Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) is a broadcast journalist, political commentator, 18-time Emmy Award winner, and author of Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty.
What We Discuss with Anderson Cooper:
- How Anderson got his start in broadcast journalism without relying on his famous, wealthy family connections.
- Why experiencing the loss of a parent early in life drew Anderson toward learning how to survive in extreme circumstances and report in places torn by conflict.
- What growing up scrutinized by media in the wake of family tragedy taught Anderson about being an empathetic journalist from the other side of the lens.
- How Anderson harnesses his self-described innate awkwardness for establishing rapport with people who have already been interviewed from every angle (like Eminem).
- What a real journalist is prepared to do during a breaking news segment when the teleprompter goes dark.
- And much more…
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What makes someone from one of America’s wealthiest and most famous families grow up to report news from the front lines of war zones, genocides, and disasters? Today’s guest, Anderson Cooper — CNN anchor, son of the iconic Gloria Vanderbilt, and author of Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty — knows.
On this episode, Anderson joins us to discuss how he got his start in broadcast journalism without relying on his family connections, why early tragedy drove him to learn how to survive in extreme circumstances, what growing up scrutinized by the media taught him about reporting people’s stories with an eye ever on empathy, how he uses his self-described awkwardness to connect with his subjects, what a real journalist does when the teleprompter goes dark during a breaking news segment, and much more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss our two-part conversation with Jack Garcia, the undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family of Cosa Nostra in New York for nearly three years? Catch up by starting with episode 392: Joaquin “Jack” Garcia | Undercover in the Mafia Part One here!
Thanks, Anderson Cooper!
If you enjoyed this session with Anderson Cooper, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
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Resources from This Episode:
- Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty by Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe | Amazon
- The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt | Amazon
- Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival by Anderson Cooper | Amazon
- Anderson Cooper 360° | CNN
- Anderson Cooper | 60 Minutes, CBS
- Anderson Cooper | Twitter
- Anderson Cooper | Instagram
- Anderson Cooper | Facebook
- Anderson Cooper Loses Jeopardy to Cheech | Dailymotion
- Cornelius Vanderbilt | Wikipedia
- Gloria Vanderbilt | Wikipedia
- Al Franken’s Mobile Uplink: Baghdad | Saturday Night Live
- Wyatt Emory Cooper | Wikipedia
- Black Hawk Down | Prime Video
- Anderson Cooper on War Reporting: “The Energy Is Palpable. The Molecules in the Air Are Charged.” | Columbia Journalism Review
- National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)
- Wind River Mountain Range | Visit Pinedale, WY
- Baja, Mexico Sea Kayaking | SUP Sea Trek
- “#TBT. Sarajevo, Bosnia 1993” | Anderson Cooper, Instagram
- Anderson Cooper Still Has Questions About Brother Carter’s Suicide | People
- Former QAnon Supporter to Cooper: I Apologize for Thinking You Ate Babies | CNN
- Anderson Cooper on the Photograph That Changed His Life | Best Life
- Gorilla Treks in Rwanda: A Bucket-List Must | WSJ
- Kigali Genocide Memorial
- Paul Kagame | Twitter
- Biking a Path of War, Intrigue, and Tragedy in Bosnia | National Geographic
- United Nations
- Doctors Without Borders
- Behind the Scenes with Eminem and Anderson Cooper | 60 Minutes
- McDonnell Parents Live through Grace | CNN
- Lesley Stahl | Twitter
- Prompter Wars! Andy and Anderson Face Off | WWHL
584: Anderson Cooper | The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to our sponsor Glenfiddich single malt scotch whisky. You've heard me talking about Glenfiddich with the highly recognizable stag icon that now adorns our show art. They've got a new body of work that aims to challenge the traditional notions, commonly portrayed in culture, of what it means to be wealthy and live a life of riches. Glenfiddich believes that beyond the material of life of wealth and riches is also about family, community, values, fulfilling work. These are the values that led Glenfiddich to become the world's leading single malt scotch whisky. Today's guest Anderson Cooper exemplifies these values, and you'll find out why later on in the episode. More from our partners at Glenfiddich coming up later in the show.
[00:00:32] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:35] Anderson Cooper: I'm telling you when the lights go out and there's no air condition, and it's really frigging hot and you don't have food and there's crazy stuff going on around you, you've become a different person very, very quickly. Sometimes you become the person that you never thought you'd be. You become a superhero and you help other people and you risk your own life to help other people. Some of the people who thought they would be the heroes end up punching women in the face in order to scale a wall to get to safety, all of which I've seen. You don't know who you are until everything is at jeopardy.
[00:01:12] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, psychologists, even the occasional Russian chess grandmaster, former cult member, or drug trafficker. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:39] If you're new to the show, or you're looking for a great way to tell your friends about it — and I always appreciate it when you do that — check out our episode starter packs. These are top episodes organized by topic. That will help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show. jordanharbinger.com/start is where you can find them or send somebody else to go find them. We've got our Spotify playlist there now as well.
[00:01:59] Today on the show Anderson Cooper, 18 Emmys, not bad, man. His career path has been to Burma, Somalia, Iraq, Sarajevo, filming everything on a home video camera essentially, and doing it all alone in the beginning. That's quite the career path. And those were the early days covered wars, tsunamis, even some of the worst and best of humanity. Today, we go deep on war, humanity and inhumanity, as well as the state of the media today. Now I know a lot of people don't agree with his politics. They can't stand them, but this is not a political show. And there's a reason for that because we can learn from everyone. The man has a fascinating career. This is a fascinating conversation.
[00:02:35] And if you're wondering how I managed to book guests like this, it's because of my network. And I've got creators like this all the time, and I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests you hear on the show subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:02:53] Now, here's Anderson Cooper.
[00:02:58] I heard you played Celebrity Jeopardy, and you got creamed by Cheech Marin, which is actually — first of all, if people don't know who Cheech & Chong are, go ahead and Google — but you wouldn't think Cheech would be a trivia guy or like an academic sort of guy at all.
[00:03:10] Anderson Cooper: He is so frigging smart and also has such good buzzer theory. And it's so quick on the buzzer, but he's a really smart guy. He's a really fascinating guy. I will say I've played now four times. I won twice and I lost twice. So I feel like — yeah, when I lost, I mean to lose to Cheech Marin, I got really cocky because I had one the first time that I'd crushed them. And then my second time I was invited on, it was Cheech. I was like, "Pfft, I got this," and he just destroyed me.
[00:03:40] Jordan Harbinger: Look, you've been all over the world, knee deep in the news for decades, which you would think like would make for pretty good jeopardy skills, which you have, but it's also possible that Cheech smoked a lot of marijuana and watched a lot more jeopardy than you did over the years.
[00:03:52] Anderson Cooper: Oh, I just thought the synopsis would be slow, but they weren't. The next time I was on, I was against Tom Friedman of the New York Times, you know, Pulitzer prize winner.
[00:03:59] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So that's a good comeback, but there was something in there. I was like that can't be right. That's a typo for sure. And I looked it up in a few other places and no, that was it. I thought it was like one of those troll posts.
[00:04:10] Anderson Cooper: That was hard to get over. Yeah, that was the tough one.
[00:04:12] Jordan Harbinger: A lot of people assume that because you come from what I guess might be termed American royalty that you didn't really have to work that hard to get where you are. And I know this is untrue and it's an insulting insinuation. So I apologize for that. But surely you've heard this before, right?
[00:04:25] Anderson Cooper: Yeah, my entire life. Yeah.
[00:04:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:04:27] Anderson Cooper: Absolutely. It's not insulting. I mean, it totally makes sense, but you know, my mom was Gloria Vanderbilt and obviously the family that she was born into, it was just ludicrously wealthy. My great, great, great-grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt who made two fortunes, one based on steamships, one on railroads after starting out, dropping out of school 11 and ferrying supplies on a little boat. You know, he died with a hundred million dollars, which in 1877 meant that he controlled one out of every $20 in circulation.
