she was Secretary of State, she had a Secretary of State for women in [?Milan for there] [00:15:54], you know, and there was a tremendous effort to bring women into all aspects of foreign policy. So, I do think it would have made a big difference. But the tragedy, in a sense, for Hillary was her loss is what galvanized women.
Preet Bharara: Right.
Tina Brown: I mean, young women were not as galvanized by Hillary when she was running as they are now she’s lost.
Preet Bharara: Do you think Al Franken should resign?
Tina Brown: I think he resigned too fast. I don’t know enough. This is the problem right now, is—
Preet Bharara: That’s a little bit controversial, what you’re saying, in some quarters.
Tina Brown: Yeah, I know. I mean, I’m very concerned about due process, actually. I’m very concerned about that. I want to know precisely everything that he’s supposed to have done while he’s been a senator. And I think it was too hasty. It may well be that he should resign, but I’d like to have known much more about what it is he’s supposed to have done.
Preet Bharara: Are you, then—are you critical of the several dozen Democratic senators who asked him to resign?
Tina Brown: In this atmosphere, I can’t really be critical because I think there is such a sense, rightly so, of outrage. The rage of women right now is a righteous thing, there’s no doubt about it. And I believe that that righteous rage is not just about sexual harassment. Not that there’s a “just” in it. Some of it has been so bad.
Preet Bharara: What else is it about?
Tina Brown: It’s about this question that I mentioned about feeling so stalled, so kind of marginalized, so constantly promised something that isn’t happening in terms of representation, in terms of being at the table, in terms of women’s dignity and place in the world being properly observed. It is just tremendously—women are very angry. And they feel disgusted that we have, in the White House, someone who so clearly disrespects women, whose cabinet has such a small representation of women. It’s just that it’s just token women, almost, except for just two or three. There is a real anger about that. I think rightly so. So, it’s very difficult to criticize anyone right now for feeling angry and perhaps acting in, at times, impetuous ways.
Preet Bharara: Do you think that the president should resign based on the allegations made against him?
Tina Brown: I don’t think that Trump should resign on this now because I think as he was elected president when the electorate knew, that was the time for the referendum on that. I’d like him to resign for other reasons. For every reason, actually.
Preet Bharara: If you were a reporter in the field, how would you be covering these issues differently from how they’re being covered now? Or would you not?
Tina Brown: It’s focus that’s the issue right now. It’s how to focus on the issues. I mean, I’m always interested in—feeling right now that there’s so much coming at us with Trump. How do you stay focused on the really important things? Because he’s brilliant at just sort of throwing drama at us every day.
Preet Bharara: So, what would you pick?
Tina Brown: I mean, I want to know what is happening. I’d like to focus now, actually, on how women are being treated by this presidency, not in terms of sexual harassment, but in terms of funding and reproductive rights and justice, which I think is getting completely not talked about anymore. We were talking about justice reform. And I don’t know what ever happened to that. Maybe you could tell us that, Preet.
Preet Bharara: Well, I think we have been talking about it some, but I agree with you. It seems like that it’s very difficult to spend more than half a day talking about something that someone might think is an injustice, or a derogation of an American institution, or a violation of an important and valued norm in democratic society, because there’s another outrage in the next six-hour period.
Tina Brown: Yeah. I mean, outrage fatigue is one of the issues.
Women are very angry. And they feel disgusted that we have, in the White House, someone who so clearly disrespects women…
Preet Bharara: I want to ask you about a couple of other people. Do you think that Charlie Rose, who I know, and I know you know, should have been forced out for good based on the allegations against him?
Tina Brown: Well, I was taken aback, frankly, about Charlie Rose when I saw the allegations about taking the young interns up to Bellport. And what I’m very surprised about though, frankly, is that the network doesn’t sit him down and say, “Look, if you keep on taking young interns up to your house and parade around in a bathrobe, we’re not gonna distribute your show anymore.”
Preet Bharara: You mean before.
Tina Brown: Before. Yeah. So, I don’t understand why it got to be what it became for so long.
Preet Bharara: There was a lot of enabling, you think.
