Joy Reid Wants to Argue With You

Joy Reid has not figured out how to bend the rules of space and time, though regular viewers of MSNBC can be forgiven for thinking she somehow has done just that. In addition to anchoring her own two-hour show on Saturday and Sunday mornings — the appropriately titled AM Joy — Reid is often the first person the network calls when prime-time stars Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Chris Hayes take time off. That, plus Reid’s role as a political analyst for the network, has made the Harvard grad and former local-radio host a near-constant presence on MSNBC at a time when the progressive-leaning news outlet is experiencing a record ratings run, thanks in no small part to its aggressive coverage of the soap- opera-like shenanigans of the Trump White House. “We have a front-row seat to the apocalypse,” Reid says, only half-jokingly, of her job description these days.

Audiences clearly approve of how Reid has been covering said Trumpocalypse. Both editions of AM Joy now regularly pull in around 1 million viewers, with the Sunday edition of the show boosting MSNBC to its biggest audience ever in the 10 a.m.–noon timeslot. What’s more, Reid’s ratings are up between 50 and 60 percent versus last year, doubling and even tripling the growth of competing weekend programs on CNN and Fox News. As much as the unashamedly liberal Reid loathes the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, his rise to power over the past two years has helped transform her from a key utility player on the MSNBC roster to one of the network’s bigger stars. During an hourlong telephone conversation, Reid, 48, opened up about her more prominent public profile and spoke candidly on a range of topics, from why she abandoned traditional (nonpartisan) journalism to how Trump’s attacks on immigrant communities hit close to home for her.

We’re now ten months into the Trump era, if you measure from Election Night. Do you feel, both as a person and as an anchor, like you’re constantly in crisis mode? Is your job dramatically different now than it was a year ago?
It’s completely different. Donald Trump has fundamentally both revived and altered journalism. When you have a normal presidential administration, you find sources from within government who tell you what’s going on, and it generally comports with the public statements of that administration, so that the leak you get generally comports with the official statement that comes later. This administration is completely different. You have to start with the premise that everything they’re telling you is a lie. You have to start with the premise that the person talking with you probably doesn’t even know the actual information, because not only do they not talk to Donald Trump, but even if they did, he probably changed his mind. You have a series of [unstaffed] departments, so these departments don’t even function. The White House doesn’t function. People are leaking in order to either one-up or harm each other — constantly. The thing journalists have had to learn with Donald Trump: You cannot treat this administration as normal because there’s nothing normal about it.

So what’s the best strategy for the media covering the Trump White House?
Go back to the old Woodward and Bernstein model, which is that access is not journalism. Access actually harms journalism, because everything they tell you is either designed to throw you off, or it’s just a complete lie, or it’s coming from ignorance so they don’t even know. You have to find other ways to get information, besides the administration. You have to work around them. You have to constantly try to figure out why someone is leaking, what their ulterior motive is. It’s sort of bonkers. But it’s forced journalists to get back to what the real job is, which is to not rely on officials to tell you what’s happening. My job, since I’m not a Beltway journalist, is reminding viewers every time I’m on TV that what they’re seeing isn’t normal.

There has to be some irony here for you. You were obviously doing very well before the 2016 campaign, but that election season and the subsequent elevation of Trump to the presidency have actually been incredible for your career. AM Joy is setting ratings records for MSNBC. You’re reaching twice as many viewers as you did before, probably, and you’re connecting to them on a very deep level. And yet you’re clearly not very happy about where the country has been heading. Is there a mixed-emotion type thing going on for you?
I’ve said to people that this is probably the greatest time to be a journalist, and the worst time to be a human. I’m grateful for the platform that I have. I was grateful for it before, when it was much smaller. I think because this election was so unusual, and because I kind of am a stand-in for my viewers — I can be shocked on their behalf — that made people connect with me more. I’m an opinion journalist, so I don’t have to pretend not to be shocked and appalled. I can actually be shocked and appalled. So it’s kind of played to my strength in a way. My previous job was a bit different.