[00:04:58] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:04:58] Anderson Cooper: He had more money than the US Treasury at the time. Hundred million doesn't even sound like a lot today.
[00:05:03] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:05:03] Anderson Cooper: You know, I mean, it's a huge amount, but back then it was just, nobody could believe it. And the crazy thing is his son, who he had mocked and ridiculed his whole life, inherited all the money and he doubled it in eight years and then he died and then the subsequent generations just started spending.
[00:05:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I guess that's kind of how it works. I wanted to bring it up though, because a lot of people are like, "Ooh, he has a trust fund. He's a Vanderbilt. Of course, CNN was like, 'Hey, get that wealthy guy. Float him on over here and get us some eyeballs.'" And it really wasn't like that.
[00:05:35] Anderson Cooper: Yeah. I did not have a trust fund. My parents early on made me clean. My mom had inherited money. She was born in 1924. She inherited a couple of million dollars in 1941, but she did a pretty good job of going through that. Throughout the course of her life, she mastered that. And she made her own money in designer jeans and stuff in the '70s and '80s. But she and my dad, who grew up poor on a farm in Mississippi, they made very clear to me that, you know, my college would be paid for. And I certainly lived in a very privileged surroundings and circumstances. But then after college I'd be on my own and I'd be expected to make my own way. They didn't go into the details of, well, there just is no trust fund. There is no, and your mom is spending so much money. There's not going to be any, but I knew by that point, you know, that the ship was not necessarily all that steady.
[00:06:19] Jordan Harbinger: So you start your own kind of, I mean, this is before social media, well, before it, so you've kind of got this what I assume is a giant bulky — what is it? What's the opposite of like home video camera kind of pre-Handycam.
[00:06:33] Anderson Cooper: Yes.
[00:06:33] Jordan Harbinger: And the battery is as big as, it's a brick, right?
[00:06:38] Anderson Cooper: Yeah.
[00:06:38] Jordan Harbinger: And you got like three of those in a backpack and you're like, "Oh, let me go to Bosnia."
[00:06:41] Anderson Cooper: Al Franken used to do on the old Saturday Night Live is this thing of a one-man mobile satellite uplink unit. And he had like a satellite dish on his head and would be broadcasting. I wasn't quite that technologically savvy, but they did have a little bit smaller cameras. They were very close to being VHS. Yeah, it was 1991. I couldn't get a job at ABC or CBS. I thought my very nascent career in broadcasting was never going to get started because I just couldn't get a job. I couldn't get hired. There were hiring freezes. And I got a job at I think called Channel One, which was associated with high schools and middle schools across the country. I was a fact checker. And then after six months I was like, you know, I want to get out there. I want to be a reporter. So they wouldn't let me, so I just had the director kindly made me a laminated press card, which was totally made up and—
[00:07:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, a fake media pass, basically.
[00:07:31] Anderson Cooper: Yes. And I borrowed one of their cameras, a small little camera. I ended up sneaking into Burma, Myanmar and hooked up some students finding the Burmese government and I shot a story. And then I ended up moving to Somalia in the early days of the famine, August of 92, about a thousand people were dying a day of starvation and fighting. And it was before the US got involved and before Black Hawk Down. I spent time there and ended up just spending the next two or three years going to war zones and disasters, Bosnia, Rwanda, South Africa, wherever there was fighting or conflict.
[00:08:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you spent your life chasing some of the worst of humanity, disasters, human stories. I wonder. Did you grow up feeling isolated from that because you had sort of grown up with some wealth or privilege? Did you feel isolated from the rest of humanity? I'm kind of wondering what the appeal was.
[00:08:18] Anderson Cooper: No, actually, I mean, I think, you know, one's perception from the outside is probably very different than the reality of what for everybody, what one's life is. My dad died when I was 10 and when your 10, your dad dies, the world seems to be a very scary place. And despite having a nice bed to sleep in, my mom drank and my brother ended up jumping off her balcony in front of my mom when he was 23 and I was 21. So, you know, there were certainly issues and concerns and fears that I grew up with. And I was very concerned about how people survive and how I survive.
[00:08:52] And I was fascinated by countries that people didn't pay much attention to. I grew up reading a lot about Central Africa, Zaire, Congo, Rwanda. And I wanted to go to the most extreme places and teach myself that I could survive in any circumstances. You know, when you lose a parent early on, I wanted to go places where other people had experienced loss and other people were surviving with it. And I wanted to understand how I could survive in the world. And I didn't really go to be a reporter. I went because I'd studied these places. I'd spent a lot of time fascinated by Africa, but I wanted to hear other people's stories that I thought could help me survive.
[00:09:31] Jordan Harbinger: So you're not like an adrenaline junkie. This is more like, can I make it in Africa? Not escapism. A lot of my own travels are kind of escapism, but I was also testing myself like many young men do. And not to go all Sigmund Freud on you, but a lot of that stuff, there's a lot of thought about kids who lose their fathers, feeling a loss of control in their lives—
[00:09:50] Anderson Cooper: Right, of course.
[00:09:50] Jordan Harbinger: —and trying to regain that control sometimes by shoplifting and other times, by going to Congo. Right?
[00:09:56] Anderson Cooper: Yeah. Regaining control of my life was really my mission from the time I was 10 to, you know, 54, which I'm now.
[00:10:04] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:10:05] Anderson Cooper: So like, yeah, I started taking survival courses first, like the NOLS, National Outdoor Leadership School. It did a month in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. I did a month in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico and a kayaking expedition. I started working at 13 to earn money and I wanted to put myself in extreme circumstances and know that no matter what happened, even if New York City was attacked, I would know how to operate in that environment.
[00:10:29] What I discovered, which I hadn't expected, but I discovered the power of learning other people's stories. And what went from a personal thing of wanting to just go to these places and experience things, you know, it opened my mind and an open my heart, and I realized I can tell people stories and people whose stories have been ignored or forgotten or who were dead on the side of the road and no one will remember them because there's no photographs that exist of them. I found the power of kind of bearing witness.
[00:10:58] Jordan Harbinger: So it started off like Anderson Cooper doomsday prepper and you turned into a reporter slowly over time.
[00:11:04] Anderson Cooper: Yeah, very quickly. I mean, I shot my first story in Burma with these kids fighting the government. And I knew that was it. I called up a friend afterward. I was like, this is the most incredible thing. Like I showed up in these people's lives and was able to convince them to let me hang out with them and tell their story. And it feels incredible. After that, I was like, this is what I have to do.
[00:11:29] Jordan Harbinger: Does it ever feel unfair that you can — you're in a war zone, but you're going to leave in three days and the guys that are protecting you and getting shot at every day are stuck there. The people that you're covering are stuck there, they don't get to come back home and eat ramen at your favorite place.
[00:11:44] Anderson Cooper: Yeah.
[00:11:44] Jordan Harbinger: Is that in the back of your mind at all?
[00:11:46] Anderson Cooper: It's in the front of my mind. I mean, it's really weird, it's really weird. The whole situation is weird. I mean, it's weird to be telling stories about people who die in front of you. It's weird to go into a children's ward and intensive care unit in Niger and look around the room to find, okay, in order to tell the story of this horrible thing that is happening, the way news is made is you need to find characters and you need to tell a story. And I cannot tell you the internal conflicts one has if you're in a hospital setting. And what you're looking for is somebody who's going to be dying in the next two hours. And so that you can be there and you can tell the story of this baby who's just died. And then it's a matter of talking to the mother at the lowest moment of her life, if she's willing to talk. I worked very hard to be incredibly sensitive and to not intrude on anybody. And I found that most people want their stories told. They want others to know about their little baby or their mother who died. People want somebody to know the name of their loved one and pay attention.