Tina Brown: A lot of enabling, I think. And I think it’s unfair, by the way, to criticize the producer who worked for him about that. That is about the people who are the money. That’s about the people who are the distributors. That’s about people who have the power to say, “We will drop your show.” Only those people can say to someone like Charlie Rose, of his kind of magnitude, “This has somehow got out of control, and it’s got to stop.” So, that is what really sort of puzzles me. And having had that come out now, I don’t really see how he could certainly be restored to that network. I’m not sure whether it means that someone should lose their entire career. I mean, I think that is the question now, is what is the appropriate punishment, if you like, for having overstepped in a really egregious way.
Preet Bharara: When you were the head of one of the 300 magazines that you were the head of at one point, did you ever have to deal with a situation where there was misbehavior on the part of a senior male with a female? Did you have a view about how that should be dealt with?
Tina Brown: It really didn’t—it wasn’t something that I really—I mean, it was just such a different time that it wasn’t something that was coming up to me. I mean, at Vanity Fair, it was mostly women and gay men. And—
Preet Bharara: But you’re not saying it wasn’t happening. You’re just saying at the time, there was less reporting of these things.
Tina Brown: Yeah.
Preet Bharara: So, I want to ask you about Harvey Weinstein. Now, you worked with him.
Tina Brown: Mm-hmm.
Preet Bharara: He funded one of your magazines. I know you’ve been asked this a lot of times. And how do you feel about that and what he’s been accused of, with the benefit of hindsight?
Tina Brown: I find it just so unsettling and upsetting. And he was so horrible to work with, period, that—
Preet Bharara: You found that to be true.
Tina Brown: Absolutely. He was dishonest in ways that were damaging to everybody. He was a liar. He was—
Preet Bharara: Did you know that before you started working with him?
Tina Brown: Of course not. I mean, of course not. I mean, you don’t—
Preet Bharara: But did he not have a reputation for being that way?
Tina Brown: Look, what he had the reputation for is being a rough, tough, bombastic salesman. Vulgar, but had amazing taste, had amazing marketing flair, all of these things. Clearly, you don’t go to work for somebody you think is a vile, lying sort of a human being, right? So, he had—
Preet Bharara: Unless you want to be in the cabinet.
Tina Brown: Unless you want to be in the cabinet. Thank you. Yes. So, of course not. But at the same time, one had—I had no idea that this stuff was happening. Of course not. But it was nonetheless—his technique of bullying was very similar to what one now sees in all of the sexual revelations. When I first saw the tape or heard the tape of him and the Italian girl that he’s accused of molesting, and she was wiring a wire, right? And he’s trying to get her to go into his hotel room. I found myself really upset by that, because it was so much the tone of voice he would use to me when he was trying to bully, wheedle, aggress, hassle, make me feel bad about something. This was the tone of voice, the combination of the wheedle and the bully and the “don’t you know who I am. You’ve got to do this for me,” and all of this stuff. It just brought it back to me in a way that I found—made me somewhat sleepless for a few nights.
Preet Bharara: When Harvey Weinstein spoke to you in that way—obnoxious, bullying, wheedling—did you think he spoke to everyone that way, men and women both, or do you think you were treated differently because you were a woman?
Tina Brown: I saw him treat men just as badly. As a matter of fact, I might argue that in terms of sheer vile physical bullying, he was almost—he seemed to me worse to men, actually.
Preet Bharara: In public.
Tina Brown: In public. It was obviously—this was before we knew about the bathrobe stunt.
Preet Bharara: And lots of other things, with respect to—
Tina Brown: And lots of other things.
Preet Bharara: If you had one piece of advice to give both men and women at magazines, or in Hollywood, or at—you name the workplace, what would it be, to help make things better? I mean—
Tina Brown: Due diligence. I mean, I asked myself, why didn’t I ask more questions? Why didn’t I—
Preet Bharara: Well, who would you have asked questions of?
Tina Brown: Why didn’t I phone ten people who worked at Miramax and say, what’s it like to work there, you know? I mean, somehow, you can become overly [?bedazzled]. I have to say that in the case of Harvey, part of his technique, which you can read about now, and the way he was with women was he has this explosive secrecy around him all the time. And so, for instance, I did know Michael Eisner, for whom he worked, who was in fact—owned Miramax. He wouldn’t allow me to call Michael Eisner, who I knew, to talk to him about this whole job offer that he’d made to me. Now, you might say, well, what do you mean, didn’t “allow” you? Why didn’t you just pick up the phone and call Eisner? And it’s because he really—he said, “You will not call Eisner.” He just—he made it that I was betraying him by doing that. And somehow, this is the power that he had over people. He was a very scary man, actually. Very, very intimidating.