Right. You used to anchor during the weekdays on MSNBC.
I was a dayside anchor, where you’re required to have a little bit more distance from the story you’re telling. And [before that], when I was doing in-the-field journalism, there was even a greater requirement to try and compartmentalize my own feelings from when I was reporting. Especially since a lot of what I was reporting was on the killing of black children and teenagers and young people, and I am a parent of black young people. As a psychological exercise, it was a real struggle, but it was something I had to do because what we were reporting on required a precise level of fairness that you have to have, and distance. Whereas with this, I would venture to say that six out of ten Americans feel the way I do about this administration. Even those who are for the administration —  it’s important for even them to understand, if we can get to them, and we generally can’t, that it shouldn’t be normal. You may want to have a Republican in the White House, but you shouldn’t want that to happen by any means necessary.

You don’t think there’s any getting through to the Trump base?
I would say we cannot. I operate from the notion that most of Trump’s supporters are inaccessible to me. They will not listen to me, they do not watch anything other than Fox [News] for the most part. The hardest hard-core of his supporters can only find out negative information about him incidentally — through their friends, through someone on Facebook they happen to follow, through family members who are not for him. They are so resistant to someone like me that I don’t assume they are listening to me and just not believing me. I assume they’re not listening at all.

Let’s talk about the election. You told The Hollywood Reporter just before November 8 that Hillary Clinton would win, and that, “I think she’ll get north of 300 electoral votes.” Now, you clearly were not alone in expecting that outcome, but I’m wondering what your emotional state was when it became clear that Clinton wasn’t going to win — and, more importantly, that Donald Trump was. Take me through your stages of reaction on Election Night.
I would say the first word that comes to my mind is shock. Going into the election, my only real questions were whether or not Hillary Clinton could pick up North Carolina … and whether she was wasting her time in Arizona. I didn’t think she could win that. But it never occurred to me, since it hadn’t happened since ’88, that a Democrat in a presidential year could lose Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania. It’s been so long since that happened that I discounted the anecdotal evidence of how much the millennial voter generation hates Hillary Clinton, and has come to hate her, in part because of the long campaign to discredit her, because of the primary — for lots of reasons. And also because the Russian effort was successful. A lot of the information they put out that was anti–Hillary Clinton was designed to work on the sort of Berniecrat, the marginal Democratic leaner, and on the young voter. And it did work on a lot of people. So it just never occurred to me she could lose those three states.

You and Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell — you’re all very clear about your partisan persuasion. As you noted, you don’t hide your opinions. What you do isn’t what Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather did for many years, that complete objectivity, or even what you did when you were in local TV news. Are glad you ended up with this sort of role versus what you did earlier in your career?
Yeah, I am, because I think there’s something unnatural about pretending that journalists don’t have an opinion and come from this bloodless place. I also think it’s inaccurate to say that was ever really true. When I do lectures and I talk to lots of students, I try to remind them that Walter Cronkite didn’t say, “On the one hand, the Tet Offensive was a disaster; on the other hand, some people think the war is going quite well.” He said, “The war is lost.” He went on television with his great credibility and declared the war to be lost. You had journalists from northern papers going into the South in the ’50s and ’60s, and they weren’t saying, “On the one hand, black people aren’t allowed to vote. On the other hand, some people think that this is a wonderful arrangement that’s going quite well.” They reported that story with the sense that there was a villain in that tale.

That’s one of the reasons people have this sense that there is such a thing as media bias. It’s because when journalists were reporting on the civil-rights movement, they were telling that story with some blood in their veins, and the sense that one of these two groups of people is the villain and one of these two groups of people is the victim. That’s something that seeped into the body politic, and when that kind of reporting then started to focus its gaze on the North and on segregation and resistance to busing in Boston and Chicago, suddenly you had this broad narrative that the media is liberal, that the media is biased, that the media hates conservatives. There was a whole vein of conservative media that took off from there as a corrective. For me, I like to be able to say, “based on analysis, based on fact … this is what I think.” I’m glad to be on that side of the journalistic ledger.

