In 1986, long before Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise, Carole Radziwill started her career as an intern at ABC News. Soon after that, she became a reporter for Peter Jennings’s documentary unit, a gig that led her from a shoe-box studio on York Avenue (“I lived on Cup O’Noodles and hard-boiled eggs”) to Cambodia, Haiti, and India, where she covered American foreign policy.Stationed in Israel in 1991, she reported on the Gulf War, specifically SCUD missile patrol. In 2003, during the war in Afghanistan, Radziwill spent six weeks in Kandahar with an infantry unit of the 101st Airborne Division. Throughout her often-perilous reportage, she’s racked up quite the trophy collection — including three Emmys, a Peabody, a Robert F. Kennedy Humanitarian Award, and a GLAAD Award. Her late husband, Anthony Radziwill, passed away from cancer in 1999, less than a month after the death of their cousins and closest friends, JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette. In 2000, Radziwill left ABC News to write a best-selling memoir, What Remains: A Memoir of Faith, Friendship, and Love.Now more than a decade has passed, and after a distinguished career in hard news, Radziwill finds herself heading into her fifth season of Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York, which premieres its ninth season tonight. The show’s Manhattan installment has never lacked for drama (see Aviva Drescher’s projectile prosthetic), but season nine, filmed during campaign season, puts Radziwill’s electoral neuroses front and center. Bravo’s resident politico caught up with Vulture to talk Housewives season nine, her ballsy Twitter account, and how Trump is using the reality-star playbook as president.I saw the trailer for season nine where Bethenny says to you, “It’s all you talk about 24 hours a day, you’ve got to stop.” I assume she’s talking about the election?
I couldn’t talk about anything else. Nothing else seemed as important or interesting to discuss. I’m sure production might’ve wanted me to ease up, but they’ve always been straight up about it being reality, and that was my reality. We start filming in October, so we were three weeks out from one of the biggest elections in my lifetime, if not ever. So it’s not scripted. It was really what we were talking about in these five months that we filmed of our lives. In the next couple episodes you’ll see I go door-to-door canvassing in Pennsylvania with my mom. At that time I was working with a Get out the Vote project. I think the only people in the country who weren’t talking about the election were the six other women on the show.Do you agree with the criticism that reality-TV culture in this country led to, or made the climate ripe for, Trump’s presidency?
I don’t dispute that. They say we’re the most entertained and least informed country in the world, which seems to be true. We have a man in the Oval Office who’s never held public office, who’s a reality-show star. He’s a businessman, but I like businessmen that don’t file for bankruptcy six times and get bailed out by daddy when the going gets rough. There will be a lot of studies and theories about how reality TV played a part in this election. I think people are just used to that kind of bombast. He really is a great reality star. Recently with health care not going well and also the Russia hearings, what does he tweet out? This insanity accusing President Obama of a felony. This is right out of the reality-star playbook. When you’ve done something that you don’t want people to focus on, like maybe colluding with Russians to steal the election, just throw something else out to divert everyone’s attention and to completely obfuscate and confuse, which he does again and again.I’m a big fan of your Twitter account. I was thrilled to see one of the Housewives be so brazenly critical of the administration.
I come from many years of covering politics and being in a newsroom where you absorb it all. I worked on the ’92 campaign for ABC. So it never crossed my mind when I started tweeting and trying to get the facts out to counter total bullshit coming out of the Trump campaign. I was watching that rally in Florida when he called on the Russians to hack into the DNC and Hillary’s emails and see what they could find. That is a treasonous act, so I’m thinking, “Okay, this guy’s disqualified himself.” And that’s not what happened. Not to mention calling on the Second Amendment people to take care of Hillary and threatening to lock up his political opponent. This is what happens in a banana republic, and this is what’s happening in front of my eyes. So you can imagine my mood when we started to film.You started your career at ABC News, right?
Yeah, and just by osmosis, and certainly by covering elections and being in Washington interviewing senators and congressmen and political think-tank types, it’s just in your blood. I guess it’s very unusual for someone 20 years later to be a Housewife on a reality show. I don’t want to be that person on this show because they want to keep it light and bright and talk about cocktail parties and if Luann’s really going to get married. I don’t care about that.You had a remarkable career in journalism, reporting across the globe, from an infantry unit in Afghanistan to refugee camps in Cambodia. So I get vicariously annoyed on your behalf when the Twitter trolls tell you not to opine about politics because you’re on a reality show.
Just as an American citizen, it’s my constitutional right! Because I’m on TV that right doesn’t exist for me? As though you can only tweet about the Super Bowl if you’re an athlete? There were a lot of trolls, but less and less now because they see what we’ve all seen, which is the collateral damage of what was the most openly racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and hateful campaign this country has ever seen, just littered with lies and falsehoods.