[00:12:52] So, yeah, it's incredibly strange. And you know, I was in Sarajevo. My first trip to Sarajevo in Bosnia in the war. Sarajevo was completely surrounded in order to get in. You had to drive down Mount Eggman Road, which was considered at that point, the most dangerous road in the world because Serbian snipers would shoot cars. You'd be passing by the wrecks or vehicles that didn't make it down the road. But yeah, I'd spend a week in Bosnia and Sarajevo and I was able to leave and everyone else is trapped in the city.
[00:13:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The Siege of Sarajevo had to be something that obviously you'll never forget that. I assume you get attached to people that you meet in situations like that, just because it is so horrible. That was almost unique, I would say, uniquely horrible in history, but really there's so many horrible things that you covered just in the past couple of decades, like Rwanda, that it's not really an accurate statement.
[00:13:41] Anderson Cooper: Sarajevo was horrific. I mean, it went on, the world watched, it happened from '92, '93, '94. Peace deal was made in '95. But, yeah, it was just horrific. You would go and you could know what corners to go and likely see somebody being picked off by a sniper at some point during that day. Or you just go to the hospital and you would see people being brought in, children, men, women, who had been hit with .50-caliber shots from far away.
[00:14:11] Jordan Harbinger: The way the media tortured your own family for a long time, especially after your brother's death makes me wonder why you would join those ranks yourself. You know, you'd think the way they covered that you would just never wanted anything to do with journalism ever.
[00:14:24] Anderson Cooper: Yeah. I never really watched the coverage of it. I can tell you, when my brother died 1988, July 22nd, and the next day, my mom and I went to a funeral home to view his body and somehow the reporters camped outside our house. And it was obviously a very public death and a big deal. It was on the pages of posts and everything like that. There were reporters waiting outside the funeral home to get video of us going in. And I remember in that moment, sort of holding onto my mom, walking her into the side entrance and people running to take pictures. I remember hating the camera people who were doing that. Subsequently, as I look back, obviously, they had a job to do. I knew it then they had a job to do, and I didn't hate them personally, but I know what it's like to be on the other end of that camera lens. It often is not a good experience and it often leaves you feeling a whole range of emotions. I'm trying to be very aware of that. I mean, I don't try to be, I am excruciatingly aware of that when talking to somebody. If I point a camera at somebody, I work really hard because I do know what it's like to be on the other end of the lens. And I don't want to make somebody else feel like that.
[00:15:41] Jordan Harbinger: How do you stay professional in the face of tsunami disasters? And look, I realize this is a job, but you're still human. Unless, of course, you listen to people on YouTube who think you're an alien lizard in a human shell.
[00:15:53] Anderson Cooper: Right, yeah, that's come later though. That's been an evolution into a lizard person.
[00:15:58] Jordan Harbinger: How do you compartmentalize this sort of thing so that it doesn't haunt you later on? I mean, it seems like it would have to. Like, you're, you are back home eating your favorite noodles and you're just like, you would just pause and you find yourself thinking about a mass grave that you witnessed three days prior.
[00:16:13] Anderson Cooper: Yeah. And I think that's the way it should be. I don't think it's something that you should be able to go to and then come back and forget. Just think of it as just, yeah, one of those terrible places I've been, and I think that's probably, it's maybe mentally some sort of a healthier way to do it, but I don't think it's the right way to do it. And I don't think what you're interested in is doing justice to the things you're seeing, I think you have to allow yourself to be horrified and scared and miserable and devastated by it.
[00:16:43] And yeah, when I fall asleep at night, I see the faces of many people whose names, some of them. I remember, some of them I don't, but it's impossible not to. And I think you should be changed by the things that you see. And I think if you're not changed by the things you see, then you kind of have no business going to these places because you're not going to be able to tell the stories of people with any of the respect or sensitivity that I think that they deserve.
[00:17:05] Jordan Harbinger: Do you ever get desensitized or do you ever find yourself doing that maybe in the past? Because there's a report or a quote from you, I don't know exactly what it is, maybe Rwanda, where you started to see these mass graves and you'd say, "Oh, only a dozen bodies. That's not that bad."
[00:17:19] Anderson Cooper: Yeah, that's definitely a danger and it's definitely something I come across. And ultimately my decision was I need to do a bigger variety of it. I mean, I was doing pretty much extensively that stuff early on for the first two or three years. And I was like, you know what? I finally, after that time realized this could actually be a career for me. This isn't just something I'm doing for personal reasons.
[00:17:40] And I realized if it is going to be a career, I knew a couple of people who had just exclusively done combat reporting, and most of them do not end up very well. They're either out of the business, they've had serious issues with family and their lives, or they've gotten into other work. And so I felt like, you know what, I at least need to do a greater variety of stuff so that this is not the only thing I'm seeing and thinking about.
[00:18:04] But yeah, it's very easy at times to slip into, I mean, it's natural to kind of shut yourself down and just view it as a job and just go to a place and try not to be moved by the things you're seeing. Maybe it makes it easier to fall asleep at night. It's not something I allow myself to do. And when I find myself doing it, I think, okay, I need to take a break or whatever it may be but I did.
[00:18:25] I had an incident in Rwanda, which was, I went to Rwanda for the election of Mandela. And on election day, I was in Soweto, was standing in line. It was just an incredible day when Nelson Mandela was elected president and the genocide was occurring. And I went there, and juxtaposition of those two things was very difficult to deal with. After I was shooting some stuff, I was in a place where a bus had been hit. There were several people laying on the ground and the liquid had basically had been taken out of them already from the sun because they'd been out there a while and their bodies were decomposing. And I was very interested in how the skin of this little girl's hand, the skin had peeled off like a glove peeling off halfway. And I took my personal camera. I took a picture it. And someone I was with took a picture of me doing that and sent it to me later on once I got back and said, actually I read back that says, "This is for when you become famous." And I actually have it up in my office because it's a sign to me that I had crossed a line. It's a sign to me that in that moment, I was not looking at these four bodies as human beings. I was looking at them as, "Wow. Isn't that interesting? What happens to the skin in the sun after they'd been here for two weeks?" And I think there's an important lesson for me, it was never allow yourself to think that way again.
[00:19:47] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Anderson Cooper. We'll be right back.
[00:19:51] This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help online therapy. It's a shame that there's a stigma for getting help with your mental health. I'll say it. I've gone through therapy. It's helped me tremendously. I think everyone should do it. There's no shame in this game. Go get help if you need it. And even if you think you don't, one way to think about therapy is through analogies. We work out, we go to the doctor to prevent injury and disease in our bodies. We see the dentist for our teeth to prevent cavities and other issues. Going to therapy, it's like that, right? It's routine maintenance for your mental and emotional wellness. It doesn't mean that something is wrong with you. That you're broken. It means you're investing in yourself to keep your mind healthy. Better Help has customized online therapy that offers video, phone, chat sessions with your therapist. You don't have to see anyone on camera if you don't want to. More affordable than in-person therapy, and you can start communicating with your therapist in under 48 hours. Why invest in everything else and not your mind?
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[00:22:31] Now, back to Anderson Cooper.
[00:22:34] How do you view your role overseas? I know awareness and generating attention for a crisis is obviously really important. But in the moment when you're staring into like a starving orphan child's eyes, you must wish that you could do more than bust out your camera.