You do like to get into it with some of your conservative guests. I’m not trying to equate your debates with them as, say, the equivalent of Tucker Carlson — you know, the “let’s beat up on a liberal” thing. But you don’t play games when a Trump loyalist comes on, and said loyalist doesn’t really pay attention to facts. It sets you apart from the way some of your colleagues, particularly a Maddow or Hayes, approach things. You’re a little more aggressive. Would you agree with that?
I grew up in a household where we loved to talk politics, and we loved to argue politics. I was just raised that way, to feel that there’s nothing inherently wrong with ideological conflict. When I was doing talk radio, which, by the way, I think is the best training for cable news that I could’ve possibly hoped for, we always had conservatives on. We had Lou Dobbs on the show. I would have Michael Medved. I’d sparred with Hugh Hewitt on his show; I enjoyed doing that. Because I don’t take anyone’s ideological opposition to me personally, I can have a knock-down, drag-out debate with somebody without feeling like I’m having a fight with that person. It’s not personal; I just disagree. And I feel like the disagreement and the debate is healthy. It helps the audience to hear both sides authentically.

The one thing that frustrates me is when I feel like I’m not having a genuine debate with somebody. I’m trying to argue a position, and they’re telling me talking points. That does frustrate me, and I think sometimes what you see coming across the screen is that I just actually don’t feel that it’s worth the audience’s time to let somebody just read talking points to them. If the person’s not going to genuinely debate, then I do feel like I need to interrupt to get them back to debating. Because just reading the talking points they were assigned, that doesn’t help the audience. A lot of the times people who come on the show become frustrated because I won’t let them read their talking points.

Some more cynical than I would suggest that your producers know who these talking points–spouting talking heads are, but they book them anyway. That, as with so much of cable news, provoking conflict is the point. Are you okay with booking someone who’s just going to be a robot because maybe that’s what the audience sorta wants these days — to see Joy Reid take down some Trump cultist?
This is a discussion I have definitely had with my producers. I don’t want to do fight-night TV. I want to have conservatives on — I just want them to actually do that and have an honest discussion. The only time we will disinvite a guest — and I will ask my producers, “please don’t ask that person back” — is when I feel like the person is just coming on TV and being intentionally dishonest, or intentionally antagonistic. That’s only happened a couple of times. We had to stop having Boris Epshteyn on, because Boris would come in with the intent to be belligerent and — in my view — dishonest. He would simply attempt to bulldoze over me and any other guest and insert his talking points, rather than have a genuine back and forth. There have been maybe one or two other guests like that.

On the flip side, it has to be a bit heartening that some conservatives who used to be sort of MSNBC “villains” are now on your network trashing a Republican president.
One of the most amazing outcomes of the Trump administration is the number of neo-conservatives that are now my friends and I am aligned with. I found myself agreeing on a panel with Bill Kristol. I agree more with Jennifer Rubin, David Frum, and Max Boot than I do with some people on the far left. I am shocked at the way that Donald Trump has brought people together. [Laughs.]

Reid on her MSNBC show, AM Joy. Photo: AM Joy/MSNBC

I wish there was a battle of the network cable network news stars so we could get you and CNN’s Ana Navarro onscreen together.
Oh my god, I adore her. There are a couple of people that I’d want to nick from CNN if I could get them, and she’s one of them.

Who else?
I would love to have Angie Rye back. I think she’s brilliant. She used to be here. April Ryan used to be here. She should still be here; I miss her. I won’t go into any [more]. I love Ana Navarro. You can put that in.

