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CNN Reporter Sara Sidner Cried on Live Television. She Wants You to Know Why

My producer and I have been doing stories on the far right and these conspiracies for years, and it felt like nobody listened. I had this moment of feeling like, “I guess none of what I put out there was heard.” And that was problematic for me because I knew it was going to be bad. I used to cover ISIS and al Qaeda and I reported on how those groups radicalized people. What we are seeing now is a similar radicalization. So I knew this would be a dangerous period. And at the same time, I had no idea how bad coronavirus was going to be at this moment. The combination put me over the edge. It was just like a fissure and an explosion and rage at what we’re doing to each other in this country from coronavirus and not wearing masks to the insurrection and killing police officers.

Right after I cried on live television, I cussed. And I’m so glad it wasn’t on the air. The wonderful executive producer Javier Morgado said in my ear, “Don’t worry. That was good. I know you’re upset, but that was good.” 

He was right that I was upset. At first I felt ashamed, but I realized later that what I had actually been feeling was rage. Those things—the pandemic, the riot—made me feel rageful, and it just came out in a flood of tears. It was probably 80 percent rage and 20 percent sorrow, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I was so furious in the moment that I’d broken down. I’d been taught as a woman in this business, which used to be so male-dominated, to be hard-scrabble. You don’t want to be talking about bunnies and ponies and cooking segments. You want the real, hardcore news. So you can’t get emotional. I was told, coming up, “Never let them see you cry.” And I almost never had. So it just shocked me that I couldn’t keep it together.

Within minutes, my phone blew up. My social media blew up. At one point I turned everything off, put my phone down, and cried some more. It was emails and calls and texts and there were people from high school calling me asking if I was okay and people who I talk to more regularly too, of course. The outpouring was almost embarrassing to me—there was just so much kindness. But I tried to just accept it. This was a moment to remind me that I am not a robot. I am a fully-functioning human being, and I am deeply terrified about what is going on in this country.

I wish journalism was one of the pieces that could help bring people together or at least help people understand and listen to each other better, but we’ve been doing this for a long time, and the country has fallen apart in some serious ways. I do think that we are going to have to listen to each other. Compassion is going to have to rule the day. Empathy and understanding is the only way we get out of this without blowing up our nation, but to get to the point where you have people who believe in the most outlandish conspiracy theories? And who are willing now to hurt and kill people over those? I don’t know what to do about that and that’s why I was and am so upset. I don’t know what to do to try to fix this.

What these people are trying to do—it’s not only destructive to the country; it’s destructive the soul of the nation. I have been to Libya. I have been to Afghanistan. I have been to these places that have fallen apart. And when that happens, it is hard—not for the left or the right. It’s hard for everyone. Everyone suffers. 

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