[00:22:48] Anderson Cooper: Yeah. Obviously, we're often in these situations where now we're able to get to places faster than a relief group does or faster, in some cases than, whatever military force is going to be coming in, you know, that takes a while to rev up. We're able to get there really, really quickly and broadcast from really virtually anywhere now. And that presents you with really some weird, difficult situations of — I'm not a doctor. I don't have the skills to actually help people who are in medical need. I have limited supplies, probably myself. You do what you can. I've happily given away food because I generally think in most places, if you have cash, you can get food pretty much anywhere. If you are privileged and have enough money to pay for it at exorbitant prices, as the markets have exploded. Even in a famine in Somalia, there were restaurants selling pasta to warlords.
[00:23:49] So yeah, you give away what you can. I can't tell you how many times that somebody using my sat phone in order to call their loved one, to tell them that they're still alive, that they're not dead yet, or to tell them at least where they are if their house and everything has been destroyed after a hurricane, or is giving somebody a lift to taking them to a medical center. That's often the best thing you can do.
[00:24:13] I mean, but yeah, it is unfair — you talked about inequality, the inequality is very much on display. I've arrived in this place. I will be leaving in a matter of days or weeks or months. I'll be in one of those airplanes flying way overhead. And that mobility, that freedom, that mobility and money give you it's really startling and painful.
[00:24:36] Yeah. I remember being in Somalia, in the midst of a really, really bad situation, a town called Baidoa. A relief flight came in and dropped off supplies and they gave me a lift back to Kenya, to Nairobi. And I showered and I tried to wash everything off because I'd been in burial centers and feeding centers. And I hadn't really eaten in a couple of days. And I went to this Italian restaurant in Nairobi. They had like cutlery and nice stuff and it was just surreal. And I was just by myself. And as I was just about to start to eat, I suddenly smelled Somalia again. And I was like, where's that coming from? And then I looked down and I realized that there was blood on my shoes and on my boots and I hadn't washed my boots. I hadn't thought to do that. And it was just such this strange moment of two hours ago, I was in this place and now I'm clean and eating in this thing. And then there's the reminder of it.
[00:25:29] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Like you'd tracked in a little bit of the worst place on earth at that particular point in time until like a decent Italian restaurant where you could relax, you could put your phone on the table.
[00:25:40] Anderson Cooper: Right, yeah.
[00:25:40] Jordan Harbinger: And loosen your belt a little bit and have some food. Yeah.
[00:25:43] Anderson Cooper: Yeah.
[00:25:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that is surreal. That is extremely surreal. When you're in a war zone and you're seeing sort of the bottom base level of humanity and the worst things that humans are even capable of get done in these places, surely there must be some things, maybe acts of kindness and compassion that don't really make the headlines as much because it's not as interesting for the gawkers.
[00:26:03] Anderson Cooper: Yeah. You see that all the time. You expect to see like horror and hatred and brutality, and yet you also see compassion and kindness and caring, and that's what — you never know exactly how people are going to react to something. We all think, oh, if I was there, this is what I would do. Or if a school shooter walked into my classroom, I'd attack the guy, even though I didn't have a gun. No one knows until you've been in that situation. Like you can intellectually think, you know who you are, but I'm telling you when the lights go out and there's no air condition, and it's really frigging hot, and you don't have food and there's stuff going on around, crazy stuff going on around you, you become a different person very, very quickly. Sometimes you become the person that you never thought you'd be. You become a superhero and you help other people and you risk your own life to help other people. Some of the people we thought they would be the heroes end up, you know, punching women in the face in order to scale a wall to get to safety, all of which I've seen, you just see that. You don't know who you are until everything is at jeopardy. Everything is, yeah.
[00:27:13] Jordan Harbinger: Is there any way that being a higher profile personality who you are now, you know, maybe in the '90s, it was kind of like, "Nah, he was just a young kid doing stuff for some channel I've never heard of." Now, that you're a higher profile personality, there's probably people even in sort of places, you'd never thought that were like, "Hey, they're the guy from the TV that plays at the hotel where I drive cars or whatever it is." Has that affected your work in any way that didn't happen before? Like does it make it easier to get your job done or harder?
[00:27:39] Anderson Cooper: It cuts both ways. I mean, I don't really blend in, well, wherever I go, I'm like the most translucent person on the planet—
[00:27:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you're shining in the sun.
[00:27:46] Anderson Cooper: Yeah, it's a little off putting and startling and CNN is everywhere now and pretty much wherever I go. I mean, even in, I'll go to, I really love DRC, Congo and Rwanda. I love Central Africa. There are places I'll go that I did not think anybody would recognize me, but it does happen because they know it from CNN. Even if they don't know my name, they notice me and was like, "Oh, you're the field guy from CNN."
[00:28:08] But sometimes, I was, me and my team were the first team on the ground in Haiti after the earthquake. And we only got there faster than others because I knew — I know it's too boring to connect to,I had to, but I knew there was a flight to Santo Domingo and I knew we could cross over and I get to this tiny airport in Santo Domingo to try to figure out a way to get into Port-au-Prince. And there's only one helicopter and it's about to take off, and it's some Dominican government official who recognizes me from CNN and he's like, "Oh, we got a seat. Come." So I just pop in the seat of this helicopter and we take off and I get to land in Port-au-Prince 20 minutes later. So that wouldn't happen if I was still the guy at Channel One that nobody had ever heard of.
[00:28:48] At the same time, the thing I loved about being not recognizable back then is you could show up in a place and nobody knew anything about you. Nobody had any preconceived notions of who you were. Nobody knew if you were gay or straight. Sometimes, if they know you're gay, they don't respond in the way you might hope they would. Whatever their political beliefs are, maybe whatever idea they have about me does not align with their beliefs. And so a lot of people will have a preconceived notion if I show up somewhere of who I am or what I'm about. And there's not really anything I can do about it at this point.
[00:29:22] So it can cut both ways. But for the most part, I try to be a decent human being and a good person. And I try to relate to people as people. And I'm genuinely interested, even if somebody who I may not like personally, or maybe we don't want to vote for the same person, I'm genuinely interested in understanding their perspective. And my job is to kind of make a story, usually to help other people understand their perspective.
[00:29:47] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard that actually Rwanda is one of your favorite countries, speaking of Rwanda, and I'm going there actually next year. I'm supposed to.
[00:29:53] Anderson Cooper: Oh, no kidding, wow.
[00:29:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I'm wondering what you love about it. I've got kind of—
[00:29:56] Anderson Cooper: Are you going to see the gorillas or—?
[00:29:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's what everyone does, but there's extra time. So it's not going to be like one week with gorillas. I think that's like a day or an afternoon. I actually don't know.
[00:30:05] Anderson Cooper: How long are you there for?
[00:30:06] Jordan Harbinger: Probably like seven to 10 days.
[00:30:08] Anderson Cooper: Oh, that's a long time in Rwanda.
[00:30:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it is. Yeah.
[00:30:11] Anderson Cooper: Rwanda is small. So the mountain grill, they've done an amazing job. I mean, I've been going to Rwanda since I was 17. They have really protected the mountain gorillas and it's obviously become a major source of tourism and importance for them. And it is the most extraordinary animal experience you can have in the wild. There's no place else you'd like. I mean, you can do it in DRC, Congo, but it's less organized and a little riskier.
[00:30:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:30:33] Anderson Cooper: That is a great experience. The Genocide Museum is really worth visit. There's a church where there was a massacre that's worth a visit, but it's a fascinating country. I mean, Paul Kagame is the leader. He was part of the RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front. They're the ones who actually stopped the genocide when the international community wasn't doing it. And France was setting up protection zones for the people who committed the genocide. You know, he's a controversial figure. He's sort of beloved in the west. There are a bunch of former Rwanda generals who have mysteriously been assassinated in parking lots in Cape Town where they're living in exile. Rwanda somehow does export large amounts of minerals that they don't actually have in their own country. So they get those minerals from Eastern DRC, Congo. They control a lot of mines, perhaps illegally.
