From The New Yorker: Ana Navarro’s One-Woman Revolt Against Donald Trump
Photo by Matt Roth
Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, Oct 19. 2016
The pundit and Republican strategist Ana Navarro has called Donald Trump a “vile bigot,” “flat-out racist,” “jerk,” “swamp thing,” and “crazy orange man with an unidentifiable furry object on his head ranting into the wind.” She makes her living coining tag lines, but she cemented her reputation by quoting the man she reviles verbatim. Earlier this month, the day a 2005 tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about “grabbing” women “by the pussy,” Navarro, who is forty-four, was sparring with a panel of commentators on CNN about what to make of the scandal. “Every single Republican is going to have to answer the question ‘What did you do the day you saw the tape of this man boasting about grabbing a woman’s pussy?’ “ she said. The rest of the panelists had been avoiding the vulgar term, and one of them, a Trump booster named Scottie Nell Hughes, visibly flinched. “Will you please stop saying that word? My daughter is listening,” she interjected. “Don’t tell me you’re offended when I say ‘pussy,’ but you’re not offended when Donald Trump says it,” Navarro responded, evidently taking some pleasure in the repetition.
The clip went viral. Navarro’s Twitter following grew by the thousands, and overnight she went from a vaguely familiar talking head to a full-blown celebrity. Women have stopped her at airports to thank her for her fortitude. In the lobby of a Washington, D.C., hotel, players from the Philadelphia 76ers asked her to pose with them for photos. Her saturated election-season speaking schedule became supersaturated.
Last week, Navarro was chatting with a makeup crew in a green room at CNN headquarters, in Manhattan. She lives in Miami but travels constantly, and carried a bag with a change of clothes for the day’s engagements. She was dressed in jeans and a black sweater, her face fully done and her hair neatly coiffed from her afternoon appearance on a talk program. Trump was in Ohio, excoriating the women he had been accused of groping as unattractive liars. On multiple TV screens, one of his surrogates recited a litany of talking points. “It’s the limbo rock election—how low can you go?” Navarro said to the female stylists.
Anderson Cooper stopped by, tie-less, and squeezed her on the shoulder.
“How’d it go?” she asked.
“Well,” he said. “Long. Like half an hour.”
He had been interviewing Jessica Leeds, the seventy-four-year old woman who claims to have been assaulted by Donald Trump on an airplane in the early nineteen-eighties. Navarro was due to appear on “The Daily Show,” but would be returning to CNN later in the evening, to appear on Cooper’s show to discuss the interview.
“Mamacita linda,” Navarro called out to a woman in a fedora named Edie, who gave her an affectionate peck on the cheek and fixed one of Navarro’s false eyelashes. The two women commiserated, half in English, half in Spanish. “We’re all in this together, honey,” Edie said. “That’s right,” Navarro agreed. “For women and for Hispanics, for the communities that I belong to, to have one Party antagonize you and the other take you for granted is the worst scenario.”
Navarro has been fighting the G.O.P.’s rightward drift for the past three election cycles. In 2008 and 2012, she advised John McCain and Jon Huntsman on their Presidential campaigns, and she counts Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio as personal friends. This does not mean that she is easy on them. On the night of Romney’s defeat four years ago, she tweeted that the loss was his own fault because he pandered to the Party’s increasingly reactionary base. “Mitt Romney self-deported himself from the White House,” she wrote, an allusion to his plan to fix the immigration system by asking the undocumented to deport themselves.
In this year’s primaries, she likened the race between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to a “choice between strep throat and leukemia.” Her preferred Presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, in whose administration she had served when he was the governor of Florida, bowed out in February. For the first time in her career, Navarro became a free agent. “I’m unplugged, unchained, unmuzzled,” she said. Now, if only until November 8th, she has become the pundit of the moment, appealing to both forlorn conservatives and liberals starved for sanity in the prime-time slot. She is a firebrand of the middle at a moment when the center can barely seem to hold. “It drives me crazy that my Party nominated the only person who could lose to Hillary Clinton,” she told me.
Two more stylists walked in, circling Navarro enthusiastically. “You know my favorite line of yours? ‘Fifty-shades of crazy,’” one said, referring to another on-air skirmish between Navarro and Hughes, who, this time, had blamed her candidate’s misogyny on the “ ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ culture in today’s society.” Navarro responded to the compliment with another tirade against Trump. “I know enough math to know that in order to be a viable Party to win the White House you need fifty per cent plus one,” she concluded. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t exactly true—Clinton is leading in the polls with forty-nine percent of the vote—but everyone agreed with the principle.
Navarro tests out lines on everyone. “Those women are like a focus group,” she told me as we walked to the elevator; a driver was waiting downstairs to take her to “The Daily Show,” on Fifty-second Street. “The diversity in the CNN makeup room! It’s like Ellis Island. No, it’s like Noah’s Ark—there are two of everything.”
As she piled into the back of a black Escalade on West Fifty-eighth Street, someone knocked on her window—another colleague from the network. “I have a friend in Paris who wants to book you for an event,” she said, in Spanish. “Well, I’m available,” Navarro replied, then rubbed her fingers together to suggest a proper price.
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