It started simply enough as an interview with Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman. In a matter of moments, it turned into a remarkable Q&A that has since been described as “astonishing,” a “trainwreck” and “jaw-dropping.” One word might fit better than any other: wow!
Goodman is pushing for casinos and other businesses in Las Vegas to open and seemed to think it’s OK to do because viruses have been going around in Vegas for years. Throughout the interview, she ignored the science of the coronavirus and even bragged about how she grew up in New York City and used to ride subways all the time.
Cooper painted a scenario in which gamblers at casinos would come in contact with one another and share playing cards, slot machines and gambling chips, and then potentially carry viruses back to their home states and all over the world. So, he asked, “Doesn’t that sound like a virus petri dish?”
Goodman shot back, “No, it sounds like you’re being an alarmist.”
When Cooper asked if she believed in social distancing, Goodman said yes. But when asked how social distancing could be practiced in a casino or any other business, Goodman said, “They better figure it out. That’s their job. That’s not the mayor’s job.”
It just kept getting more bizarre. If you watched it, you likely simultaneously thought, “Oh, please let this end” and “Oh, please, let this never end.” It was both cringe-worthy and yet newsworthy.
At one point, a flabbergasted Cooper even removed his glasses and began rubbing his face. But Cooper was the key to it. He showed off extraordinary interviewing skills by often throwing Goodman’s words back at her and having her respond. Cooper’s incredulous responses were often met by the mayor’s bewilderment to Cooper’s responses.
When Cooper put up a chart from Chinese researchers that showed how close contact can be dangerous, Goodman stunningly said, “This isn’t China. This is Las Vegas, Nevada.”
Cooper said, “Wow. That’s really ignorant. That’s a really ignorant statement.”
Cooper acknowledged that the coronavirus has hit Las Vegas businesses hard and that the mayor is worried about those who are out of work. But, whenever he pushed the mayor on the dangers of opening up before it was safe, the major either dismissed Cooper or questioned how anyone could be sure about the science.
Before the interview was over, Cooper asked Goodman several times if she would be willing to go back into casinos. She ducked the question, finally saying that she doesn’t gamble.
To be clear, Goodman does not have the authority to open casinos. Yet it was an extraordinary TV moment that showed off naive comments by the mayor of Las Vegas. And the excellent interview skills of Anderson Cooper.
Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TomWJones. To get his daily newsletter with the latest media news and analysis, sign up here for the Poynter Report.