[00:31:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:31:18] Anderson Cooper: So a lot of interesting stuff.
[00:31:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that stuff does interest me, but I'm also a weird traveler. Like people will say, "Oh, where did you go?" And I'll say Bosnia. And they're like, "Oh, you do mean some other place?" And it's like, "No, I was in an underground tunnel outside Sarajevo, looking at how they snuck in and out of the country underneath—"
[00:31:34] Anderson Cooper: Yeah, I know that tunnel.
[00:31:36] Jordan Harbinger: You were probably in it when it was in use, not when it was a tourist attraction though, right?
[00:31:41] Anderson Cooper: Yeah. Well, that's true, yeah. But do you know the Mount Eggman Road? I don't know what it is now.
[00:31:45] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:31:46] Anderson Cooper: I don't even know if it's still there anyway.
[00:31:47] Jordan Harbinger: I don't.
[00:31:48] Anderson Cooper: But yeah, there were limited ways into Sarajevo for a long time and it was always very, very risky. Rwanda is fascinating. They also have a National Cleaning Day. Don't bring any plastic bags because they confiscate them from you. They go through your bags at the airport. And you think they're looking for like drugs and stuff, they're looking for single use plastic bags because that's not allowed.
[00:32:04] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. So the idea is to bring thicker plastic bags that you can use more than once, or just stick with fabric?
[00:32:11] Anderson Cooper: Stick with fabric. Yeah, you'll do much better.
[00:32:13] Jordan Harbinger: So you've seen a lot of aid organizations and things like that on the ground. Surely, you must have an opinion on who's doing a really good job out there between — like on one end, the United Nations and maybe on the other end Doctors Without Borders or something like that.
[00:32:26] Anderson Cooper: Yeah. You know, I mean, it's hard to kind of generalize, I think there are a lot of attempts to try to look country by country. I certainly think Doctors Without Borders does extraordinary work. I've done a lot of stuff with them in the field. I've seen them in the field. Sometimes, they're kind of arrogant because a lot of them are French.
[00:32:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:32:40] Anderson Cooper: And also if you're like an actual doctor or saving lives, I mean, sometimes they really want reporters there because they're in places that they're desperate for people to know what's happening. Sometimes, they're up to their elbows in amputations and like the idea of another reporter coming and asking them questions is annoying. So I cut them a wide berth and give them a lot of slack, but I love Doctors Without Borders. I've met some extraordinary, extraordinary people again in Milton Tectonidis who in Niger had unbelievable work. I've seen a ton of individuals at the UN and elsewhere who are really trying to do good work often with bureaucracies, it's difficult and it's not as fast as they would like it to be.
[00:33:19] Jordan Harbinger: How do you get interview subjects to relax, especially when things are actually a bit awkward or uncomfortable? You were walking around Detroit with Eminem buying these Diet Cokes and just like standing kind of awkwardly inside a Burger King or something. And even he was like, "Yeah, this is awkward, right? This isn't going in."
[00:33:36] Anderson Cooper: Yeah, I do remember that shoot. Actually, there were a lot of awkward moments in that shoot. I really liked him. And I think, I was told, that they were very pleased with the end product because for an Eminem interview, he said a lot of stuff that was interesting. But you know, it used to make me incredibly nervous, I mean, I'm so awkward as it is. I mean, I guess in that sense, I'm used to kind of an awkwardness around me, so it doesn't phase me too much. I don't worry about it as much anymore. I do want to make the subject — and you know, it really depends on what kind of a profile of it is.
[00:34:07] If it's Eminem, I don't need to really work to win him over in any kind of sense, because he's been interviewed so many times and that's not necessarily something he really, I mean, he doesn't want me trying to like, you know, probe his inner psyche and become friends with him. We're not going to become friends and hang out. I mean, if somehow over the course of something, you know, you become friendly. There are people that has happened. I do hang out with them, but for the most part, you know, it's an interview he's doing, he's got a reason to do it. He's got an album to promote and understand that. And as long as the interview itself, at least, as long as the person shows up for the interview. I don't mean just physically shows up. I mean—
[00:34:52] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:34:52] Anderson Cooper: —you know, knows that they're doing a 60 Minutes interview and we're actually going to have a real conversation. Then that's all I really care about now. Before, if it's somebody who doesn't know anything about TV, if it's somebody who's incredibly nervous to do it, I will work as hard as I need to without trying to look like I'm working to just make them comfortable and understand my perspective and what I'm coming from and what interests me about them. I have no problem explaining to somebody, "You know, I really am interested in this aspect and this."
[00:35:24] You know this. There's nothing worse than being interviewed by somebody who doesn't care or who has just written out 20 questions that they worked really hard on and which is nice, but they're so concerned about getting to those 20 questions that they're not listening to what you're saying at all. Because when I started out, I had done that many times as an interviewer.
[00:35:45] Jordan Harbinger: Of course.
[00:35:46] Anderson Cooper: I'd written out things—
[00:35:47] Jordan Harbinger: Better than not having anything. That's for sure.
[00:35:49] Anderson Cooper: Right. Exactly. The problem with that is the person you're talking to can see that you are really just waiting for them to shut up, so you can ask your next question. Because that's how I always was early on. I'd be like just watching the person's lips move and like checking the clock. And as soon as they stopped, I would just ask the next question. And what I didn't realize is the other person can read this particularly if they've done this a little bit.
[00:36:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:36:14] Anderson Cooper: And it's like a boner killer. It's just not — I don't know if I should have said that.
[00:36:19] Jordan Harbinger: No, that's great. We'll leave it in, for sure.
[00:36:21] Anderson Cooper: Okay. Fine. But it's just like, it crushes one, like, as somebody who's being interviewed, you want to at least be kind of seen or heard or felt and to realize that the person is just kind of checking things off. I end up shutting down and just then providing perfunctory answers and stuff like that.
[00:36:39] Jordan Harbinger: I think it's very human to do that. Especially if you're talking about, like, when you were covering the feminine in Niger, if you're like, "So your infant son has just passed away, how do you feel?" And then there's this long sort of story behind it about how that was our only child or her last child. And now she has no children. And then, I don't know, "What are you going to do now?" You know, it's just like, sort of a connected question.
[00:37:01] Anderson Cooper: Yes. And also, by the way, I have tried in my career to never ask me, "how do you feel" question, because, I know you were just using that as—
[00:37:08] Jordan Harbinger: A bad example, yeah.
[00:37:10] Anderson Cooper: But it is a question that is so, I mean, I guess there were times when I formulated in that way, but it's just often you don't need to ask a mother who's just lost their child, how does it feel. I think we all have a general sense. There's other ways you can — what you're trying to do in that question is to elicit an emotional response, which is not necessary either in kind of inappropriate, because I don't want to force somebody into an emotional response. So you can ask a whole bunch of questions around it without asking that question, and you can do it in a way that there's no way I'm going to do an interview with somebody whose child has just died and I don't want to add to their torment in any way. I want it to be out, whatever that person wants to say.
[00:37:53] You know, I interviewed a lot of people whose child was killed in a school shooting or interviewed a lovely lady, Lynn McDonald, whose daughter, Grace, who was six years old and killed at Sandy Hook. And she'd seen other interviews I've done with people who were experienced loss and she wanted to talk to me about her daughter. And, you know, that's — I don't know if it was two days, three days after her daughter has been killed — to be privileged enough to step into her pain and be with her in that the most devastating moment of her life. You know, I take things like that very, very seriously. I want her to come out of it, feeling that she has told people exactly what she wants to tell them, which in her case was about Grace. And it was about this little girl who we, who have lived an extraordinary life in her time.