Preet Bharara: So, do you think we have reached something of a watershed, or do you think the Me Too movement—do you think that we’re on the road to something better, or do you think it’s short-lived?
My biggest fear about the Me Too movement is that it has set something going, but it doesn’t trickle down.
Tina Brown: Well my biggest fear about the Me Too movement is that it has set something going, but it doesn’t trickle down. I mean, clearly, the women who are powerless, who can’t afford expensive lawyers, and who are not celebrities, and whose lives are of little interest to anybody except themselves are the ones who are most at risk, as we saw with the hotel maid at the Sofitel when Dominique Strauss-Kahn raped her, which he did, in the Sofitel Hotel. That exploded because he was Dominique Strauss-Kahn, not because the maid was complaining about it.
Preet Bharara: How do we got about helping those folks?
Tina Brown: Well, that is the great question, and that is one I’m really concerned about. I mean, I think we have to make sure somehow that these women have access to some kind of pro bono help; that we need more organizational questioning of how people are being treated at work; give them a sense that they can complain and not come off better for it. I mean, let’s face it. I don’t think I can think even now, even in the higher echelons of life, who are making all this noise right now, whose career is actually helped by speaking out. I mean, certainly a few actresses now might feel this is a bit of a moment when to speak out actually behooves them. But most of the time, anyone I know who’s ever spoken it, it certainly doesn’t help their career. They don’t go on to be promoted afterwards. It’s not been something that was, for them, beneficial.
Preet Bharara: If a friend came to you in recent times who said that she had been abused, or harassed, or the victim or worse, and the person who was perpetrating those acts was somebody who was powerful and famous, today, would your advice be, you gotta go forward because it’s important? Or would you worry, as you say, that they could be further harassed publicly because of their disclosure of these things?
Tina Brown: Well, I think I would have to say to them, how brave are you? Yes, how brave are you? I mean, Asia Argento, the Italian girl who spoke out against him—I think it was Argento. Oh no, wait a minute. It was Gutierrez, the one who had to go back to Italy, the one that Harvey Weinstein aggressed. I mean, her career was a disaster until this whole movement. I mean, she got a settlement from him, but nobody returned her calls. She didn’t get modeling jobs. She didn’t get acting jobs. She had to go back—she had to go and live in the Philippines. Her career was destroyed. People don’t want to touch you if they feel that you’re toxic, that you’re dangerous, that you could make trouble. Big companies don’t want to hire you either. So, making trouble doesn’t get you anywhere, most of the time.
Preet Bharara: It’s an interesting conundrum, because when I had a different job, when I was a prosecutor, we were in the position all the time in lots of different circumstances and scenarios to try to get unwilling victims to come forward. Not necessarily in this type of scenario, sexual harassment, but robbery victims, people who had been extorted by the mob. And on the one hand, we weren’t their friends, and we would have to make the pitch that there’s a larger issue than just what it means for you. And we understand and respect and are sensitive to the fact that you and your family might have some collateral consequences visited upon you. But if everybody did what you did, if everybody decided to be afraid—and the fear is totally understandable. But if everyone decided to be afraid and nobody came forward, these bad people, whether it’s a mafia boss, or a fraudster, or someone else, they’re gonna keep doing it to other folks. And so, we would try to appeal to their courage.
Tina Brown: And you’re obviously very good at it.
Preet Bharara: Well, we got a lot of people.
Tina Brown: You did.
Preet Bharara: And I used to tell assistant U.S. attorneys in our office, you don’t learn that out of a book. And sometimes, you would have victims—this has become a bigger issue now also, given the immigration battles. I did a lot of organized crime cases out of Chinatown. And the perpetrators were organized crime. They were Chinese organized gangs. But the victims were, too. And some of them were not documented. And there’s a whole separate show we can do on this issue, talking about immigration issues. But these people who had been robbed at gunpoint, and tied up, and feared for their lives, didn’t want to testify, understandably. But if they didn’t testify, then it would happen again and again and again. And they could become victims again. So, it’s a very tough—
Tina Brown: It’s agony. It’s actually agonizing.