Let’s talk about the Joy Reid origin story — you’re the child of immigrants.
I am, yeah. My parents came here in the early 1960s. My father came from what was then the Zaire [and is now] the Democratic Republic of Congo. My mother came from British Guiana by way of London. She went to London first, and then here. They actually met in graduate school in Iowa, believe it or not. My father was one of those African technocrats who came over with the goal of going back and helping run the country. He was a geologist who primarily worked in South Africa in mining. My mother was a nutritionist and ended up as a college professor in Denver. They went from Iowa to New York, where I was born, then to Denver, which is where I grew up.

So President Trump’s attacks on immigrants resonate for you in a particularly personal way.
Absolutely. Chain migration, which is the thing they’re attacking now, is the way my mother brought her family here. When my mom came here in the ’60s, she then helped to bring brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins. The people that she brought here have contributed mightily to this country. I have cousins that are doctors, that are lawyers, that are entrepreneurs. My family has given a lot to this country. The idea that that kind of migration — familial migration — should be gotten rid of because it’s not the right kind of immigrants is repulsive. My husband is an immigrant. My husband’s from England and his family’s Jamaican. Both sides of my children’s lineage are immigrants. It’s so incredibly offensive to hear the way Trumpists talk about immigrants and the way they are so clearly talking in very thinly veiled ethnic terms. It’s disgusting.

You were raised mostly by your mom. You told the Grio, your former home, “We definitely didn’t learn dependency on a man or dependency on anyone. We had the experience of growing up in a household with a strong, independent woman that was in charge of our lives.” Can you explain how this shaped you?
By the time we got to Denver, my parents’ marriage was pretty much over. My father went back to the Congo. He was somebody we knew more over the phone. He wasn’t a presence in our lives. I was raised by my mom. She always worked two jobs, sometimes three. She went back and got her Ph.D. in her late 40s and became a college professor. She was just this dynamic, adventurous woman. We drove all over the country. We’d go on these epic road trips. Everywhere she had to go, she’d have to take us because there was no one to really watch us. She didn’t have family there. Her whole family was in New York. So we just lived this incredibly adventurous life. At one point my mom was writing a chapter in her book for a colleague at the University of Northern Colorado. We drove to Mexico. We got in our station wagon and we drove to Oaxaca and stayed there for the summer. We just did these incredibly adventurous things. We drove to Utah. We went to San Francisco. We saw the country with her.

What I learned growing up as the middle child of this incredible woman is that, number one, children don’t hold you back from your adventure. They’re just a part of it. My mom incorporated us into her adventure. She raised us to be very independent, but we didn’t have a lot of money so we had to be a little entrepreneurial. I was a glasses-wearing nerd kid. I wanted contact lenses, but my mom didn’t have the money, so I started working. I worked at a preschool taking care of kids. I babysat. I just had an entrepreneurial mind-set, and also I would help out with groceries or whatever was needed. I think it was a perfectly fine way to be raised. I’m kind of offended when people say single moms ruin kids. My single mom did an awesome job.

I was raised by a single mom too, and I can second that. You’re such a cosmopolitan liberal elite, Joy.
[Laughs.] It’s funny because my father was a Reaganite right-winger.

Is he still alive?
No. Both my parents are dead. My father died about a year ago. One of the few times he actually did stay with us was the year we went to Mexico, which was in ’80. He came to stay and house sit. He was actually there during the ’80 election. When Reagan won, my sister, brother, and I cried. We were kids. We bawled and cried all night. He was just laughing. He was so happy. He loved Reagan. [Laughs.] My mother was a left-winger, and he was a right-winger.