[00:38:39] Jordan Harbinger: It seems completely unnecessary to needle somebody for an emotional reaction, especially if you know you're already going to get one, like in that situation, you're going to get some emotional reaction just due to the subject matter. So trying to kind of highlight things more for them. It is actually just cruel at that point.
[00:38:57] Anderson Cooper: It's awful. And it, I mean, it bounces back on you. It makes you look craven. I've always tried not to express emotions and stuff. I mean, I'm a wash. So I was taught to bury my emotions deep down inside, which I still think is the healthy thing to do. But if you do that, they do bubble up in weird times. With the times that I have, in my mind, unfortunately expressed, teared up, or voice cracked or whatever on air, which has happened a number of times, over the years as long as it is real and not some sort of — I get the sense sometimes when I see some people on television, screaming or yelling, which is for some reason that emotion is totally acceptable on TV and expected, and people have made whole careers out of it, but a genuine emotion is considered surprising. I do get a sense. You can tell, you know — I'm rambling now — but the camera lens is a really thin little piece of glass and it really does transmit truth. It really transmits who you are for better or for worse, but the audience at home watching does get a sense of who you are and listening as well, I think. That's what's fascinating about doing this kind of stuff for television, radio, podcasts. It's an opportunity to see in to another person.
[00:40:12] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Anderson Cooper. We'll be right back.
[00:40:17] This episode is sponsored in part by Intuit, the company powering products like TurboTax, QuickBooks, Mint, and Credit Karma. Track everyday expenses for tax time, send invoices, receive payments, run payroll, track future cash flow right inside QuickBooks. TurboTax's online error recognition catches mistakes you might've missed because you're juggling doing taxes while chasing a toddler around, just saying that's what it's like in our household anyway. If you misplaced a digit in a routing or account number, your refund could get delayed for weeks if not longer. Intuit's AI can detect common errors like these on the fly, you can correct it, and get your return on time. Get that new flat screen. Right now with a baby on the way and budgets to manage Mint's smart budgeting tools notify me before I overspend or before Jen overspends. I can create categories for however I want to budget my money, which is for a team trip as soon as we can all travel safely together, hopefully, next year. Let's go. Intuit works for what you work for, whether that's a small business or just you as an individual. Intuit's innovative products make managing your finances and setting yourself or your business up for success, simple.
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[00:41:18] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich breaks from the single malt scotch whisky norm and helps redefine what it means to be rich. It's easy to get bogged down in material success. I know, I just think it's easy to shower yourself and money, but the currency of the new rich is getting more time and enjoyment out of what we've already got. Right? If you're paying attention to this episode, you'll know Anderson Cooper agrees as well. Glenfiddich is six generations, so it's 130 years, independent family run business. Can you imagine? The drama level would be through the roof if it were my family. They're still running the same distillery. Glenfiddich was the first company in 1963 to export single malt scotch whisky and brand it as such outside of Scotland. So they basically created the category. No wonder Glenfiddich is the number one selling single malt scotch in the world.
[00:42:03] Jen Harbinger: Skillfully crafted, enjoy responsibly. Glenfiddich 2021 imported by William Grant and Sons, Inc. New York, New York.
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[00:43:19] Jordan Harbinger: And now for the rest of my conversation with Anderson Cooper.
[00:43:25] Do you ever read social media posts about you or your work? Because I'd made the mistake of doing that about your work and I felt bad for you because it's so intense.
[00:43:35] Anderson Cooper: Yeah, I don't. I mean, I don't know what or which social media posts you're talking about.
[00:43:41] Jordan Harbinger: Twitter, for example, yeah.
[00:43:42] Anderson Cooper: Yeah. I don't do Twitter. I used to do Twitter and I used to respond to people and have pithy, snarky responses. And then, in a certain point, I was like, "What am I doing?"
[00:43:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:43:54] Anderson Cooper: I mean, this is insane. And my life has improved considerably since I stopped really looking at Twitter. I don't even really look at it anymore, even for the news, folks that I follow. I will in a pinch, if there's a breaking situation, And I'm watching CNN, I'm breaking news, and I'm looking for like the local police department and the town where something happens, I'll go to Twitter. But for the most part, yeah, I'm just really happier without it. My mom always said if she never read anything about herself, which was pretty much true, and I've managed really not to read about myself as well.
[00:44:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I forgot you had a kind of an expert, live-in expert, who could be like, "Oh, negative — oh, you hate Twitter, 140 negative characters. Here's a pile of articles about how we are a terrible family and everyone you're related to is awful."
[00:44:40] Anderson Cooper: And for my mom, I mean, my mom was, her birth made the headlines and she was removed from the custody of her own mother by courts in New York but the surrogate courts in New York based on a plot hatched by her nanny and her grandmother to have her taken away from her mother and given to a member of the Vanderbilt family. So she could be raised and live as a Vanderbilt instead of being carried around in hotel rooms in Europe and with a mother who was not a Vanderbilt and didn't have money and was very carefree.
[00:45:10] Jordan Harbinger: I read the book that you wrote with her. And I thought she has just by the grace of God, come out as a loving mother. Like she had her faults and everything, but wow, I mean, her upbringing was like straight to sociopath, but she didn't have the genes for it.
[00:45:24] Anderson Cooper: Her parents, you know, she was born 1924 and then her mom and dad take off for a six month honeymoon because that's what you do. None of that whole, you know, "Wow, there's a newborn baby here. Let's stick around for it."
[00:45:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:45:35] Anderson Cooper: It was an insane thing. And it really altered the course of her life and it impacted the course of her life. And she spent really her whole life kind of replaying scenarios from her childhood and reliving them and kind of rethinking them to make them into some sort of order.
[00:45:51] There's a Dorothy Parker quote, which is, "Those born to the storm, find the calm very boring." You know, my mom was born to the storm and was relentlessly restless her entire life. So anytime she wanted a house with the white picket fence, but when she had it, she blew it up because it worked for like a week or two, but then the restlessness came back.
[00:46:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. She really needed a vacation instead of a suburban home.
[00:46:16] Anderson Cooper: Yes, exactly.
[00:46:18] Jordan Harbinger: What do you think in brief, of course, of the state of the media right now? I mean, distrust is so high. A lot of it is earned by a lot of these sort of fake, or I guess they're real journalists, but it's crossing a lot of lines. The rest of it is done by extremists or politicians, but the quest for accuracy and quest for truth, it should sort of be near sacrosanct, but obviously that's just not the case anymore at all.
[00:46:39] Anderson Cooper: You know, I mean, look, there are so many different kinds of outlets that now we're under the rubric of media or press that it's a little hard to kind of figure out. What was interesting writing this book, I did a lot of research in the old press accounts of the Vanderbilt. And for instance, Cornelius Vanderbilt's death, you know, the richest man in the world dying, who he's going to leave the money to. There were reporters camped outside his house for months waiting for him to die. The press accounts of his actual death. They're all completely different. I mean, what the New York Times said that it was a kind of, it was the model of Victorian death, of hymns being sung while beloved family members were around the bed. Other accounts are that he's dying of venereal abscesses and screaming. And they're giving him opium and he never really went to church in his life. So was he really singing hymns? So it was interesting to me, just to kind of realize, you know, there have been problems with accuracy and the rush to get things into print and, you know, reporters not doing their jobs for as long as there have been reporters.
[00:47:42] I do think obviously the quest for, there are facts and we live in an age where, you know, everyone's told that they can have their own truth, which is fine, but I do believe that there are things which are true and are not true. And I think that's what reporters or that's what news should be about. I'm not interested in newscasts where the person is screaming, their opinion and forcing their opinion on other people. I try to avoid that. There have been times in the last administration when the lies were coming so fast, that it was very hard to figure out a way to report on them without pointing out that. You can't just say, "Well, the White House says this and others say this." At a certain point, when the administration itself is just in many ways, based on laws, you have to kind of stop and constantly point it out. And that sort of contributes to the erosion of the belief of objectivity because people say, "Well, look, you're always just attacking," when in fact you're actually focusing on specific things people have said.
