Not long ago, politicians didn’t take the daytime talk show seriously. Now it’s an essential campaign stop for Democrats and Republicans alike.
By Amanda Fitzsimons
Photo: Sunny Hostin, a host of “The View,” in her dressing room. She is an analyst and the senior legal correspondent for ABC.Credit: Gillian Laub for The New York Times
On a weekday in March, less than two months before his three-year sentence in federal prison was set to begin, Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, decided to spend one of his final afternoons of freedom having lunch with Joy Behar, the veteran co-host of ABC’s “The View.” The show had approached Cohen about giving her an exclusive TV interview before going to prison, and Cohen had suggested that they meet at Freds, the tony restaurant on the top floor of Barneys, where some of Manhattan’s wealthiest wives have standing reservations.
“All the people were coming up to him saying, ‘Michael, keep strong, blah blah blah,’ ” Behar recalls. “It was like he was the pope.” She had heard that at least two other media personalities, Don Lemon and Donny Deutsch, were also trying to woo Cohen, and she made her pitch for why the daytime all-women panel show invented by Barbara Walters 22 years ago was the best place for him to go. “I said to him, ‘You’ve made this complete role reversal — you’re very apologetic,’ ” Behar told me. She added that she saw an opportunity for him to be seen as a sympathetic character, and “that going on a women’s show, like ours, would help fortify that.”
Cohen quickly told her that if he made a TV appearance, it would be on “The View,” and they ended up staying for almost three hours, spending the remaining 2 hours and 55 minutes just chatting. “He bad-mouthed Trump pretty badly, and I enjoyed that,” Behar recalls. He also went on about Diet Coke, how it was poison, taking her to task for her drink order. “Now I can’t drink Diet Coke because Michael Cohen told me not to,” she says.
In the weeks after their lunch, Cohen texted with Behar regularly. “We had this one conversation, and he was talking and talking and talking, and finally I said, ‘Michael, I have to go to lunch.’ ” Then, on May 1, the day before Cohen’s potential appearance — and five days before he would report to a federal correctional facility in the Hudson Valley — he declined Behar’s invitation. Cohen’s representative says he wanted to spend his remaining time with family; Behar theorized to me that Cohen’s wife talked him out of it, telling him that he had to save “all the juicy stuff” for a book. “I don’t see that he is going to have any money, so he is going to need to make some money, and that’s the one way to do it.”
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