You don’t have to address this if it gets too personal, but did you reconcile with him?
It’s okay, I’m pretty public about it. My father was an interesting character. He was also an adventure-seeking person. He was this swashbuckling figure. He came to the United States in his leather jacket and driving [an Alfa Romeo] Spider. He was this mysterious presence, but a terrible father. He was also funny and erudite and really brilliant. He had a Ph.D. in geology. He was really smart and multilingual. He tried to get us to speak French. When he would call, I was the one who could be on the phone with him. My brother was a little kid, so he needed a dad and would cry. My sister — my father was somewhat abusive, so she couldn’t talk to him. I was the one who talked to him. I actually had a relationship with him, mostly on the phone because I was emotionally detached. I could appreciate his sense of humor and the brilliance of him. I understood relationships don’t always work, and it is what it is. I didn’t need a father, so I didn’t feel like I was deprived of anything. In the end my biggest problem with him was that he overpromised and never delivered. I would get angry that he would promise he’d send my kids gold bars — which is what he used to do with me and my brother and sister — and he never did. I just told him, “Don’t promise me anything. Don’t offer anything. Just call and say hello.” We had a cordial, interesting relationship, but strictly on the phone.

You’re also a Harvard graduate, 1991. What was Harvard like for you? What did you take from your education there?
Not to get too somber, but my mom passed away about 23 days before I started Harvard. It was awful. [Laughs.] The first year, I was so depressed. I really couldn’t study. I was failing classes. I was just unhappy. I was supposed to be a pre-med, and I couldn’t even walk into a hospital. It was really tough. I spent a lot of that first year at Brown with my sister, and then I took a year off. I was actually supposed to be in the class of ’90, but I ended up graduating a year late. I took a year off and came to New York to live with my aunt and figure my life out.

What did you do during the year off?
I got a couple of jobs. One of them working at Columbia Pictures, ironically enough in the Coca-Cola Building next to Trump Tower. [Laughs.] Trump Tower was pretty tacky back then, too. I went back [to Harvard] with a different attitude. I changed my major and became a documentary film concentrator. I dropped the whole pre-med thing, which my West Indian family hated. They were very appalled by that. But I was happier, because I was not forcing myself to do what my family expected me to do. I was doing what I wanted to do.

So the ultimate verdict on Harvard?
I think it was a weird place. I was a public-school kid in a school full of very rich private-school people. I didn’t understand that, and didn’t want to. It was an uneven experience. I came out of it with some good friends, some interesting experiences, and a lot of independence. I worked, like, four jobs. I would wash blackboards and drive the shuttle boss and do all sorts of things for money because I was broke. I’m glad I did it. I’m proud of myself for having gotten through it.

Looking back on your résumé, you seemed to be on a pretty typical TV-journalist path, right? You did local TV in Miami, doing the morning news and field reports. Did you enjoy it at the time? Was it frustrating?
Local news was interesting. I grew up as a news junkie. I watched Nightline every night. When I finally got [into the TV-station computers] and I could have all the AP feeds from the world in front of me, it was awe-inspiring. It was great for my super nerdiness. What was disappointing was how little of that ended up on TV. Local news is this thing where you have the world at your fingertips, but you mostly report on fires and crime. It was interesting when you realize how narrow the scope of the information you’re delivering is. It’s constricting. I got to WTVJ just as the Chandra Levy story was breaking. That took over everything, and then Elián González happened, and that took up a lot of our brain space. Then we had the Summer of Sharks, where there really wasn’t an uptick in shark bites, but it seemed like it from our coverage. So it was just an interesting thing. I realized just how incredibly influential a presidential administration can be. I was in local news when the Iraq War broke out, and everyone got in line. It wasn’t just our station, it was everyone. Every local news station, every online news outlet — everybody got in line. I found that incredibly frightening.

You mentioned earlier local radio, and how it really is such a great training ground for modern cable news. What exactly did you in radio? And how did you get involved in the first place?
I got out of TV news in 2003 because I was very much against the Iraq War. I had written an op-ed for the Miami Herald, which was not supposed to include that I worked for WTVJ, but it did. That didn’t go over well with my bosses there. I just had to make a decision. I was so against the Iraq War that I felt like I wanted to pursue my passion rather than stay in local news. So I actually left. I took the Wellstone Action seminar. I worked on the 2004 [presidential] campaign for this thing called America Coming Together. I came out of that with a wealth of contacts and a desire to keep talking about politics.