[00:48:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, it is tough that we have all this tribalism now. And it's like, if you're anti their religion or you're anti their team, it's more like a religion, honestly now, from the look of it, well from Twitter. I mean, look, there's reasonable people in the middle. They're just not as loud as the people on the edges, which is also unfortunate and a side effect of social media, but it does erode—
[00:49:03] Anderson Cooper: That's why in a revolution the first people were killed or the moderates because — you know, in a revolution, the extremists help each other because you know, they can feed off each other. They can blame the other. The moderates who are trying to just make peace and be sensible, they're usually the ones who are attacked first because they're not helping either extremist cause.
[00:49:23] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I'm screwed then, I think, because that's where I live right in the middle. And it's like hey both sides have some points. Both sides are making some mistakes. Here they are. And so both sides are like, "You know what one star for this sh*tty podcast, Jordan."
[00:49:35] Anderson Cooper: Right, yeah, that's exactly the problem.
[00:49:38] Jordan Harbinger: Now, on 60 Minutes, when you guys come on and you say, "I'm Anderson Cooper. I'm Lesley Stahl," how many — this is a dumb question. Just so you know. How many times do you have to retake that? Because it's weird to say that. I tried it in the mirror. It didn't go well.
[00:49:52] Anderson Cooper: You tried it?
[00:49:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It didn't go well.
[00:49:53] Anderson Cooper: It is very weird, yeah. So it's funny. It's not a bad question because I think it's really funny actually. The first time I did it was, I think 2006 was the first time I was asked to do the I'ms and it took me a while because — first of all, I kept giggling every time I started. I just couldn't believe I was on 60 Minutes. I couldn't believe I had been asked to start to contribute some stories. I grew up watching this thing. I idolized Bob Simon and Mike Wallace and all these, Ted Bradley. I was like, "I need a minute here. This is big for me. This is crazy." And you're sitting in front of a green screen, that's how they do it in the 60 Minutes thing so that the clock is behind you.
[00:50:29] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, right.
[00:50:29] Anderson Cooper: And you're just staring at the camera and a bunch of guys waiting to go on their lunch break and you're doing, "I'm Anderson Cooper. I'm Anderson Cooper. I'm—" I mean, and once it gets in your head, you don't know how to do it. And then you try to think, I would you be like, "I'm Mike Wallace. I'm Bob Simon. I'm Anderson Cooper." Like to try to do it in a sentence where it would make sense. And at a certain point, you're just like, "Do have something?" For the first time, like they literally counsel you, they're like, "Little more space between the I'm than your first name." so it's like, "I'm — Anderson Cooper," but then that seems too much.
[00:51:04] Jordan Harbinger: That's too much.
[00:51:05] Anderson Cooper: I'm Anderson Cooper, you know? And then you become obsessed with it. And every time I say it, I'd be like, "I don't know how to say this." And I'm never happy with how it looks in the thing. I always feel like I still haven't gotten it.
[00:51:18] Jordan Harbinger: That makes me feel a lot better because in the intro to the show, I say, "Hey, welcome to The Jordan Harbinger Show. I'm Jordan Harbinger." And every time I go to my producer and he edits it out, I go, I was like, "Is that weird? Does that sound weird?" And he's like, "No, it never sounds weird. Just leave it."
[00:51:31] Anderson Cooper: That sounded great. You just saying that sounded great. I wish I had that cadence for the 60 Minutes thing.
[00:51:36] Jordan Harbinger: Well, yeah, if I had to do it for real, then it would be different. Now, it's fine. Now, this throwaway version is fine. You nailed the I'm Anderson Cooper there by the way too at one take, right? It's when you have to do it with the green screen and Lesley Stahl's going, "Are we almost at lunch? Are you going to finish this?" Yeah.
[00:51:55] Anderson Cooper: That was funny. I was on an Andy show. Andy Cohen show, Watch What Happens Live, two nights ago. And he did this game called prompter wars, which was — I didn't know we're going to do this. And basically, it was a war between him and I just cold reading something off the teleprompter, some weird story, and the prompter was moving too fast. It was just interesting to see like our different ways of reading. I destroyed him.
[00:52:19] Jordan Harbinger:Of course.
[00:52:20] Anderson Cooper: But it was fun to see him score.
[00:52:22] Jordan Harbinger: There's got to be so many interesting things going on behind the scenes in a live newsroom. I'm wondering if there's any sort of situation where you'd found, okay, the teleprompter broke. I'm not sure what will happen next. We're live. There's a crap load of people watching.
[00:52:35] Anderson Cooper:A lot of times.
[00:52:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. What do you do?
[00:52:37] Anderson Cooper: So I started anchoring. I'd never anchored before until I was probably 29 or so. And I was at ABC News and they had this overnight newscast called World News Now that no people at ABC watch, but a lot of people watched around the country because like nursing mothers, night shift workers, people coming home drunk from parties, and the slogan of the show was more insomniacs get their news from ABC World News Now than anywhere else. I started filling in and then they made me a full-time anchor but I had never read a teleprompter. So that was the big learning curve. But the show was on from like, I don't know, 2:00 to 4:00 a.m. In the morning. And so sometimes we have great teleprompter operators and it was really a loose show. And we had a guy Willis who laughed really loud behind the camera. And that was part of the show. And you know, it was nice, we like that, but everybody falls asleep at one point or another when you're working in the overnight shift and like, you'd have the camera, like the camera operator would fall asleep and the camera would just start moving up or the teleprompter would just stop because the teleprompter person fallen asleep.
[00:53:34] It was actually great training because what you learn is that the teleprompter is not something you can depend on. It's a touchstone in my mind. That it's something that is there to help you. But if the teleprompter goes blank at any point, you have to know everything. You have to know what you were about to say anyway. Ideally, you've written what you're about to say, so it's in your head. And even if you don't know what was written, you have to know where you're going. So you can at least vamp to toss to a particular package and say who the reporter is, because usually you have people in your ear, but when the teleprompter goes down, they're freaking out in the control room about whatever the technical snafu is. Their priority is not like, go next to Kathy in Vermont or whatever it is.
[00:54:23] And that's actually why I like live news, real breaking news the most, because you know, you're doing your regular broadcast and all of a sudden, like something happens like, "Oh, we're getting a report, a plane crashed outside Boston," and they want you to start talking about it. At first, you only have three lines of information. "We believe it's a Delta Airlines flight heading to wherever." And the job then gets really interesting very quickly. And it's the most thrilling part of being an anchor. And not because you have to have coherent conversation about something of which you have very little information and you can't be wrong about the information or if your information is, you're not sure how good it is because usually the first information to breaking things often wrong. You have to couch it and make sure you point out this is early reporting. You know, you very quickly try to bring other people in who you can have conversations about what, how planes go down the safety record of this airline, whatever it may be.
[00:55:21] But that thing of suddenly, you're on the air for 10 hours talking about this, and then new pieces of information come in, dribs and drabs. And your job is to, you know, you're also aware that more people are coming in as viewers. So you have to update things for the new people coming in, working on the new information you have, but not doing it in the same way that you've been doing it to alienate the people who have already been there listening. So it's just interesting.
[00:55:48] I always equated it to like if you're a kid at the beach and there's like a sand cliff that's been created by the tide going out. Running along the top of that sand as a kid is really fun because the cliff is collapsing beneath you, as you go. And the trick is to try to stay upright. That's what anchoring a breaking news situation is. You're just trying to deliver information that's accurate in a coherent narrative and with very little information.