Preet Bharara: Agonizing thing.
Tina Brown: It’s actually agonizing.
Preet Bharara: I mean, it was easier for us because it was our job to get them to testify so we could convict and hold accountable the bad guys. I know it’s a different situation when you have a personal relationship—
Tina Brown: No, it’s agony. It’s agony. I mean, you asked me what I would do. I mean, the first thing I would do is try to get them another job.
Preet Bharara: Yeah.
Tina Brown: I really would. And I don’t know that I would say, looking at them as my friend, if that was a person who was a friend of mine, I would ask them, do you want to have the collateral damage? You have to be willing. You have to embrace it and know that it might happen to you.
Preet Bharara: So, there’s one person we haven’t talked about directly, and I know you get asked about him—I do, too—in every interview. Give us one minute on Donald Trump.
Tina Brown: Well, my one minute on Donald Trump is that I think I got him right in the diaries, in The Vanity Fair Diaries.
Preet Bharara: You did. You did.
Tina Brown: I mean, in 1987, I think that he’s—I like him at first. I think that he’s a bombastic—a bit like Harvey Weinstein. Actually, very similar.
Preet Bharara: Bombastic.
Tina Brown: Yeah, bombastic, but fresh. A rascal. All those kind of slightly friendly words that imply that somebody is an enjoyable con man, right? But then, as the years go by, he gets less and less enjoyable. And by the end of the diaries, when he comes in, I see him as a fraud, a malignant fraud, and one of who is—
Preet Bharara: As opposed to a benign fraud.
Tina Brown: As opposed to a benign fraud, exactly. And that’s kind of where I am with Donald Trump, that he has become a malignant fraud.
Preet Bharara: Was there a moment when you think you realized that Donald Trump had gone from being a benign fraud to a malignant fraud?
That’s kind of where I am with Donald Trump, that he has become a malignant fraud.
Tina Brown: Well, I think it might have been the moment with Marie Brenner, who’s reporting on him for our magazine, saw Hitler’s speeches on his desk.
Preet Bharara: Right.
Tina Brown: And wrote about that. And he was so outraged that he then poured a drink down her dress at an event. And that’s when I realized that he was—the man was just—had become dark. And I think there is a darkness to Trump, actually.
Preet Bharara: Do you think he became dark, or was he always that way?
Tina Brown: I think he’s changed, actually. I have a feeling that he has changed. I think rage at not being, in his mind, considered. It’s fairly interesting, in life, how a sense of being not considered by the people that you want to be considered by can turn you really malignant. It was kind of the same with Nixon, too. He always just felt angry that he wasn’t given proper respect, as he felt that he was—
Preet Bharara: Even though he became the president.
Tina Brown: Even though he became the president.
Preet Bharara: Twice.
Tina Brown: It doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter. He felt strongly that he didn’t have the respect, that he didn’t have the—that he never really had the same—the kind of appropriate level of—which could just simply be about megalomania, that nothing was able to assuage it. Certainly true with Trump. I sat behind Trump at that White House Correspondent Dinner in which President Obama absolutely brilliantly mocked him, the year that—
Preet Bharara: Oh, I remember.
Tina Brown: Yes, the year that he caught Osama bin Laden the next day.
Preet Bharara: Yes.
Tina Brown: And he was making fun of Trump so brilliantly. And the whole room was laughing. And the whole liberal elite, in Trump’s mind and in his perception, was laughing at him that night. And I sat behind me, and I saw his neck go from pale pink to beetroot. And—
Preet Bharara: He was not laughing. He was not smiling.
Tina Brown: He was not laughing. And he was beside himself. And I believe that that was a very key night for Trump. I think that he really conceived an abiding hatred of all of those people who were laughing at him, and in particular, President Obama, who carried it off with such élan.
Preet Bharara: On that note, Tina Brown, thank you.
Tina Brown: Thank you.
Preet Bharara: It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to have you on the show.
Tina Brown: Thank you so much, Preet.
Preet Bharara: Thanks.