And talk radio let you do that.
I had been a listener of talk radio for a long time. I even listened to Glenn Beck, just to hear people who were good at it. I happened to meet a guy named James T, who’s a longtime music radio veteran in Miami, because I had heard that [national radio network] Radio One was hiring him to do a morning show. He just took a chance and hired me to be his producer. He had just met me; we hit it off; he gave me this opportunity. I had a big Rolodex of contacts that I used to book the show. He also knew that I blogged. I still had this thing called The Reid Report, and he gave me the opportunity to do these little Reid Reports on the air,  back in 2006. I was doing some freelance consulting and stuff like that, but I got this radio gig, and little by little, I morphed from being the producer to being the co-host. I did that for like 18 months until Radio One sold itself, right before Barack Obama won Iowa. So it was really bad timing. [Laughs.]

These days, I sort of see you as the early 1980s Jay Leno of MSNBC — the go-to guest host for almost every show at the network. Do you enjoy sort of freelancing on these different programs? Or is it a pain bouncing around the schedule and working on your own show?
I love it.  I can’t sleep, especially with Trump. He has exacerbated my already existing insomnia. So I’d be awake anyway. [Laughs.] No, I love it. All the teams are so different, the shows are so different. I have the best job in the world. I work with some of the nicest people in the world, just as humans. I get to know them a little bit better, and get to see behind the scenes of all these amazing shows.

How are the shows different?
Maddow’s show is like taking a really hard class in college with the coolest professor. Chris Hayes’s show is just this super brainiac team — but truly funny, hilarious, people. Lawrence? I mistook him for a lawyer on the air, because he seems like a lawyer, but he’s not. It’s like the real West Wing. And of course Hardball With Chris Matthews, I’ve been watching literally since the first show. I was one of those people who was watching and talking to Chris through the TV, sometimes yelling at him.

I remember watching Chris on The McLaughlin Group.
My bucket list as a kid was to get on Meet the Press or The McLaughlin Group. Those were my two goals. I wanted Jon McLaughlin to say, “Wrong! Joy Jelly-Bean Lomena … you’re wrong!”

I was that nerd with you. For birthday presents, I used to ask my grandma to get me a mail subscription to the New York Times, because there was no national home delivery back then.
They used to put the Times crossword in the Denver Post, so I used to do the crossword every week. I definitely watched Crossfire. I watched Nightline every night. Obviously every week I watched the Sunday shows, Meet the Press. I grew up on that stuff.

You have a very vocal fan base on social media. Your show trends on Twitter almost every weekend. And every time I tweet about your ratings, I actually hear from the Joy Reid superfans who make sure to tell me that Joy Reid needs to be hosting a weekday show. They love you on Saturdays and Sundays, but they want five days a week of Joy. Do you have any preference? 
No. I mean, I love that people think of that for me, but I’m perfectly happy. I’m always open to whatever comes next, but I think I have the best job ever because I get to do both. Being the fill-in is fun because I get to experience the prime-time life. And I love my little show on the weekends. I honestly don’t think about, “what’s the next job?” I just want to do a good job with the job I have, which is amazingly fun and terrifying, because we have a front-row seat to the apocalypse.

Leaving aside any of your co-workers at NBC News: Do you have any media role models?
Oh, totally. Gwen Ifill was probably the most iconic. For me as a black girl growing up, there weren’t that many black women in the business, so the people I looked up to were like Carol Simpson and Gwen. They were the two that were most like me, so I always revered them. I always liked David Gergen, even though he and I aren’t politically similar. I thought, that’s the kind of career I want to have. He is somebody who has been in politics and then transitioned into media, and does it really well. And of course, Dan Rather is my idol. I got to meet him, and I’ve been a fan of him forever, which is super surreal. I adore Ted Koppel, the other person I grew up on. It’s also crazy when Tom Brokaw is just walking through the hallways at NBC. That’s a legend, and I can say hi to him. Just being in this building can be overwhelming at times.