[00:56:17] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I want to be respectful of your time. First of all, that's a fascinating look inside the newsroom that I really appreciate. It's something. I always wanted to do that. My mom, my tricky mom, I said, "Oh, I want to be like Dan Rather. That job looks so interesting." It was a footage of him in Vietnam. And my mom goes, "Oh, journalists, they don't make any money." And she told me that because she didn't want me to do something dangerous. And now I'm like, "Wait a minute. I saw Anderson Cooper's salary on Wikipedia. It might not be totally accurate, but it can't be out like that. Come on. I like Dan Rather. He's pretty minted."
[00:56:48] Anderson Cooper: Well, I think, also Wikipedia said that my mom had $200 million that I was inheriting too.
[00:56:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you corrected that record.
[00:56:54] Anderson Cooper: If you read the book you realize that's not quite right.
[00:56:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Unfortunately for you, that's not quite right.
[00:56:58] Anderson Cooper: Well, actually, I'm quite happy with that.
[00:57:00] Jordan Harbinger: You know what, it's better that way, because inheritance like that, everyone would just go, "Oh, well he was always going to have this," and it would just sort of wash away part of the credibility you've worked so hard to build for yourself, I think.
[00:57:12] Anderson Cooper: I don't believe in inherited money. I think it sucks the initiative out of kids. And I think parents think they're doing a favor to their kids. My parents had made it clear early on that I would not have one. And I think it's great.
[00:57:23] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you so much for your time, fascinating. I've been looking forward to this for a long time.
[00:57:27] Anderson Cooper: My pleasure.
[00:57:29] Jordan Harbinger: As usual, I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, here's a preview with a former undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family in New York for nearly three years, resulting in the arrest and conviction of 35 mobsters and get this, he's not even Italian. Here's a bite.
[00:57:49] Jack Garcia: Jordan, I've done everything. I mean, I have posed as a money launderer. I've worked as a drug dealer. I have worked as a transporter for drug dealers. I worked as a warehouse guy, the whole gamut. My career was 24 out of 26 years. It was solely dedicated to working undercover. If I wasn't working for the FBI, I would have been investigated by the FBI.
[00:58:11] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly. Yeah.
[00:58:12] Jack Garcia: I walk in, I'm in the bar and there's a barmaid there, good-looking young lady. She's serving me. "What would you like?" Usually, my drink was, "Give me a Ketel One Martini with three olives, a glass of water on the side." I finished the drink, the guys came in, I'm going to go. Go in my pocket, take out the big wad of money, that knot with the rubber band on it. Bam, I gave her a hundred dollars. You're not a guy who takes out a little leather wallet and he's going through change or he's doing that.
[00:58:41] Can you imagine four gangster sitting around going, "Let's split it up. I had the soup, you had the sandwich and French fries." "Well, what about the tip?" Sometimes we get into a bidding war. A guy goes, "Hey, your money's no good here." "What are you doing? You're embarrassing me over here. "What do you mean you paid a lot?" "Let me get this. Forget about it." "You pay for it."
[00:58:59] If I would've gone in there and become a guy who had never a penny, never went into his wallet, never picked up a tab, never had a dime, never kicked up, never given tribute payments, I'd be on my ass. They threw me out. If you're with the mob, I say, "Hey Jordan, you're on record with us." That means we protect you. Nobody could shake it down. We can shake you down but you're on record with us.
[00:59:23] Jordan Harbinger: For more including tricks wise guys used to know who's legit and who's not mob culture and the rules that govern the always upward flow of money and how Jack became so trusted by the highest levels of the organism that they offered him the chance to become a made man, check out episode 392 of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Jack Garcia.
[00:59:46] That was an interesting conversation. I almost did this same thing when I was younger, I wanted to do the job of going into rough areas and producing things, but it didn't seem possible and I did think you had to get hired by a news channel. And it wasn't a good writer or at least I thought I wasn't. It turned out that I was great when I didn't have to write like book reports or some stupid nonsense for a class about a novel that I didn't understand. That's the story of my whole life right there.
[01:00:10] So when he was starting out, he got a flak jacket from Channel One. And when he opened, there was a notice that said it will not protect you from rifles, which by the way, that's exactly how people were dying in Sarajevo, back in the war from snipers. So this guy goes out, rents a Yugo with paper-thin walls, not exactly a vehicle fit for a war zone, but kind of your only choice. This is the kind of stuff you do before you have kids and a family.
[01:00:33] I also asked him off-air what some of the riskier stunts or riskiest actions he's done in his younger years to get a story. It turns out it was more domestic. He tied a rope around his waist in a hurricane. I think it was Katrina so that the producer could pull him out of the muck if he fell in or got knocked over by the wind, it might've even been a different weather event. But imagine having to have your producer yank you out of the muck or the water. I mean, it's just not going to happen. You're dead if you fall in there.
[01:00:59] A lot of what he covered early in his career was pretty grim, Katrina and things like that. It's really hard not to get a grim view of America when you're seeing the same things in New Orleans, as you're seeing in Sri Lanka or other areas that don't have the same level of development as the United States. Niger, you expect maybe help won't come or will take longer than it should, but not in a major US city like New Orleans. So you wouldn't expect in the United States to see dead bodies tied to signs by their shoelaces to keep them from floating away. And yet that was the situation. So that of course would have an impact no matter what.
[01:01:32] Also I did ask about him growing up, essentially, a Vanderbilt/Cooper. He found out his mother was famous, Gloria Vanderbilt at age 12. So she, at that time, was one of the most famous people of her time. He just thought it was normal to have all these famous people over at the house all the time, but he also says he felt like his mother was a space alien and it was his job to show her how to exist in the real world. Probably not super healthy for a kid, especially a fatherless kid to be responsible for his mother like that.
[01:02:00] On a lighter note, he thought dead people turned into statues when they died because his relatives all had sculptures and statues of themselves after they'd passed away. And he actually thought of a statue of Teddy Roosevelt. He was on a school trip, he thought a statue of Teddy Roosevelt was actually his grandfather, which was a point of embarrassment. But that sort of shows the level in which he grew up, although he did not, and I will note, really have any sort of inheritance. I think he very recently came into a million and a half dollars and he's already making probably 10 times that a year doing CNN.
[01:02:32] Great conversation. Big thank you once again to Anderson Cooper. Links to all of his books and work will be in the show notes. Please use our website links if you buy books from guests on the show. It does help support the show. Yes, audio works. Yes, it works in foreign countries. Worksheets for episodes during the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes. Video of this interview is going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:02:57] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same software, systems, and tiny habits that I use to create my own network. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get through. That's Six-Minute Networking, my free course, jordanharbinger.com/course is where you can find it. Most of the guests on the show contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:03:17] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's a fan of Anderson Cooper, or just loves journalists, share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode. So please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:03:50] This episode is also sponsored in part by LifeLock. These days, some surveillance apps, also known as stalkerware — kind of scary sounding — can collect information from you while avoiding detection by pretending to be something else. Stalkerware sits silently in the background, collecting data, doing things like recording calls and keystrokes, stealing your photos, sending the info it gathers to whoever is spying on you. This is frigging terrifying. It's important to understand how cybercrime and identity theft are affecting our lives. Every day your information is at risk on the Internet. In an instant, a cybercriminal can steal what's yours. Sometimes it even harms your finances, your credit, your reputation. Good thing, there's LifeLock. LifeLock helps detect a wide range of identity threats, like your social security number for sale on the dark web. I've said it before I found mine there. That was cute. If they detect your information has potentially been compromised, they'll send you an alert.
[01:04:34] Jen Harbinger: No one can prevent all identity theft or monitor all transactions at all businesses, but you can keep what's yours with LifeLock by Norton. Join now and save up to 25 percent off your first year by going to lifelock.com/jordan. That's lifelock.com/jordan for 25 percent off.
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