MSNBC, and even CNN, have made a lot of strides in finding a more diverse mix of on-air pundits. In terms of anchors and hosts, however, you’re still one of the relatively few African-American women with their own shows. Do you think TV news can do better at featuring more on-air diversity?
I think it’s doing better than before. When Barack Obama got elected, there was a collective realization in the cable business that there needed to be more voices of color, particularly African-Americans. That may be sort of a trite way for the business to look at the world: “Well, if we have a black president we need more black pundits.” But hey, if that’s what sparked them to give a platform to these other voices, then so be it. I think the [worry] is that when Barack Obama recedes, then those voices of color go with him out the door. That is what we as journalists of color, as people of color in this business, have to fight. Our fight now as journalists of color is to keep reminding the industry that it isn’t about whether there’s a black man in the White House, it’s about whether or not the policies that impact this country can be responded to by journalists who echo the country. That means you’ve got to have Muslim journalists on, you’ve got to have Asian-American journalists on, you’ve got to have black people that can comment on these things, you’ve got to have Latino voices. And not just in their subject-specific area of expertise. If you’re going to put an economist on, is there an economist of color or a woman who could do the exact same thing? You don’t have to have a parade of white guys in order to have expertise. That’s an ongoing struggle — not just in the TV business, but in the media business. It’s a struggle in Hollywood. It’s a struggle in print journalism, where the mastheads are very white and very male. So across the board, media needs to do better.

I can tell that from your Twitter feed that you’re very much a pop-culture consumer. What’s essential to your entertainment these days?
Absolutely. Well, first of all, I finally saw Hamilton. I’m obsessed with Hamilton. I want to go see it ten more times. But in terms of my pop-culture diet, The Walking Dead is a must. Game of Thrones, also a must. I probably could just live on HBO and AMC because I watch all their stuff — Preacher, Westworld, Better Call Saul. There are some shows I got into belatedly: I watched Boardwalk Empire and loved it. I love a long series. I like to binge-watch them all the way through so that I can catch up. I did a binge-watch of Breaking Bad later. I was kind of behind the trend, but then I saw this fan theory that Breaking Bad is a prequel to The Walking Dead, and it blew my mind. You should look it up. Queen Sugar is a masterpiece. It’s gorgeous, visually beautiful. And it’s reignited my interest in something I was already interested in, which is the aftermath of Reconstruction, and what it meant for America. It fascinates me, that story, so I think Queen Sugar’s brilliant because it tackles that issue. And of course, TGIT. I’m a Scandal/How to Get Away With Murder obsessive, like a lot of America.

What’s your next book?
I’m actually trying to figure that out right now. I’m a history buff, so I keep pitching books that are history-based. I kind of want to write about this drive on the right to just repeal the 20th century. The 20th century so shook the right wing in this country that they can’t give up on getting rid of the real totems of the 20th century — the guaranteed retirement income, guaranteed health care, voting rights. Those items that made the 20th century work are what Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and company are still trying to get rid of. They’re still fighting it! So I may try to write about that.

At the end of the day, is Joy Reid a cynic or an optimist?
I like to think of myself as sort of a happy-go-lucky cynic. [Laughs.] I tend to be very cynical about politics, which is why, again, I’m surprised that I’m surprised by the 2016 election. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I think people are much more tribal than they ever let on. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. I think people are not willing to address their prejudices in an open way. Americans are particularly resistant to it, so I tend to be quite cynical. But I also refuse to be burdened by the sadness that can go with cynicism. I’m a happy person, and I think that you can still find happiness in the midst of cynicism.

Top image: Alice & Olivia blouse, $150 at The Outnet.

Joy Reid Wants to Argue With You